During the Second Lebanon War, Kiryat Shomna, just four kilometers from the Lebanese border, absorbed hundreds of Katyusha rockets fired by Hizbullah.
Since then, it has been the scene of a number of projects aimed at bringing volunteers to the city to help its residents.
"It moved me to see us all working together, like a movement," Richardo Lech, 19, of Mexico, told Ynetnews. "If we as Jews don't help
"We came here to help the children. When we saw them play on the new court, we felt incredibly good. They were like shining stars," said Kolum Sikaldi, 19, of France. Despite breaking her leg in a skateboarding accident, Sikaldi insisted on painting the children's center. She told Ynetnews she planned to make aliya in the near future.
"Often, I heard Israelis ask me, why are you here? Are you crazy?" said Moshe Zano, 19, also from France. "I explained to them that I love this country, that I'm here because something from deep inside tells me to be here," he added. Zano has already emigrated to Israel and will join the IDF's Nahal combat brigade next month.
Richardo Lech and Moshe Zano came to help (Photo: Yaakov Lappin)
Pauline Kalif, Program Director for Israel Experience, France, told Ynetnews the program was aimed at familiarizing Jewish youths with the realities of Israel. "They come to know Israel from the inside," she said. "In the end, they tell me they saw the real Israel, not the postcard image they had thought, and that they realize that there is a lot of bad things here too. But then they add that they love it even more for that, and it makes the whole program worthwhile," she said.
Israel Experience runs long and short-term programs for Jewish youths and sends them to volunteer in various communities that need help in the country.
Yishai Hazenbaum, the program's French-language tour guide, said that while not all Israelis understood what the group what doing, the youths were always well received. Listing some of the group's other activities, Hazenbaum said the youths worked at a soup kitchen, helped mentally handicapped individuals, and worked in deprived neighborhoods.
For more information about Israel Experience Program - click here