The story of Elifelet
Elifelet rose from the ashes, from hate crimes, and the first decision that we took was to establish it as a loving and nurturing organization.
On one night, in April 2012, five asylum-seeker residential centers in South Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood were set on fire. The evil fire was preceded by the incendiary appearance of politicians, targets were chosen carefully, and young people from the neighborhood went out on their mission in the dead of night equipped with Molotov cocktails. One of the targets that was chosen was a house in which 21 babies and toddlers were sleeping. With the front yard in flames, it was only a miracle that left them alive.
When I arrived there in the afternoon, the smell of smoke in the yard still hindered my breathing. Through the door I hear the tiny children’s cries of distress, but a long time passed before the door was opened to me. The Nigerian couple who lived there, Blessing and Austin, opened the door with great suspicion, and then explained that, in the five years they had lived there, an Israeli had never come to the door with good intentions. Not a single representative of the authorities arrived to offer them help after the fire. The things that I saw inside the small apartment were unbearable: dozens of toddlers inside a small apartment, choking from smoke and hot from the heat. A single, bare mattress and an open sack of rice; inside it was cockroach droppings. All the toys and the utensils had been burnt.
During this period there was a ruling forbidding asylum seekers working “from Hadera to Gedera”; people were forced to abandon their children and to seek work at the edges of the country. The Nigerian couple, who were also refugees who had escaped from their country on a difficult journey through the Sinai Desert, chose to protect these children even when they didn’t receive a salary for it, to share with them and with their two own toddlers the meager food that they had. That was the day that I left my professional career as a journalist behind, and I devoted myself to extending a hand to asylum-seeker children. It was the day that I discovered the power of many Israelis volunteering. One Facebook post was enough to set in a motion a chain of equipment and support for children.
The story of the founder - Yael Gvirtz
Elifelet arose from ashes, a hate crime, and the first decision we made was to establish it as a loving and growing association.
One night, in April 2012, the fire burned in five residential centers of asylum seekers in the Shapira neighborhood in south Tel Aviv. The evil fire was preceded by ardent performances by politicians, its targets were carefully selected, and a group of young residents of the neighborhood set out on their mission in the dead of night equipped with Molotov cocktails. One of the destinations chosen was a house where 21 babies and toddlers were sleeping at the time. Only a miracle left them alive when the yard burned.
When I got there in the afternoon the smell of smoke in the yard still stifled my breath. Through the door I heard the cry of distress of the little ones, but it was a long time before it opened to me. The young Nigerian couple who lived there, Blessing and Austin, opened the door for me with great apprehension, and later explained that during their five years there, an Israeli had never come to their door with good intentions. No one from the authorities also came to offer them help after the fire. The sight revealed to me inside the small apartment was unbearable: dozens of toddlers inside a small apartment, suffocating from smoking and hot with heat. A single, bare mattress, an open rice sack containing cockroach droppings, all the toys and equipment burned.
These were the days when the directive was issued to ban work on asylum seekers "between Hadera and Gedera," and the mothers were forced to abandon their children and go out in search of work in the ends of the earth. The Nigerian couple, also refugees who fled their country on a difficult journey in the Sinai desert, chose to keep these children even when they were not paid for it, to share with them and their two private toddlers the meager food they had. It was the day I left behind my profession as a journalist, and devoted myself to reaching out to the children of asylum seekers. It was the day I also discovered the mobilizing and volunteering power of many Israelis. One Facebook post was enough to drive a chain of equipment and assistance to children.
The name Elifelet was brought by Rachel Yagil, one of the first volunteers, and originated in Natan Alterman's well-known poem about the anti-hero boy who is revealed in his unique heroism during battle. The children of the asylum seekers - some of whom went through the hardships of Sinai and experienced terrible injuries and traumas and some of whom were already born in Israel - were our heroes. Babies and toddlers who grew up here in terrible conditions of scarcity and risk and persecution, twenty of whom have died since 2010 in the pirate nurseries known in the media as 'children's warehouses'. For them, we have established a comprehensive system of nutrition and health and education assistance with the help of the many volunteers who have joined Elifelet during its years of operation. We started by helping re-establish the burned-out kindergarten, and within a few years we had already assisted a thousand toddlers and run clubs that provided an enriching setting for the afternoon and protected the children from the dangers of wandering the streets.
Within five years of its establishment, Elifelet became the largest volunteer organization in the field of assistance to the children of asylum seekers. She moved away from any political identification and opened its gates to anyone whose heart was saved by the lives and childhood of our children, the heroes of the Moody of scarcity and suffering. In the beginning we acted like the raft parable, we connected twig to twig. And as in the parable of the hummingbird we put out fires in the drops we raised. Together, we were privileged to discover the power of togetherness, and to see children thrive, to whom the ability to believe and trust in human beings has returned.
In 2020, I transferred the leadership of Elifelet to the loyal hands of Sharon Tal. And also when the association competed To the glory with the difficult challenges of the corona plague, the most wonderful and exciting of all in my eyes is that the great Elifelet manages to preserve its special character as a human family to children. As a home for all whose hearts are open, and a warm home for children that she has adopted to her heart.
The story of a founder - Yael Gvirtz
The name Elifelet was suggested by Rachel Yagil, one of the first volunteers, who took it from the famous poem by Nathan Alterman about the anti-hero child who discovers his special heroism in battle. The asylum-seeker children – some of whom went through hardships in Sinai and had terrible injuries and traumas, and some of whom were born in Israel – were our heroes. Babies and toddlers who were raised here in conditions of want and danger and terrible persecution, twenty[AS1] of whom have died since 2010 in the makeshift nurseries that were called ‘children’s warehouses’ in the media. We established for them a wide-ranging system of support including food and health and education, all thanks to the many volunteers who have joined us over the years. We began by rebuilding the kindergarten that had been burned down, and within a few years we had already helped thousands of toddlers and operated after-school care centers that have provided an enriching afternoon framework and protected the children from the dangers of wandering the streets.
Within five years Elifelet became the NGO with the largest number of volunteers working with asylum-seekers. It avoids any political identification and has opened its gates to anyone for whom saving the lives and childhood of our children, our heroes who have experienced scarcity and suffering, touches their hearts. At the beginning we operated like a raft in the parable, binding a twig to a twig. And, like the parable of the hummingbird, we put out fires with the droplets we had obtained. Together, we were privileged to discover the power of togetherness, and to see children blossoming, who recovered the ability to believe in humanity.
In 2020 I passed the leadership of Elifelet into the faithful hands of Sharon Tal. And even when the organization dealt outstandingly with the difficult challenges of the Corona pandemic, the most wonderful and moving aspect for me was that the large organization succeeded in preserving its special character as a human family for the children, as a home for all those with open hearts, and as a warm home to the children.