Updated: Nov 22
“With each passing minute of the meeting, I started to feel more like myself.” - Sderot evacuee shares about her participation in Leadership Committee
Evacuated members of Dror Israel’s Educators’ Kibbutz from Sderot are continuing their community organizing and leadership programs, this time in hotels housing the evacuees scattered across the country, particularly in the Dead Sea area.
While Sderot's 30,000 evacuated residents were happy to be out of harm's way and inundated with big-hearted donations and volunteers from people all over the country, the chaos at first was palpable - with few government representatives present, and nobody to help organize this new life. There was no school for the kids, fights broke out over donated goods, and new arrivals were given no orientation. Into this void stepped Dror Israel's long-time educators and community organizers from Sderot - themselves evacuees - to re-establish their initiative, "Groups Create a Neighborhood," in this new reality.
Carmi Tint, a Dror Israel educator from Sderot, tell us:
“When I first got to the hotel, I saw someone I knew from the community organizing program – a single mother who always has everything together, a really impressive woman. But she looked so down and disoriented – completely understandable after having gone through the attack on Sderot on Oct 7 and then being evacuated. After catching up for a bit, I invited her to the leadership committee meeting that evening. She was, as always, a leading participant, with great ideas. Afterwards, she told me that with each passing minute of the meeting, she started to feel more like herself. And that’s the idea of this program – whether back home in Sderot or here in the hotels – to help residents take agency over their lives, neighborhoods and situations, to empower them and to help the entire community.”
The Groups Create a Neighborhood program, running for six years in Sderot, is a collaborative effort between Dror Israel, the Sderot municipality, the local Resilience Center, and the Community Security Authority. It focuses on building a network of neighborhood leadership and providing leadership training for residents in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods as a foundation for strengthening the resilience of the communities, in routine times, as well as during emergencies. Dror Israel has now re-established this program in seven different hotels in the Dead Sea area, with familiar and new faces, adapting it to the new circumstances to empower the people of Sderot during these challenging times and address the needs of all evacuees.
Carmi further tells us about the important changes immediately put into place by the leadership committees:
"The leadership committees notice issues and swiftly implement crucial changes in the hotels. For instance, they notices that many senior citizens were placed on upper floors in the busy hotel, resulting in long waits for elevators. They organized chairs on each floor by the elevators so they could sit while they wait. They established a group to manage the fair distribution of donations. Regular meetings were held to allow residents to raise concerns and, more importantly, volunteer to assist."
With the war in its sixth week and no end in sight, the 200,000 evacuees from Israel’s borders with Gaza and with Lebanon are bracing for a prolonged displacement. Dror Israel, along with the leadership groups, has played a pivotal role in organizing improvised schools, daycares, activities for senior citizens, and more.
For the past few weeks, the Sderot leadership groups are working on ways to make the hotels feel more like home. One way they have done this is that a small group of women has joined the hotel kitchen staff on Fridays to make fish for Shabbat dinner for the entire hotel.
While the evacuees hope to return home by year-end, Dror Israel continues to support them in this temporary home away from home.