By Nikki Aversal, OTZMA participant
Twice a week OTZMAnikim Elissa Rosenblatt (Chicago, IL), Eli Cohn (Minnetonka, MN), Vlad Latman (Los Angeles, CA), and Max Amer (Boston, MA) spend their evenings volunteering with Metzilah, a program run by the Ashkelon City Council. From 8pm to around midnight they work with other Israelis in their twenties serving as role models to teenagers in Ashkelon. As a group they frequent parks in the poorer neighborhoods as well as community events making sure that children who otherwise would have no place to go, are staying out of trouble.
“I really like it”, says Elissa, “i think it makes a difference. it’s not kids out with guns and knives but its kids who come from bad homes who want to drink and smoke with their friends. We are there to talk to them and give [them] an alternative, we’re mostly there to be good role models.”
At the parks they listen to music, play soccer, and talk with the kids. While the language barrier can be tough, the volunteers stress that they’re there to provide another option, “These are not bad kids” says Eli, “they just have the potential to develop problems if they’re not careful.”
Metzilah works in coordination with the Ashkelon schools to target children at risk. Most of the Israelis that work with Metzilah are also involved within the school system in some capacity.