8 Social-welfare Organizations to Receive Israel Prize on 60th Independence Day

On Israel's 60th Independence Day, eight organizations will be awarded the Israel Prize for a lifetime contribution to the state and society.

The recipients are the Perah work-study mentoring program at universities, the Jewish Agency, the Manufacturers Association of Israel, the Youth Movements Council incorporating 14 movements, Ezer Mizion - Israel's largest paramedic support organization, and the three major womens organizations that have been active since pre-state days: WIZO, Na'amat, and Emunah.

In selecting these women's organizations, the prize committee praised their contribution to "turning the State of Israel into a world leader in the area of promoting the status of women."

They were also lauded for working together, despite the differences between them, to advance social, cultural and educational issues and campaign for gender equality.

The women's organizations established and managed day-care networks that enable mothers to work, initiated legislation on women's rights issues, provided legal advice and ran shelters for abused women.

Perah, a Hebrew acronym for Project Mentoring, was started 34 years ago by a group of scientists and students at the Weizmann Institute, who helped 12 needy children with their school work.

The basic idea is that students scholarships covering half their tuition in return for four hours a week of community service, mainly by mentoring an individual school pupil. This way, students who need financial aid gain access to academic studies, while helping young pupils as mentors.

Perah now has a presence in 1,490 schools and diverse projects in 207 communities. It is funded mainly by the Council for Higher Education and the Education Ministry. As many as 32,000 students a year participate in the program. In recent years, it was downsized by 10 percent.

Around 20 percent of Perah's activity takes place in Arab villages and towns, while 62 percent of mentors work in outlying towns in the south and north of Israel.

Rachel Hadad, 19, still remembers the student who mentored her as part of the Perah project when she was a child in Netivot. Now a literature student at the Talpiot College of Education, Hadad herself is mentoring a girl, Ortal Romema.

"What's great about Perah is that the mentor isn't told what the child's problem is," Hadad says. "The idea isn't to solve a problem, but rather to fulfill the child's potential."