While most of us were enjoying the peace and tranquility of Thanksgiving, many of you expressed serious concern about the recent fires that have plagued Israel, particularly in the neighborhoods in and around Haifa. They are sobering reminders of the vulnerability that all of our ITC children and their families face every day throughout Israel. In this case, the fires were within 200 yards of the Selma and Irving Ettenberg Israel Tennis Center in Haifa as the photos dramatically reveal!

Fortunately, no deaths were reported, although over 60,000 Haifa residents were evacuated at the end of last week due to the massive fires. Authorities estimate that 2,000 dwellings were damaged, including 527 apartments that are now uninhabitable, and 37 have been completely destroyed. More than 1,600 Haifa residents have been made homeless while a number of schools, kindergartens and other public buildings have been damaged.

ITC families tragically lost their homes and had to be relocated. In response, ITC Manager Lilo Zarfati has been actively involved in helping the children and families of Haifa by bringing food and equipment to those who need it most. He has also sent his extraordinary staff to local schools to organize sports and musical activities and providing psychologists to minimize the enormous trauma these children are experiencing. They have gone to two area schools located in the fire zone to coordinate programs that will continue until the area returns to normal status. In addition, they have set up extra hours for the local kindergartens in the neighborhood nearest to the center.

If you would like to help the ITC continue to respond to the crisis by providing essential services for the children and families of Haifa, we invite you to visit our fundraising page at http://www.israeltenniscenters.org/donate/

Empowering Israel’s Children…Beyond Tennis and Beyond Borders

Founded in 1976, the Israel Tennis Centers (ITC) is one of the largest social service organizations for children in Israel, serving over 20,000 Israeli children every year. The ITC’s 14 centers stretch from Kiryat Shmona in the North to Beer Sheva in the South. Many of these centers are in underprivileged neighborhoods, providing disadvantaged children with a safe, structured and nurturing environment.

The ITC offers uniquely designed programs to meet the specific needs of its children:

  • Social Impact: assisting youth at risk, those with special needs such as Down Syndrome and autism and children of new immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia
  • Coexistence: bringing together Israeli Jews, Arabs, Bedouins and Druze to play and learn
  • High Performance: training Israeli children to excel as tennis players.

All of these programs are open to all children living in Israel, regardless of background, religious affiliation or economic circumstance. No child is ever turned away.