A youth village (Hebrew: כפר נוער, Kfar No'ar) is a boarding school model first developed in Mandate Palestine in the 1930s to care for groups of children and teenagers fleeing the Nazis. Henrietta Szold and Recha Freier were the pioneers in this sphere, known as youth aliyah, creating an educational facility that was a cross between a European boarding school and a kibbutz.
The first youth village was Mikve Israel. In the 1940s and 1950s, a period of mass immigration to Israel, youth villages were an important tool in immigrant absorption. Youth villages were established during this period by the Jewish Agency, WIZO, and Na'amat. After the establishment of Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Education took over the administration of these institutions, but not their ownership.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, young people from broken or troubled homes were sent to youth villages. Today some of the villages have closed, but many continue to provide an educational framework for immigrant youth. Others have introduced programs for gifted students from underprivileged neighborhoods, exchange programs for overseas high school students and vocational training facilities. Some function as ordinary high schools and accept non-residential students.
In 2007, Yemin Orde Youth Village, established in the early 1950s on Mt. Carmel, had a student population consisting of youngsters from all over the world, including Muslim refugees from Darfur. The village provides a safe haven for destitute children aged 5–19. A youth village patterned after the Israeli model is now being established in Rwanda.
Residential education is believed to have special value for the two major population targets of Youth Aliyah - immigrant youth and young people from deprived social groups. It creates a strong, influential environment that neutralizes the negative influence of an underprivileged neighborhood, promotes social integration, and provides a broad range of extracurricular activities that may not be available in the home setting.
A police studies track was established in 2004 at the Kanot Youth Village, and is now being offered at Nir Ha'emek Youth Village and Hodayot Youth Village. It has been shown that young people with low self-esteem thrive in such programs. Eighteen out of the 20 students at Kanot who studied in the police studies track, which includes criminology, sociology and horseback riding, graduated with a matriculation certificate.
There are 60 youth villages in Israel today, with a student population of 18,000.