by Jane Krivine and Lucille Cohen
A new ESRA program supporting the Freddie Krivine Initiative is helping strengthen the cohesion of Israeli society by helping some of its most disadvantaged members via focusing on English tutoring coupled with the FKI's tennis school in Moshav Beit Hanania.
FKI activities began 20 years ago with the first ever tennis coexistence program between Jewish and Arab Israeli children, set up by ex-Londoner and legendary co- founder of the Israel Tennis Centers – Freddie Krivine. Jane Krivine, the CEO of FKI and Freddie's' daughter, is also an active ESRA volunteer.
FKI's flagship program is a tennis club for the children from the Israeli Arab village of Jisr- a-Zarqa, where for 15 years FKI has been tutoring tennis on the courts in the neighboring moshav of Beit Hanania; some of the local Jewish children also joined the tennis club in a true spirit of coexistence between two neighbors.Jisr is one of the most deprived villages in Israel, with only 22 per cent of children finishing high school and with serious violence and alcohol issues; there is little hope for a productive future for most of the children living there.
In November 2019 FKI secured funds to renovate an old store-room in Jisr and turned it into a club house.With ESRA's help the Afterschool Tennis and Homework Club now offers Jisr children twice-weekly classes of 45 minutes of healthy tennis and sports training and 25 minutes of homework help, Hebrew and English tutoring.
The Club gives children the chance to have a simple two-way conversation with an ESRA volunteer in English or with a Hebrew speaker. The games, songs and reading with the help of Bebe Jacobs and Abigail Nathan of the ESRA Five Towns English Teaching Project is so popular that the children turn up early in eager anticipation for their lessons.
Lee Wilson, the recently appointed FKI managing director, aims to widen the social impact. "The level of teaching in the schools does not meet minimal standards and is woefully inadequate. This coupled with lack of self-esteem, and little chance of Arab children ever mixing with Jewish children, make it very difficult for Arab children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds to enter into the Israeli higher education or even to find meaningful work or simply to take part in shared society and cultural activities.
Our program is the way for Jisr's neighbors to stretch out a hand to the next generation of Arab children."
Sheikh Morad, the Mayor of Jisr, has said that FKI programs are one of the main elements "preventing at-risk youth from being exposed to negative influences".
While some Israeli nonprofits, charities and sports groups fear even to physically enter Jisr – FKI has been running for 20 years, in coordination with the Jisr municipality, weekly morning tennis programs in the local school, summer and winter tennis camps for hundreds of children – keeping them off the streets while their parents work, and coexistence programs with children from nearby towns and villages.
Take Samira Joubran, she was eight when FKI came to her school in Jisr, and, since then she has been hooked after participating enthusiastically in tennis lessons twice a week. When she reached 15 she had to leave school as she was under pressure to help her family financially so she took a cleaning job. Much to her consternation, her mother banned her from playing matches, but a determined Samira would climb to the roof of her house and jump off over the gates and run off to take part.
In 2017 FKI provided her with a scholarship to train as a professional tennis coach and an internship as an assistant coach. This led to her qualifying as a professional, tennis coach. Samira is now a much loved coach at the FKI programs.
FKI looks forward to another 20 years of impacting society through tennis.