One of Israel’s most inspiring social pioneers shared his story in London last week, discussing how a near-death experience led him to dedicating his life to challenging inequality in Israel.
JNF UK speaker shares inspirational story of triumph over terror
Yonatan Kischinovsky, 37, was in London to discuss ‘Derech Eretz’ – the social venture he founded and runs, and which is supported by JNF UK. JNF UK helped organise two speaker events for him to discuss the work the organisation does. The first was attended by members of Magen Avot and Alei Tzion synagogues. The second was a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session in the office of Clifford Chance.
Derech Eretz provides comprehensive support for young Israelis entering the army, to maximise their chance of success. While joining the IDF is seen as a rite of passage in a country with national conscription, it is nonetheless a challenging experience. Some Israelis therefore enter a pre-army leadership development programme to make sure they are fully prepared. Currently only a small minority – either the very well off, or those assisted by charities – are able to do this.
This is the starting point for Kischinovsky’s vision – the paradox that only those at either end of the social-economic spectrum are benefitting, while so many more are missing out. This is especially true for the underdeveloped Southern parts of Israel, where opportunities for career development are scarcer than the rest of the country.
But the inspiration to dedicate his life to making a difference came much earlier. In 2003, while only 21, the car he and his sister were driving in was targeted by two Palestinian gun men. Miraculously they both survived, although Yonatan was hit by four bullets. In the months to come, as he slowly recuperated from his injuries, he decided to commit himself to helping others.
Founding Derech Eretz has enabled him to make that difference. In the last 8 years, 750 people have completed the programme, with 200 new participants signed up to start this Autumn. Participants come from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds, breaking down barriers and helping to promote a more inclusive model for Israeli society.
Speaking in London, Kischinovsky discussed the impact the organisation is having, impressing the audiences with first-hand examples of individuals who have benefitted from the support Derech Eretz offers.
Yonatan Galon, CEO of JNF UK, commented that:
“Derech Eretz shows the impact our support for pioneers in Israel can have. It was a real honour to help Kischinovsky share his inspirational story of overcoming adversity to help others.”