For the first time since leaving their homes in Lebanon more than 10 years ago, the children of former Southern Lebanese Army members living in Israel can enjoy a special summer camp opened just for them.
Of the some odd 2,700 SLA refugees in Israel, most of them are living in the north.
Hebrew, Arabic, and Amharic
Summer camps were opened for them in Haifa, Tiberias, and Nahariya, putting an emphasis on integrating the SLA children with new immigrants and native Israelis in a NIS 100,000 (about $26,240) project funded by the bureau for SLA members' affairs.
More than 120 children are taking part in the summer camps, which are being run with the help of local authorities and community centers.
In the Nahariya summer camp, SLA children enjoyed the summer activities alongside native Israelis and Ethiopian immigrants in the Tapuz absorption center, all between the ages of 6 and 12.
Minister Yossi Peled with the kids
"Our goal is to integrate the various cultures and to help both the SLA children and the new immigrants," said Rinat, one of the camp counselors, to Ynet. "This helps them get to know the country better and integrate into activities appropriate for them. It is hard not to see the happiness on their faces, which is a sign for us that we have succeeded."
Rinat said that the Arabic language was not left out of the activities.
The camp's activities included going on trips to parks, forests, nature reserves, and museums. The children have recently been involved in arts and crafts run in various facilities set aside for them by the municipalities.
Minister Yossi Peled, in charge of SLA affairs in the Prime Minister's Office, visited the summer camps in Haifa and Nahariya on Sunday. "I am happy to see the project's success. These dear people fought shoulder to shoulder with IDF soldiers and defended residents of the north. It is our moral obligation to help their complete integration into Israel."
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