iBelong is an Israeli NGO missioned to strengthen the sense of identity and belonging of youth by offering experiential journeys for self-discovery and community engagement. In the past 14 years, iBelong is mandated by Israel’s Ministry of Education to provide ODT educational activities and intercultural experiences. Arguably, the dislocating effect of globalization, exaggerated by social media, combined with growing inequalities, lead to the erosion of cultural identities. This often provokes an identity crisis among young adults, resulting in apathy and rebellious, disruptive actions in search of meaning and belonging. In our 6-day journey, high school students participate in our unique program, with methodologies that allow them to cope and address their personal, communal, municipal, and national identities. In our session, we will present our work with over 280,000 youngsters, Israeli and foreign-born, and over 400 schools from all ends of the diversified Israeli society. We will present our rational, strategy and mode of operation, drawing from our mission to promote pluralist and resilient communities. Our presentation will incorporate Prof. Gad Yair’s research on our program, conducted at the Research Center for Innovation in Education in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which assessed the impact of our methodologies on our participants. The primary findings present 93% of our participants claiming iBelong made them become involved and to volunteer in their communities. More so, 94% feel a stronger positive connection to their country. iBelong won the Israeli parliament’s prize for the promotion of democratic values and protection of human rights.
Uri Cohen, iBelong - Israeli MASA, Israel