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Keren haYesod – United Israel Appeal (Hebrew: קרן היסוד, literally "The Foundation Fund") is the official fundraising organization for Israel the world over (apart from the US), with campaigns in 45 countries. Its work is carried out in accordance with the Keren haYesod Law-5716, passed by the Knesset in January 1956, granting the organization a unique fundraising status. It is a registered corporation of the State of Israel.
One of Israel’s three “National Institutions”, Keren haYesod works in close coordination with the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel to further the national priorities of the State of Israel.
The pre-state era
Keren haYesod was established at the World Zionist Congress held in London on July 7–24, 1920, to provide the Zionist movement with resources needed for the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel. It came in response to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which stated that “his Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” - turning the ages-old dream of the return to Zion into a politically feasible goal.
During the 1920s, Keren haYesod began to lay the groundwork for the state-on-the-way and helped raise funds to establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bank Hapoalim and various physical projects. In 1926, Keren haYesod relocated its headquarters from London to Jerusalem. With the establishment of the Jewish Agency in 1929, Keren haYesod became its fundraising arm while continuing its own wide-ranging activities. The effects of the worldwide economic depression of 1929 hit Keren haYesod hard, but recovery was accompanied by an unprecedented turn of events - Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. In order to bring German Jews to the Land of Israel, the organization helped in the development of the Haifa Bay suburbs, and as part of that effort, the establishment of the Rasco construction company (1934). Keren haYesod supported the establishment of what would later become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (1936), to provide employment for refugee musicians, and cultural institutions.
Thanks to donations raised throughout the world, Keren haYesod brought tens of thousands of Jews fleeing Europe to Eretz Yisrael, helped absorb them, established over 900 urban and rural settlements while providing the newcomers with homes and jobs, and developed the economic, educational, and cultural framework for the state-on-the-way, along with industrial enterprises.
During World War II and in its aftermath, Keren haYesod established emergency campaigns, sometimes in partnership with other organizations. Funds were also used to help the Allied war effort, and, after the liberation of the concentration camps, to smuggle massive numbers of survivors into the Land of Israel, in defiance of British immigration restrictions. Many of Keren haYesod’s leaders perished in the Holocaust; the organization had to recover quickly in face of the staggering needs during those fateful years. KH's leading role in the Zionist enterprise made it a target for terrorism; in March 1948, a car bomb was detonated in the courtyard of the building, killing twelve people, including the director of Keren haYesod, Leib Yaffe.
After the establishment of the State of Israel
The first full decade that followed the birth of the State of Israel was marked by huge waves of immigration, primarily from North Africa, Yemen, Kurdistan and Iraq. Within a few years, Israel’s population tripled, resulting in great distress and a heightened demand for social, educational and cultural services. Keren haYesod redoubled its building efforts, helping establish dozens of urban settlements, such as Sderot (1951) and Eilat (1956), as well as kibbutzim and moshavim. Keren haYesod provided major funding for these communities, establishing new fundraising campaigns around the world and renewing its presence in Germany (1955).
The deep economic crisis that hit Israel in 1983 and 1984 created major hardships, and programs to alleviate social distress became Keren haYesod's major priority. Keren haYesod-supported Operation Moses brought 5,000 new immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel in a dramatic airlift (1984), and the organization immediately mobilized to raise funds to address the new immigrants’ special needs. Israel was still in the throes of the First Intifada (1987-1993) when the Soviet Union imploded. The end of the Communist regime in the USSR (1991) opened the gates to over a million Jews who had been fighting for years for the right to immigrate to their ancestral homeland. In addition, over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in Operation Solomon (in 1991). The massive numbers of new immigrants created a huge demand for immigrant services, housing, and jobs; Keren haYesod launched a special Exodus Campaign to fund this effort. The wave of terror launched by the Second Intifada (2000-2004) had a devastating impact on the Israeli economy, resulting in major social distress. The situation was exacerbated by the crisis in the tourism industry and the bursting of the hi-tech bubble. In response, Keren haYesod developed wide-ranging social projects to which it accorded high priority, along with its traditional areas of activity, immigrant absorption and Jewish-Zionist education in the Diaspora. Thus, for example, Keren haYesod, in partnership with the Jewish Agency, Cisco Systems Inc. and the Appleseeds Academy, initiated the Net@ project, which provides hi-tech training to youth in the suburbs. Keren haYesod was also a lead partner in the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror.
To ensure the well-being of all of Israel’s residents, Keren haYesod is committed to raising the quality of life for vulnerable populations, notably in the suburbs. Every year, tens of thousands disadvantaged children and adults benefit from social and cultural programs, along with projects targeting youth-at-risk – educational Youth Villages, Net@ after-school training, the Youth Futures mentoring project and others. Sheltered housing helps Holocaust survivors and other needy elderly individuals live out their lives in dignity and comfort.
