She is one of the Heroes of Zionism.”
Meet Snir Levy, a member of the Dror Israel’s Eduators’ Kibbutz in Sderot Snir is an educator and organizer in the Resilient Communities program.
Sderot and Dror Israel
Sderot is an Israeli city near the border with the Gaza Strip, which suffers immensely from rocket attacks during war time, but also from slow “drips” of rocket fire even when it’s not in the news and the rest of the country is living routine lives.
Because of this, the decision to live in the city is a difficult one. However, Sderot is also known for having produced an outsize number of nationally-known musicians, and for its vibrant cultural scene.
When the educators’ kibbutz first established itself in the city, one of its major projects was to set up an “educational situation room” together with other partners in the city. This situation room is responsible, in times of emergency, for organizing activities and supervision for kids and families in the city’s shelters, directing volunteers and donations to appropriate beneficiaries, distributing games and kits to families staying in their in-home protected rooms, and handling emergencies as necessary.
During the war this past May, the Dror Israel Educators’ Kibbutz in Sderot was a critical factor in helping with various emergencies throughout the city. So much so that the deputy mayor remarked, “I have no idea what other cities do without people like these.”
A few years ago, the members realized that the next step would be to make sure the communities were just as organized and united even when the rockets weren’t falling, in order to strengthen the overall resilience of the communities, help give voice to residents’ concerns, and take care of the most vulnerable.
Snir tell us, “Three years ago, with the help of funding from the city of Sderot, we started organizing neighborhood groups near where we live. We ran regular activities for kids in the afternoons, and when there was a war and no school, we would run the activities in the mornings, too. We also organized a parents’ group and a neighborhood group, who helped organize the activities and worked on various priorities for the neighborhood that they identified.”
“Today, we are operating in all four of the older and underprivileged inner-city neighborhoods in Sderot,” Snir continues, “Each neighborhood has a few organized groups of different ages. And though we had never imagined it beforehand, these groups made such an amazing difference during the pandemic’s lockdowns last year. We were able to distribute food and medicine, look out for people who were sick, help with groceries and taking-out-the-garbage for families in quarantine, and probably most importantly – just helping people stay in touch at a time when people were stuck at home and isolated from one another.”
Snir counsels a group of kids, a group of mothers, a group of Ethiopian-Israeli senior women, and a neighborhood leadership group in the Neve Eshkol neighborhood. He also organizes building and block captains who lead in various ways – helping struggling families, organizing activities for holidays, and doing whatever needs to be done in emergencies like wars or pandemics.
About three years ago, a group of neighborhood mothers came together with Snir to organize a kids’ clubhouse in the neighborhood bomb shelter. Snir helped the group organize and make decisions, and together they collected furniture, equipment, toys, and arts and crafts supplies. In a neighborhood of small and densely-packed apartments, it’s a very important indoor space for the children. To this day, kids come there almost every afternoon to hang out and do their homework, celebrate birthdays, and community holiday events are also held there.
Last May, Ziva, one of the members of the mother’s group and an Ethiopian-Israeli, had the idea of organizing an event for the Day of Commemoration for Ethiopian Jews who Fell on their Journey to Israel. Unfortunately, even though it is an official Israeli day of commemoration, many Israelis are unfamiliar with the story of how the Ethiopian Jewish community stole away from their homes and left on foot in the direction of Jerusalem, and some 1,300 souls fell prey to accident, hunger, disease and bandits in the deserts of Sudan until the Israeli military finally came to their rescue and flew them to Israel.
Ziva thought it would be meaningful to hold a small local ceremony where she and others could tell their own stories, light memorial candles, honor elders in the community, and be together in commemoration. Snir helped organize the program, event, location, equipment, etc. – and the organizers were amazed to see over 30 of their neighbors of all ages and backgrounds show up to hear their stories and bear witness.
After the ceremony, one of the neighbors said, “I have lived just downstairs from Ziva for so many years and never had any idea that she had gone through anything like this, and lost family. She should have a place of honor like all of Israel’s bereaved military families and the heroes of Zionism.”
After the empowering and bonding experience of the event, the older women who helped organize it started meeting regularly as a group with Snir as well, and have even taken an outing together to Jerusalem.
Snir tells us, “This group of women has made such a huge difference in the neighborhood in just a few years. I can’t wait to see what they will do next.”