Distraught teenager
By Laurina Driesse

For most sixteen-year-old Israeli teenagers, life ahead seems full of possibilities. Future aspirations swirl around in their minds, as they dream of what they would like to become one day.

But often as life progresses, it takes unexpected turns and those dreams are dashed by poverty, family breakdowns, lack of education and more. Many of these young people instead go on to become the head of their own single-parent household.

mother and baby

In Israel, a staggering 12.8% of families are single-parent households. This equates to 170,000 families belonging to this usually weak part of Israeli society, since most households in Israel require two wage-earners to make ends meet. A study published by the Taub Center in January 2021 estimates that, due to the Covid-19 crisis, poverty in Israel is expected to grow by 8% to 14%, with the majority of those affected being single-parent households with young children.

“An additional weakness that these single parents face is that 90% of them are headed by women who have a lower earning capacity than men,” explains Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah. “These women also tend to be less educated, earn less per hour and work more hours per week than married mothers.”

Thanks to the generous support of Christian donors, the ICEJ is working to restore hope to at least 30 young Israeli mothers-at-risk who are between the ages of 16 and 26. These young ladies are participating in a single mother’s program consisting of 91 young mothers or mothers-to-be who are at a high-risk for homelessness, substance abuse, trauma, poverty, prostitution and more. The program aims to care for their special needs by giving individual and comprehensive mentoring support, services, or providing practical assistance to help them create a stable and independent life.

Illana* is a 22 year-old mother of two children whose life is being transformed by participating in this program. Her eldest son of three years has autism, and one day she suddenly found herself thrown out of her parents’ home. She was desperate to find a housing solution for her family, as going from place to place would be difficult for her son. Illana needed to find accommodation close to her son’s kindergarten to minimize the impact on his special needs. Through this program, Illana was accommodated in a hotel for a few weeks until a temporary housing solution could be found. She also received mentorship guidance on approaching the social welfare department for a one-time financial assistance deal to get her established in her new home.

Meanwhile, Anat* is just over 19 years old she also experienced first-hand the wonderful support available from the program’s mentors. From the initial stages of her pregnancy, she received mentoring care. When it was time for her to deliver her baby, she was ill with COVID-19. Yet, her mentor accompanied her to the hospital and sat with her for 22 hours in the delivery room until her precious baby boy was born.

On the second day after the birth, a social welfare worker came to remove the baby from the mother’s care as an emergency measure. The mentor quickly intervened, leading to the social welfare committee meeting to discuss Anat’s case. They agreed to return the baby to her on condition that Anat joins a support and counselling treatment group. Initially, Anat was very opposed to this idea, but through her mentor’s coaching, she agreed. Over the past two months she has been attending the mother’s group, where she has been receiving support and assistance and is now flourishing!

Your support makes an enormous difference in the lives of these young single mothers, who are trying to stand-up again after encountering life’s knocks. An average gift of US$1,700 is recommended to assist a single mother, though a gift in any amount will be a blessing and great help.

* (Names changed to protect privacy)