Israeli society has always been marked by educational and social inequality between the periphery and the central urban areas, between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, and between new immigrants and more established citizens. As the inequalities between these groups widened over the years, many entrepreneurs have searched for opportunities to unite, integrate and establish greater equality to the society as a whole. The founders of Mifalot, Moti Horenstein and Moshe Theumim, have taken the idea of sport, particularly football, to work with the youngest generations and unify the country both on and off the field. Mifalot Education and Society is active in 250 Jewish and non-Jewish communities nationwide in Israel, mostly in the communities that have long remained on the margins of Israeli society and borne the burden of social and economic inequalities. Working evenly between Jewish and non-Jewish communities, Mifalot reaches more than 20,000 children (ages 3-21) through eight different sport-for-social change programs. These not only provide free equipment and coaching, but also citizenship and values education, enabling youth as local change agents and collaborative team leaders.
In its earliest days Mifalot sought to bring some of Israel’s most renowned and influential football stars into direct interaction and mentorship with disadvantaged youth, and has trained and used thousands of coaches, chosen based upon educational criteria and commitment to social equality, to work with its youth.
As the programs target marginalized communities, it is critical for Mifalot to fully mobilize local support networks to sustain the goals of the sport and education programs. Therefore Mifalot engages local small and medium enterprises to sponsor youth teams, which encourages local economies and provides a mechanism for the private sector to champion the next generation. Mifalot’s local partners usually finance 50% of the activities in their respective regions, and municipal authorities express eagerness to cooperate under such a scheme since the costs are lower than public sport and education programs. This is largely due to Mifalot’s use of highly-motivated young coaches and staff who serve on a rotating basis. Since its inception the organization has provided mentoring, sport and education programming to about 150,000 children and at-risk youth in Jewish and non-Jewish communities, as well as children and adults with special needs. Mifalot’s activities have been exported to Congo, Rwanda, Cameroon and Haiti, with plans for expansion to other regions in the near future.