Early Intervention: Making a Difference for Youth At Risk
My soul was shattered…….
“My name is Betzalel Viberman. I was born in Jerusalem and raised along with my two bothers in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood. Our parents were working people who labored to keep the family afloat. I was a good boy, an excellent student, and had many friends. Until that morning, when I was nine years old, riding the bus to school. I was sitting by the driver when I saw it – bus number 32 exploded right in front of me. I wasn’t physically hurt, but emotionally … My soul was shattered. I saw everything, and remembered everything I saw. The sights. The screams, which haunted my sleep. That day, something inside me changed. I detached myself from friends, my family, and school.
My parents truly wanted to help me, and sent me to a psychologist. To no avail. From this point on, I distanced myself from any and all institutions and frameworks. I rebelled against everything. Nobody could identify the breaking point, which was buried deep inside my heart. I became entangled with the law. Violence, drugs. I switched schools, until I found myself on the streets. And all the while – my parents felt lost.
Although I was a juvenile delinquent, the IDF recruited me and I enlisted in the Israeli army. The tides started to change. The beginning was far from easy; I struggled and often fell. But one commander believed in me, from the bottom of his heart. After hours of talking, listening, and understanding, we identified a new path, which would help me realize the torment of my inner soul. We found ways to leverage my pain for positive ends: giving and caring for others. I found myself returning to my old neighborhood, meeting other youth who had fallen wayward, connecting to their own inner torment. Slowly, I began forming groups, and I continue to do so today, where I prepare, coach, and instill trust in their abilities to enlist and create positive change in the IDF.
I first encountered Kav L’Noar a few months ago, right before the Jerusalem Marathon, in which Kav L’Noar youth ran alongside Givati soldiers. I met amazing people who were driven by a single goal: caring for teens and their families, looking for every possible way to help children who are lost and confused – from the earliest stages of their confusion and vulnerability. If only I had encountered such a person in the weeks and months after that terrible morning. If such an early intervention had taken place when I was nine, perhaps both me and my family would have been spared years of torment.
It is not easy to recognize the Kav L’Noar staff, but believe me – if you look closely, you will see their wings and that they appear like Angels
When I met the Kav L’Noar youth, I shared my story with them. I wanted them to know that any and every child can grow up to blossom and succeed, as long they meet an adult who believes in them. And they are lucky to be surrounded by such people at Kav L’Noar, where the staff provides them with the necessary skills to cope with that precise point within themselves, that point which is so hard to identify – the source of their constant disquiet.
As I watched the youngsters prepare to run the marathon alongside my soldiers from the Givati Brigade, I was reminded of something I’d learned during my military service: Nobody really knows the inner workings of another person’s soul. I learned to listen, to look between the lines for signs of disquiet. Kav L’Noar professionals visit schools and do exactly that, with soaring success. The pretty girl with good grades, who acts like everything is fine, but who is concealing the collapse of her family life. The boy who hasn’t spoken since the beginning of the year, as to not give away his slight stutter. With an eagle’s eye, the Kav L’Noar staff identifies these children, and intervenes before allowing them to end up as I did. Their strategy is comprehensive, and they reach out and help the entire family. The Kav L’Noar staff reaches groups brimming with negative peer pressure, and are able to reverse downward spirals into upward ones. It is not easy to recognize the Kav L’Noar staff, but believe me – if you look closely, you will see their wings and that they appear like Angels. Especially in the eyes of a boy like me, at age nine.”