By 2010, when Keren haYesod marked its 90th anniversary, addressing the needs of the suburbs and efforts to close the social gap in Israel had become the main focuses of its work.
- Strengthening Israeli society through social and educational programs, particularly in the suburbs and development towns
- Facilitating aliyah and absorption
- Furthering Jewish- Zionist education in the Diaspora
Strengthening Israeli society
To ensure the well-being of all of Israel’s residents, Keren haYesod is committed to raising the quality of life for vulnerable populations, notably in the suburbs and development towns. Every year, tens of thousands disadvantaged children and adults benefit from social and educational programs, along with projects targeting youth-at-risk – educational Youth Villages, Net@ after-school training, the Youth Futures mentoring project and others. Amigour sheltered housing helps Holocaust survivors and other needy elderly individuals live out their lives in dignity and comfort.
- Educational and community projects conducted by social activists from the Young Communities program in dozens of depressed neighbourhoods and towns in the periphery helped empower tens of thousands of children and adults.
- Hundreds of student volunteers from the Ayalim movement conducted social, cultural, educational and physical projects that bettered the lives of 20,000 adults and children in the Negev and the Galilee.
- The revolutionary Youth Futures mentoring program provided personalized attention, positive social experiences and educational enrichment for 11,000 at-risk youth, primarily from the periphery.
- The Amigour network of sheltered homes enabled 7,500 low-income elderly individuals, the majority of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Holocaust survivors, to enjoy lives of dignity and independence in a comfortable and secure environment.
- Four educational youth villages provided a warm home for 1,000 severely disadvantaged youngsters, enabling them to break out of the cycle of poverty and obtain skills for a better future.
- The Net@ after-school training project gave 1,000 at-risk youth in suburban areas advanced technological skills along with the tools for social and economic mobility.
- 240 new olim ages 16½-22 took part in the ten-month Selah-Mir higher education preparatory course conducted in partnership with academic institutions.
- The Yesodot after-school enrichment program at absorption centers helped 2,000 Ethiopian children bridge the gaps between life in Ethiopia and Israeli society.
- The WINGS program provided support and assistance to 700 lone soldiers, helping them transition into civilian society at the conclusion of their service.
Furthering Jewish- Zionist education in the Diaspora
Various Keren haYesod programs, both in Israel and the Diaspora, help to engage young adults with their Jewish heritage while nurturing a connection to the State of Israel and cultivating a sense of kinship with the Jewish people.
- Jewish summer camps in former Soviet republics instilled a sense of Jewish and Zionist identity in 6,400 youngsters.
- 25,000 Jews in the FSU strengthened their connection to Israel at Hebrew language ulpan and cultural events.
- The Masa Israel Journey provided 10,000 young Jewish adults, including 1,456 from the FSU, with the opportunity to study, volunteer or intern in Israel.
- The ten-day Taglit-Birthright experience in Israel had a lifetime impact on 30,000 young Jews from 64 countries.
- The Nativ Jewish education program deepened the sense of connection to the State of Israel and to Judaism among 1,800 new immigrant soldiers.
- 1,000 high school students from disadvantaged communities took part in
- Net@, an intensive hi-tech and technician course that trains students of all scholastic levels for careers in hi-tech.
Emergency solidarity campaign
As they have done during every crisis or impending danger facing Israel or the Jewish people, Keren haYesod donors urgently rallied, providing badly needed assistance to the beleaguered residents of southern Israel who were under daily rocket attack in the summer of 2014. Following the kidnapping and murder of three teenage boys by Hamas militants in early June, rocket fire from Gaza - a constant threat to residents of the south – intensified into round-the-clock attacks. With only 15 seconds to run for safety from the moment the warning siren is heard until the missiles explode, portable bomb shelters unquestionably made the difference between life and death. Keren haYesod-UIA donors worldwide provided scores of the movable, protected structures, which were strategically placed in residential areas, offering easily accessible refuge to thousands of people.
These shelters were purchased with funds urgently collected in Keren haYesod’s Emergency Solidarity Campaign, launched after Operation “Protective Edge” erupted in June, to alleviate the trauma caused by the hostilities. Funds were also used to provide fun days for children, giving them a break from the ubiquitous rocket fire, and for professional counseling for traumatized residents. Medical equipment was acquired for hospitals in the south, where injured soldiers and civilians were brought for treatment. Other support included financial assistance to families of fallen soldiers and civilians killed in terror attacks, as well as to injured soldiers and families whose homes were destroyed by rockets.
Keren haYesod operates local campaigns in over 60 locations throughout the world. Special frameworks target specific population sectors: the International Women’s Division, Young Leadership, and Friends of Israel for non-Jewish supporters.
- "Support Israel - Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal (UIA)". kh-uia.org.il.
- "Support Israel - Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal (UIA)". kh-uia.org.il.
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