Amongst the shoe stores, food stalls and clothing outlets populating the brand-new mall in Kiryat Ata, shoppers will also find a Jewish Stories and Crafts booth, run by the Yachad Program's Jewish Cultural Facilitator in the area, Shai Yannai, each Thursday over the course of the summer.
"During the holiday months, the community center schedule slows down," relates Shai. "Because there are no after-school programs or activities, there are fewer opportunities to reach the general population and infuse programming with Jewish content.
"The new mall presents a new option: the atmosphere is open, non-threatening, comfortable and familiar, like that of the community center, and the patrons represent a complete microcosm of Israeli society," continues Shai. "While most of the shoppers would not go out of their way to find a Jewish story hour or program, they are certainly not opposed to it. So why not enhance their shopping experience and let them also stock up on Judaism?"
Through the Mall project, the Yachad Program is illustrating once again how much Israelis who do not consider themselves religious nonetheless want to foster a connection to their Jewish heritage, roots and community. "When Judaism is shown as meaningful and relevant in an embracing environment, Israelis are more than happy to incorporate it into their lives," attests Shai.
Merav, a 28-year-old mother of three who
defines herself as secular, agrees. "School's out, and the mall is at least an air-conditioned outing. I was totally surprised - and delighted - to stumble upon meaningful content in this type of venue."