In the northern coastal city of Akko, a combination between pool halls and youth clubs provides learning and volunteering activities that keep youth off the streets. Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri paid a visit this week to one such club – the Jack Gindi Oraita Club – explaining that he wished “to see firsthand all the amazing work that is being done” there.
, which is run by the OU Israel Center, runs two clubs in Akko that combines pool (billiard, in the British version) and ping-pong game activities for youths with lectures, learning, volunteering, and more. In Akko, The Oraita club is run in partnership with the Ometz nucleus group, the city of Akko, and the Jewish Agency.
The mayor was accompanied by Municipality Director Farji Shemesh, as well as Ayala Haviv, head of social services and Yishai Rubin, CEO of the Ometz nucleus group. They were enthusiastically welcomed by youth and club alumni.
Jano, a 21 year old combat soldier and Oraita alumnus, told his life story to the boys in the club, and said that had it not been for the club he would still be wandering the streets, involved in criminal activities. He told them that when he was younger he never would have believed that he would join the army, and definitely not a combat unit. He said that Oraita helped get him on the right path and become the person he is proud to be today.
Lankri gave a motivational speech in which he told the youths that "the most important thing is not to despair, to always look ahead and take advantage of the positive things surrounding you, the things that really matter in the club, and in our city." When he asked the boys how he could help the clubs, some of the boys said that they needed more time for activities and more funding for equipment.
Chaim Pelzner, the head of Oraita, welcomed everyone to the club, and thanked the mayor and the Ometz group for their work on the project.
The Oraita clubs in Akko work with more than 140 youths who see the clubs as a home away from home that enriches their lives and fills their free time. A new program called 'Hamama Lanoar' provides tutoring for the youth during school and after hours. Oraita has a network of branches throughout Israel.