Skip to comments.Israeli girls schooled in survival
Posted on 03/19/2002 2:11:26 AM PST by MeekOneGOP
Israeli girls schooled in survival
Finding a haven in the middle of a war zone
DOLEV, West Bank - Barbed wire. Bulletproof cars. Armed guards on patrol. Attack dogs tethered to the front gate. It looks like a maximum-security prison, but it's actually a school for troubled girls set in a remote Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
BARBARA DAVIDSON / DMN
The West Bank's Ultanat Dolev School caters to troubled girls.
The students live under constant threat of an ambush or a suicide bomb attack, like the one that claimed a classmate two weeks ago. The road to the settlement reveals the unspoiled majesty of the Holy Land as it looked in biblical times, but it is definitely not safe, so armored vehicles are used. Many students are frightened, but they refuse to leave.
There are roughly 140 Jewish settlements such as Dolev throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, their presence an irritating thorn to the Palestinians who demand their removal as part of any peace accord, but the Ulpanat Dolev school is unique for the guidance it offers girls in danger of embracing a life of crime.
The school, which has received financial help from Congregation Sha'are-Tefilla and other Jewish groups in Dallas, is designed for girls with severe family problems who have been unable to make it in regular schools and might fall victim to urban scourges such as drugs and prostitution, administrators say.
The 52 students are "adopted" by local families in Dolev that provide a warm environment for Sabbath celebrations and other holidays. In addition to attending regular classes, the students receive extensive counseling from a team of social workers determined to bring them back from the brink.
Most important, perhaps, they become part of a community, said 14-year-old Ortal Barabi, who is in her first year at the school. They no longer feel isolated and alone.
"Friends are the best part," she said. "We are like a little family. We joke a lot and have fun. And the people who work here are really good. They will really help you."
The school is only a few miles from the Palestinian city of Ramallah, but no one from the settlement travels to that city because of extremely high tensions. Its classrooms consist of two rows of old converted trailers with limited facilities, but a comfortable new dormitory has been built for the girls, who sleep four or six to a room.
In some ways, the girls here are like teenagers everywhere arguing over the artistic merits of Britney Spears and listening to loud dance music during the brief break between lunch and afternoon classes.
But in some ways, they have two strikes against them. They come from a difficult background and have been placed in a school in the middle of a war zone. Still, many of the students are hopeful.
Batel Gimpel, a forceful 15-year-old who insists she is really 16 because her birthday is only 14 days away, said she came to Ulpanat Dolev because she wanted to change her ways after a difficult year in a crowded urban school in Jerusalem.
"I wanted to, I don't know, maybe become a better person," she said. "In the other school, it was different because mostly you go with the wrong crowd. Here you don't have anywhere to go with the wrong crowd."
'This is our land'
Batel is happy at Ulpanat Dolev and likes her new friends, but she is frightened of the people in the Palestinian village she can see from the schoolyard. Her fear grew after a girl from the school died in a suicide bombing at a pizzeria in a nearby settlement two weeks ago. A second student was seriously injured.
"It's scary," she said. "You can get shot at wherever you go now. I never thought I'd have a friend who was in a bombing. But now that I have, I have so much hate for the Arabs. You can't really forget about it because every half-hour you hear about another shooting. But this is our land. We won't leave. We won't despair."
Positions on both sides have hardened. The settlers and many Israelis assert that Israel's claim to this land was established during the biblical era; the Palestinians maintain that they lost their homeland when Israel was established in 1948 and refuse to be squeezed out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well.
Residents of Dolev used to enjoy good relations with many Palestinians in nearby villages, and Arab builders constructed most of the settlement homes, but these friendly ties have been cut since the Palestinian uprising began 18 months ago, said Mimi Bernstein Tsadok, a Dallas native who moved to Israel more than 30 years ago.
"Everyone is really tense, but no one has left the school," said Mrs. Tsadok, who helps raise money for Ulpanat Dolev. "I think that's a good sign."
In this changed climate, funds that would have been spent on classrooms or computers are earmarked for bulletproof cars, which cost about $100,000, and security installations.
Dr. Joel Young, who supervises the counseling program, said the adversity the students face, including the traumatic loss of a classmate in the pizzeria bombing, has brought the girls closer.
"I think it has strengthened them," said Dr. Young, a settler from Pittsburgh. "Our girls are nervous, like everyone else in the country, but they feel a sense of support, and they see this as their family, and they feel part of something. The crisis can make them stronger."
Mind-set to raise a family
He said the goal of the Ulpanat Dolev program is to help girls who feel they have no chance at a healthy future develop the self-esteem needed to eventually find a partner and raise a family.
"This is a place where you learn to let someone love you in a healthy way," he said. "Often when that happens, they cry and say they had given up on love a long time ago. When these girls come to us they are very vulnerable, and the idea that they could start a family strikes them as far-fetched. Many have been neglected or abused. The school gives them a second chance."
The girls also receive religious instruction and pray regularly, Dr. Young said.
"It's a religious program. You have to maintain behavior in line with that. But we know faith is personal, and we do our best not to force it," he said. "Our hope is to interest the students in deeper belief. We feel a person's ability to believe in themselves is related to their ability to have a spiritual belief in God."
He said the program fails to engage a small number of girls, usually one or two a year, but that many graduates look back on their years at Ulpanat Dolev as a turning point.
Sarit Moore, a graduate who is now 19 and working as a nurse's assistant, said her years at Ulpanat Dolev completely changed her life after she had failed at three other schools. She said she was withdrawn and extremely unhappy when she arrived.
"I used to just disappear into a world of dreams, and I had lost contact with reality," said Mrs. Moore, who recently married. "I had no friends, I would just sit and do nothing. But the staff was very understanding. In other schools, they only cared about my grades, which were terrible, but in Dolev they cared about me, about developing my personality, and the grades came second. The main issue is to help the girls believe they can be who they want."
She said she hated the school at first and used to cry all the time, but in her second year she blossomed.
"The staff made me come back to reality. They were gentle but firm," she said. "I became a new person, and 11th and 12th grades were the best years of my life. I had friends everywhere. They opened my mind to learn new things, not to be in my small world. I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't gone to Dolev. I was really sinking fast."
Click Here For A Slideshow of Photos
of The Girls School. Nice Pictures!
They make the school out to seem like a prison, when in reality the barbed wire and the guards are to protect the girls from arabs.
Cool! Israeli Biker Chicks with Tattoos!There's more pics in the slideshow link. They're pretty good, too. One shows one of the girls smoking in the girls room! Charlette Brown?...........
Where do we send money for this school? It sounds like they are doing amazingThe Dallas Morning News writer GREGORY KATZ wrote this story, and his his e-mail is:
things for young girls in astonishingly hard times.
He could probably refer you..........