In a magical location along the north shore of the Dead Sea silhouetted by desert mountains lies a safe harbor that has changed, from one extreme to the other, the lives of hundreds of teenage youth. An intense process of self-discovery is taking shape in the presence of that matchless spirit of the Judean desert that fills the heart with renewed hope, with the help of a unique, innovative and supportive framework.
Yiftach is home for 45 teenage boys from religious homes in grades 10-12 whose existing places of learning in the religious sector (high schools, yeshiva high schools) did not suit them for various reasons. With the absence of a supportive framework there arose among the youngsters feelings of frustration and the loss of a sense of belonging, which led to vagrancy and extended periods outside the school framework. In consequence, more than once they found themselves exposed to grave risks.
The main objective for which Yiftach was established was to enable teenage youth at risk to realize their latent potential for successful integration into various life structures. With a personal response suitable to the needs of each individual, teenagers develop a strong desire and sense of self-competence to integrate into the army or preparatory school, attend college, become part of the work force and lead a balanced family life.
The Uniqueness of Yiftach:
Dynamic education is an innovative worldview that was developed over more than a decade and is based on “work through contact,” which helps youth grow by means of managing daily relationships within an all-inclusive and supportive framework. The wide-open space of dialog engenders a corrective experience that strengthens the teenager’s sense of competence to develop and rise above the pains of the past.
With the will to relate personally to each and every individual the teenagers in Yiftach are divided into three age groups, each containing 15 boys. Each group receives around the clock support from dedicated staff: a coordinator (instructor), youth counselor, social worker and two supportive young men in their pre-army service year.
The personal accompaniment at Yiftach focuses on four cycles:
What is the format for success?
One of the reasons for Yiftach’s success is its creation of a supportive framework that continues after the conclusion of academic studies, which is intended to strengthen the sense of self-competence by means of significant achievement.
In the afternoons Yiftach runs diverse enrichment activities that demonstrate creative abilities within the framework of a number of courses of study: music, art, photography, drama and agricultural-ecological work with animals. Each course enables at least 6-8 weekly hours of classroom activity. The experience of achievement is strengthened by the instructors who are considered the best in their fields.
The evening hours are dedicated to the acquisition of social and interpersonal skills by means of comprehensible input-output activities and free time for personal activity in the sports facilities, youth club and the domains of the various courses.
Apart from all the routine schoolwork, for the duration of the year there are diverse social activities including a three week break outside the boarding school for consolidation, survival exercises and other missions. The social activities also include joint Shabbatot, day trips and planning group evenings.
Weekly activities – afternoons
Private lessons are held in the music room for Yiftach's students learning to play various instruments – piano, percussion, guitar and wind instruments. The students work together in different musical ensembles. At the end of the year, they process their creative work and produce a disk in the studio, which was set up at Yiftach by the teenagers.
The teenagers can choose between the different wood carving courses, carpentry, drawing, painting, writing, sculpture and pottery.
The photography course covers diverse photography techniques, use of advanced computer software and development of pictures in a dark room.
In the course of the year the teenagers learn various acting techniques, work on text and improvisation. In the evening the teenage students produce various segments that they worked on over the course of the year.
Agricultural-Ecological Work with Animals
Many of the teenagers enjoy activities in nature, in the open air. With help from a professional guide, they initiate and carry out various ecological projects. Moreover, in Yiftach there is a goat pen where the teens take care of the goats, milk them and even make quality cheese. The environmental work and work with animals gives the teenagers a chance to take responsibility and a sense of commitment. Each course offers at least 6-8 hours of activity a week. The experience of achievement is strengthened by the course instructors who are considered the best in their fields.
Week of Consolidation
A week of activities that takes place at the beginning of the school year for the purpose of connecting and communicating between the teenagers. During the week all the students leave the school for various consolidation activities.
This week marks the height of the school year at Yiftach. The week progresses in the field in harsh conditions with backbreaking equipment. Groups consist of about 4 students who have to get from one point to another and make do for an entire week with the supplies in their backpacks. This week contributes greatly to the teenagers’ self-confidence.
The trip lasts 3-4 days and generally takes place in the middle of the year. It is full of attractions and activities such as a horseback riding, a jeep ride, hiking, rafting etc.
Week of Missions
Every class has ongoing missions. The purpose of this week is to get out of the routine and cope with various challenges that demand creativity, daring and mainly a lot of thought.
At the end of the year the 12th grade goes out on a trip, a meaningful experience that is part of the process of parting ways with the younger students at Yiftach.
– Group evenings including kumsitz hootenanny sessions, barbecues, night trips etc.
Day Trips Commemorating Special Events
External study days and trips on the Tenth of Tevet, Remembrance Day and Jerusalem Day. The objective is to enrich the students on the subjects that are relevant to the calendar.
Since we are in a very hot region we go out to a pool in the area once a week, giving the teenagers a chance to air out.
These outings and breaks from the routine enable the gathering of renewed strength in preparation for the continuation of studies, and they are a necessary condition for the teenagers’ scholastic success. The activities outside of Yiftach also contribute a lot to the consolidation of the teenagers as a group and a sense of cohesion and family in the village.