Here is a program
Every year, Neve Sraya Youth Village in the Jordan Valley welcomes adolescents who have fallen outside the traditional education and societal structures. These young individuals arrive at Neve Sraya before their situations escalate into dangerous paths of crime and violence. Unable to adapt to conventional high schools and Yeshivas, they face challenges stemming from individualism, cognitive abilities, and turbulent temperaments, putting them at risk. At Neve Sraya, they undergo a transformative experience, gradually adapting to themselves, their families, and society. Supported by a resilient system, they emerge as capable individuals ready to contribute to Israeli society. These adolescents explore their strengths, interests, and unique qualities through art, music, agriculture, and horse therapy. Their journey at Neve Sraya allows them to enhance their personal and professional skills, fostering satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
Among the various programs, horse therapy has provided opportunities for dozens of graduates to pursue careers in the field, assume challenging military roles, and establish families. One of these success stories is X, who arrived at Neve Sraiya four years ago after spending two years on the streets and engaging in heavy drug use. X struggled to fit into any framework and take responsibility for himself and his surroundings; X’s life turned positive when two untrained horses arrived at Neve Shariya from collaborating cattle farms in the Golan Heights.
Matar Daniel is the director of the equestrian center in Neve Sraiya. He has been involved in horses from a young age, acquiring riding skills, completing trainer training, and participating in competitions. When the untrained horses arrived, X was drawn to one horse that resisted human interaction. He decided to befriend and rehabilitate the horse, committing to the demanding personal process required for this endeavor. Working with the horse required X to develop rigorous time management skills, caring for the horse’s needs, engaging in physically demanding tasks, and assuming full responsibility. Over three years, X trained the horse, participated in competitions, and prepared for matriculation exams. Currently, he is in his second year of a pre-army preparatory program. Matar shares that X’s story, while not unique, is particularly moving due to the connection forged from a low point in his life and the subsequent communication and growth.
Recognizing the significance of time in this transformative process, Neve Sraya aims to bring ninth-grade students who can undergo awakening and development until twelfth grade. The farm space demands constant presence and intense activity, providing a three-year program where the adolescents strive to reach their goals. The program begins with three months of long hours riding horses daily, starting at sunrise. Alongside riding, the teenagers are trained to become riding instructors by previous graduates who received on-site training. These dedicated instructors contribute to the student’s success, reflecting on their accomplishments and fostering an environment of energy and excitement. After the initial three months, external professionals evaluate the student’s progress.
The program’s first year is particularly challenging, requiring mental and physical adaptation. The adolescents undergo significant processes of adjustment and absorption, starting with early mornings, feeding, training, decision-making, prioritization, and personal conflict management. They learn the meaning of responsibility and experience personal growth, especially for those pursuing the competitive track. This track demands additional mental care for the horses and fosters maturity as the students take charge of the stable, sleep schedules, and overall conduct. These achievements bring a more profound and meaningful bond formed with their parents. Moreover, the program offers a promising future, with many graduates finding careers in the equestrian field and benefiting from their training as they enter the job market. Additionally, most boys who complete the riding track and training course are recruited into elite combat units in the IDF.
In the second year, the students join the selected track team, receiving advanced horse training and participating in national competitions. Several champions have emerged from this program over the past four years. By the third year, the students possess considerable experience. Matar emphasizes the tremendous personal development that occurs as these teenagers, lacking confidence and successful experiences, connect with horses that are initially unaccustomed to human presence.
Neve Sraya’s weakness lies in the challenging summer period. The scorching heat in this region cause the students to leave the region on vacation and engage in activities elsewhere, disrupts the riding activities, and hampers the overall process. We need a covered facility with organized structures to continue the activities during the summer. Establishing a structured framework and training staff throughout the year would enable the expansion of the program’s impact.
By supporting Neve Sraya’s efforts, we can contribute to the personal growth and transformation of these adolescents who have struggled to find their place in traditional educational settings.
“We are looking for friends,” says Matar, “people whose involvement can help us provide a supportive environment, harnessing the power of horse therapy to inspire positive change. Together, we can overcome the limitations during the summer and ensure a continuous and effective program that empowers young individuals, equipping them with the skills and confidence to thrive in Israeli society.”