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Creating Change and Building Communities

JNF’s Beyachad Magazine published a story about the Akko Educators’ Kibbutz in a special edition covering communities pioneering social change in Israel’s geosocial periphery

This article , written by Nathan Jeffay, appears in its full form in the latest edition of JNF’s Beyachad magazine. A PDF version of the article is attached below.

Surrounded by a dense sea of towering buildings, the Dror Yisrael Educators’ Kibbutz enjoys the benefits of living in a socialized community environment while remaining an integral part of the city’s growth and development.

The “kibbutz,” a MAKOM community part of a movement of urban kibbutzim, calls itself “Israel’s new social start-up.” Its members span the range of educational careers, including teachers, lecturers, and informal educators, who work across the region and help run projects and activities to benefit the local community.

Operating out of a building acquired in 2018, there are no orange orchards, cowsheds, or factories reminiscent of a traditional kibbutz, but the 90-strong close-knit community radiates a collective feeling of belonging and provides educational programming to the region’s diverse population.

In a classroom, which looks more like a trendy coffee bar with a long rustic table and mood lighting, it’s clear that the scene of calm and comfort is the exception, not the rule, in the neighborhood. “We’re in the poorest district of the city,” said Gabe Freund, an Australian immigrant who moved to Israel in 2011. Like other members of this MAKOM community, Freund believes that the kibbutz’s ethos is to help build the community from within. “We’re not here to ‘assist’ or help ‘pull the neighborhood up,’ but to work with locals to create change,” he said. Initiatives include neighborhood councils that directly provide residents with tools to improve

neglected areas, and rather than advocating on behalf of residents, the kibbutz provides a structure for them to advocate for themselves and offers assistance, where necessary.

Education is critical in building a more cohesive Akko. Programs like Hebrew immersion classes, youth jam sessions, leadership training, and cultural activities are part of its model to develop community empowerment. At-risk youth are also engaged and encouraged to give back to the community. Zak Greenwald, a U.S.-born bike enthusiast and community member, collects and repairs unwanted bikes, and distributes them to kids who can’t afford one. Twenty at-risk kids from all over Akko now volunteer with Greenwald to distribute bikes throughout the city. 

Change does not happen overnight, and for a city so deeply rooted in history and tradition, it is often hard to break the mold. Yet, for the two MAKOM communities that call Akko home, the beauty of the city is not the picturesque seawall along the Mediterranean or the Crusader ruins of the Old City—it comes from the people who make Akko the diverse community that represents people from all faiths, regions, and cultures. Together, these new pioneers are bringing the people of the city closer, empowering them to strive for a brighter future, and with Jewish National Fund paving the way, transforming Akko into the hub for the continued expansion of the Western Galilee.

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