In the central city of Rishon LeTzion, a new initiative aims to reduce landfill waste, teach teens important skills, and get more kids riding bikes.
The Remez neighborhood of Rishon LeTzion, which has a large population of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, is home to the HaNoar HaOved youth movement’s new environmental youth center. A pilot initiative, the center is a branch of the youth movement which, in addition to a focus on leadership and social responsibility, also aims to give teens tools to make their community more environmentally sustainable.
Making use of the center’s makerspace and woodshop, they are embarking on a new project to repair secondhand bikes to donate to neighborhood kids. In close cooperation with the office of the city’s deputy mayor, the initiative will give local residents an alternative to throwing away their used, broken or too-small bikes. The center’s teens will collect, clean, and repair the bikes, with the help of one of the participant’s parents, who has volunteered to help make sure that all repaired bikes meet strict safety standards.
After the bikes are in top form, the teens will distribute them, free of cost, to kids from the neighborhood. Along with the bike, they will provide a new helmet (graciously donated by a local business), and a series of safe riding lessons to make sure that the new cyclists are well prepared.
The program’s start was inspired and guided by a similar Dror Israel program in Akko.
Lauding the initiative, Deputy Mayor Itay Matitiyahu said, “We are hopeful that more and more kids will be able to safely ride their bikes through the city and develop self-confidence in their abilities. Physical activity is so important to kids’ personal and emotional development.”
The bikes’ recipients aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program. Teen participants at the center are gaining leadership experience as well as practical skills. Working on the bikes demands patience, creativity, and persistence. It also gives the teens a finished product which they can be proud of and which goes on to help others.
Many of the teens are immigrants or children of immigrants, and have struggled to find their place in the local community. The program gives them a chance to change the narrative and show that they have valuable contributions to bring to their community as leaders and role models.
Hadas, the center’s director, explains that “the center’s activities encourage the youth to identify needs in their neighborhood and provides tools to help them create solutions. In addition to the bike repair program, the teens have also hosted community recycling events, set up a “give and take” library where secondhand clothes, toys and tools can find new homes, and when the weather warms up they will be opening a community garden. It really makes them feel like an important part of the community and shows them how meaningful their impact can be.“ Hadas is hopeful that following the success of the center in Rishon LeTzion, that more branches of HaNoar HaOved will develop environmental sustainability initiatives.