Bright futures for disadvantaged kids in Israel

by | Dec 7, 2012 | Other News

ATID is the Hebrew word for future. And Atidim (futures) is the name of a breakthrough project designed to build a better, stronger Israel by enabling capable and talented young people from underprivileged communities to acquire higher education in order to share in Israel’s growth. Created by the Israel Defense Forces more than a decade ago, Atidim has since become one of Israel’s most valuable educational and social initiatives.

The Israel Defense Forces Academic Reserves is a longtime source of highly educated and motivated IDF officers. Prior to being inducted as officers in the IDF, Academic Reserve candidates are permitted to defer military service to study specific majors in the exact sciences at universities. This enables graduates to enter the IDF with degrees in law, medicine or scientific research, grooming them for a lifetime of personal and professional success. In addition to giving Israel’s military an essential edge, former IDF officers hold prominent leadership positions in the public and private sectors.

Eitan Wertheimer, Israeli businessman and philanthropist, assesses the need for the program: “There are many new roads to higher education in Israel today, but not everyone—especially kids from Israel’s periphery and disadvantaged communities— can make it in the classroom. Higher education requires considerable talent and money. Motivated, talented kids without financial resources have almost no chance of making it. A tragic waste of potential that none of us can afford!”

When Atidim started, just one percent of the Academic Reserves came from Israel’s disadvantaged communities; since its inception, Atidim students representing Israel’s most disadvantaged areas have come to comprise nearly 40 percent of the IDF Academic Reserves—a spectacular achievement.

The Atidim program overcomes the three primary obstacles to achievement plaguing disadvantaged students: marginalization resulting in low self-confidence; unequal science education opportunities compared with more affluent peers; and lack of funds for educational enrichment.

With his dark wavy hair and natural good looks, Yossi Lahiany, 16, epitomizes the cool, native-born Israeli teenager. But beneath this façade, is a teenager, fast approaching adulthood, wanting to succeed. Yossi attends Lod’s High School for Science, where he excels in biology and chemistry. Prior to becoming involved in the Atidim program, he had no one to turn to for help when he encountered difficulties with his studies.

When his guidance counselor told Yossi that the Atidim program was coming to his school, Yossi was eager to sign up. “Atidim is helping me to advance,” says Yossi. “I am receiving help in math and English, and this has given me more confidence. I know that if I don’t understand something, I can go to my Atidim teachers and they will explain things to me.”

Yossi wants to graduate from high school with honors, serve in the army and then continue his studies at university. He is very self-motivated and plans to be a doctor. The Atidim program gives extra assistance to students like Yossi. Each student receives individualized assistance to help them achieve an advanced high-school diploma. Additional enrichment activities such as university lectures, volunteer work, summer camps, and challenge activities, provide further opportunities for social and personal development.

Atidim offers today’s disadvantaged youth a more positive and enriching future. By bolstering traditionally disenfranchised bright young people, including new immigrants, Atidim truly transforms the landscape of Israeli society. It invests resources in young people over their total growth trajectory: from junior high through high school, to university, to distinguished military service, and ultimately to their emergence as leaders in industry and public service. The program enables participants to obtain bachelor’s degrees from Israel’s most esteemed institutions of higher learning and attain their full potential.

Programs of the Jewish Agency for Israel, such as Atidim, are funded in part by the generosity of the Tidewater Jewish community through gifts to the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual campaign. Every dollar raised makes a significant difference to real people like Yossi—at home, in Israel, and in 70 countries around the world. To make a taxdeductible gift, visit