At-risk kids in Israel’s south build ‘miracle menorahs’

A business project by a group of teens in Yeruham has yielded a profitable Hanukkah business

A young team member works on some of the sand menorahs (Photo credit: Courtesy)
A young team member works on some of the sand menorahs (Photo credit: Courtesy)

A group of teens in the small town of Yeruham are behind the biggest hit this Hanukkah in Israel: a menorah made out of multicolored sands found in southern Israel, especially in the Ramon Crater. The menorahs have been sold to dozens of companies for distribution to workers as a Hanukkah gift, and are being featured in a chain of Israeli convenience stores.

The kids involved in the project, said coordinator Yuval Lavi, are mostly high school dropouts or otherwise in trouble, and are not currently studying or working. The idea, said Lavi, was to involve them “in a project where they could feel they accomplished something.”

Working with artist Reut Bashan of the Holon Institute of Technology (HIT), who is well-known in Israel for her sand artwork, a group called Zionism 2000, which encourages at-risk youth to get involved in the business world, took up the project and got the Yeruham kids involved.

The kids are involved in all aspects of the business, including arranging the sand in the menorah containers and packing and shipping them, and are responsible for outlays, expenses, salaries, and profits. The company has about two dozen employees, and as its customer base expands, Lavi said it will take on more projects and hire more workers.

A development town deep in southern Israel, Yeruham has more at-risk youth than many other towns, which is one reason it was chosen for this project. “All of the kids involved are getting paid, and they can participate only on the condition that they attend class regularly,” said Lavi.

And the sand menorahs are only the beginning. “This was such a successful project that we are planning to keep the business going, and develop more sand products,” said Lavi. “Yeruham is really the ideal place for a product like this, since we have plenty of sand around here. The menorahs make a great Chanuka present for those who receive it,” he added, “but it’s an even better gift for the kids involved in making them. And the fact that we are succeeding in getting these kids on track is a little miracle all by itself.”

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