When the Yemin Orde Youth Village was established on Mount Carmel in northern Israel in 1953, few could predict the impact it would have on thousands of children.

The village, which first housed Holocaust orphans, was named in honor of the British Major General Orde Charles Wingate, a staunch Zionist who used his position in Palestine during the British Mandate period to facilitate the growth of the Yishuv.

Today, the village provides serves as a home and provides educational opportunities to some 500 children and teenagers from around the globe including Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, South America and other countries. Many children come from underprivileged backgrounds and have suffered from extreme poverty or neglect.

“The backgrounds are difficult at times but the parents want them to succeed which is why they send them to Yemin Orde,” Amit Treister, Vice President of Yemin Orde, told Tazpit. “Children also didn’t always get on in the educational system and here they find their place with a lot of motivation to succeed.”

This holiday season, the village is ensuring that as many children as possible will be able to enjoy the Jewish festivities this year. During Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), the village hosted 100 children who were given the opportunity to participate in traditional prayers and enjoy hot meals. On Yom Kippur, the youth village hosted 400 children and took them to Tsfat before the fast to say the Selichot prayers for forgiveness.

Treister explained that conditions at home are often difficult for the children and the village organizers seek to make their stay as comfortable as possible during the Jewish holidays.

“We invite all children that we can and also ask them if they want to bring their parents because we really want them to feel at home,” Treister told Tazpit.

In some cases, Yemin Orde even acts as a surrogate family. “We know of one young girl who has no family at all in Israel and we are like her family,” said Triester.

In preparation for Sukkot, the children will participate in an organized tour of Jerusalem, during which they will build a Sukkah. They will also participate in the traditional Sukkot parade in the capital. “This is to connect all kinds of different cultures together and we want Yemin Orde to be a part of it,” Treister said.

Vikah and Likah, 16 and 17 respectively, described to Tazpit their personal experiences in the youth village during the holidays.

In anticipation of Sukkot, Vikah and Likah commented how accommodating Yemin Orde was to them. “We are looking forward to building the Sukkah and eating in it. We love the Jewish culture and there are so many things to do on Sukkot in the village.”

By Alexander J. Apfel
Tazpit News Agency

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Erica Terry is Managing Editor at Jspace News. She has reported on domestic and international news, Israeli politics, features and more for Jewish publications in New York, Miami and London.