News & Media

Ayalim’s Student Villages in Sderot and Lod Utilize an Innovative Housing Approach

Apr 16 2015

The past 14 years have not been easy for Sderot, Israel, a western Negev city, as its close proximity to the border with the Gaza strip has resulted in the brunt of mortar and missile attacks from Gaza. At the beginning of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the Israeli Government asked Ayalim Association to build a new student village in order to encourage young, motivated individuals to move into the city and strengthen it from the inside.

Ayalim accepted, and the construction began while the military operation was still underway—despite the fact that most of Ayalim’s leaders were called to serve in the military’s reserve duty. With the persistent dedication and hard work that Ayalim has become known for, the community was finished in just three months!

A unique aspect of this newly-constructed community is the residential units are actually remodeled shipping containers. This building strategy resulted in a fast and eco-friendly approach that enabled the 68 new residents, who are all students at the local Sapir Academic College, to move in on December 20, 2014 to begin immediately initiating various volunteering projects to benefit the entire population. By October 2015, Ayalim’s Sderot student village is planned to serve as Sapir Academic College’s official residential solution for its students.

Ayalim1Sderot students will not be alone in this approach as shipping containers are also being used to house students in Ayalim’s village in Lod, a Jewish-Arab city located 15 kilometers southwest of Tel Aviv. This new community is the third branch of Ayalim’s Lod presence, which currently houses 117 students, serving as Ayalim’s largest village to date. On December 1, 2014, 48 students moved in to the shipping containers. The student village in Lod was built 4 years ago at the request of the government, as Lod is considered a social periphery suffering from high unemployment and crime rates as well as poverty and negative migration. Ayalim’s goal is to transform Lod into a bustling college town, these new shipping container residents are already working to do just that.

The Ayalim Association was founded in 2002 with the goal of strengthening existing communities and social involvement in the Negev and Galilee through the establishment of student and entrepreneur villages. The Merage Foundations were early supporters of Ayalim as this young social entrepreneurship fosters the connection between people and land as well as between the individual and greater society. The students in Ayalim’s villages integrate community building and social outreach. In return for academic scholarships and subsidized housing in the villages, each student in Ayalim volunteers with children in development towns and distressed neighborhoods, and takes part in the association’s special projects, committing 500 hours of community service per year. To date, there are more than 2,000 individuals in over 21 villages as a result of Ayalim’s work, with more than 800 of these being students who live in villages throughout the Negev and Galilee. For more information, please visit