Introducing Bikurim: A Bold New Vision for Arts, Culture and Humanism in Israel
Bikurim (“First Harvest”): The Youth Village for the Arts is a beacon of inspiration, hope and creativity in the most unlikely of places in all of Israel, 2.5 miles from the border with the Gaza Strip. The Village is world-class arts training academy for high school students with great artistic potential from disadvantaged homes throughout Israel. Whatever their previous training or economic background, students at Bikurim learn every day from extraordinary art educators in Israel at our full-service residential boarding school, accredited by Israel's Ministry of Education and in cooperation with the Eshkol Regional Council. We are training future generations of Israel’s artists at Bikurim with new visions of unity and creativity, despite – or because of – the unending, severe security concerns in this region and decades of government neglect.
Until now, high-quality training in the arts has been available in Israel only to children from affluent families in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Bikurim is changing that through the dedication of unmatched staff and high school students committed to making dreams come true. Located in the embattled Eshkol region bordering the Gaza Strip, the Youth Village is a warm environment for professional excellence as well as individual and collaborative achievement among youth whose families and communities have been marginalized in Israeli society, particularly in this region which has suffered years of trauma due to incessant security threats from Gaza.
The Village is an unparalleled social, cultural, and educational model meant to narrow the widening opportunity gaps in Israel for young people. Our students come from all backgrounds: cities, small towns, kibbutzim and moshavim from the north to the south of our country. Bikurim opened its doors in September 2014, as the dust was still settling from Operation "Protective Edge," with twenty 9th-10th graders from underserved communities around Israel. In June 2020 the Village graduated its fourth class of high school seniors. Graduates from our music program are awarded automatic acceptance into the second year of studies along with financial support from Rimon School of Music, Israel’s preeminent music performance school. Rimon has an accreditation agreement with the Berklee College of Music in Boston. These special relationships provide Bikurim music graduates significant advantages in their career trajectories. Our visual arts program is now developing a similar relationship with the Bezalel School of Art at the Hebrew University of Jeruasalem. Bikurim is now home to forty students engaged in world-class music and visual arts training. We will launch state-of-the-art programs in dance and oriental music in September 2020. Each year Bikurim recruits a new class of 9th graders of extraordinary artistic potential from all over Israel. We plan to reach our full capacity of 120 students in the coming years.
Bikurim is the only place in Israel where this magical, arts-based interaction blooms among high school students; all the ethnic, religious, geographic and political divisions that plague our country are left behind. Located just 4 kilometers from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, Bikurim has delivered on its promise to bring hope to a war-torn region. For the past six years, the Village has been an oasis of cultural creativity and social empowerment for our 70 current and graduated students. But thriving in a challenging region and overcoming adversities are only a small part of the Bikurim story. We are a warm, family-like environment that encourages professional excellence as well as individual and collaborative achievement among marginalized youths.
Because of its truly unique pioneering spirit, along with its unmatched vision and training for a better future for arts and culture in Israel, support for a Bikurim is a targeted investment with an integrative multiplier effect. All of our students are taught to "give back" to their home communities through an extensive public service component. During school vacations, the Village operates as a national arts workshop for primary-school students from Israel’s underserved regions, thereby significantly extending our reach into the community.