The Israel Defense Forces recently conducted a military coup in Beersheva, as combat soldiers from the Givati Brigade marched into Negba’s after-school Homes and conquered the hearts of its kids. Clad in army fatigues and armed with much love, roughly 15 ‘special ops’ volunteers spent an afternoon leading activities and interacting with Negba’s children, who are still in awe from the visit.
“It was very moving and had a strong effect on me,” said Natan P., age 10. “One soldier helped me a lot with my math homework. Then we all played some games together. It made me feel really good. It made me want to be in the army when I get older.”
The soldiers’ visit to Negba resulted from a personal connection between their officer, Staff Sergeant Ram Yakovson, and a friend who performed her national service at Negba. The soldiers paired off across Negba’s various after-school Homes, first eating lunch as a group and then studying individually with each child. There was also time for a soccer match and other games. Throughout, the soldiers enraptured the kids with “war” stories from their military experience.
“The best part was having my soldier to myself during the learning hour, reflected Nehorai Z., 10. “He helped me so much with my school studies, and I enjoyed talking alone with him and hearing about him. I want to be a soldier just like him.”
Though serving in the army is quite a long way off for Nehorai and Natan, a central, long-term goal at Negba is to see its youth draft successfully into the military, an important step towards integration into society. The visit with the soldiers certainly advanced steps in that direction.
“I think they saw us as role models,” recalled Staff Sergeant Yakovson. “The volunteer encounter was mutually enriching, and a refreshing and satisfying experience. I think the kids will want to enlist in the army in the future.”