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The History of International Youth Hostels

German schoolteacher Richard Schirrmann opened the world’s first youth hostel in 1914, in Germany. His goal was to establish a network of basic hostels that would allow young people to travel throughout the country for a number of days to areas that were far from their homes.
This idea spread through Europe and then to other continents. Thousands of hostels opened in dozens of countries, mainly serving young travelers and nature lovers.
The International Youth Hostels Federation (IYHF), which is recognized by UNESCO, was founded in 1932 in order to educate youths and strengthen their connection to nature and environmental protection, and their appreciation for the values of culture, heritage, tolerance, acceptance of others and community volunteerism.
In 1954, the Israel Youth Hostel Association (IYHA) became a full member of IYHF. Today, some 65 countries belong to the Federation, operating approximately 3,500 youth hostels worldwide, which are open to all regardless of race, nationality, religion, gender, status or political views.

Founding the Israel Youth Hostel Association

On March 21, 1937, the National Committee’s Education Department held an initial meeting to discuss founding a youth hostel association in Eretz Israel. They called the association “The Eretz Israel Youth Hostels Association” (Hebrew acronym: ANA).
The Department officially sponsored the association in 1938, and ever since, ANA has operated under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education, in accordance with its needs and goals. Thus, ANA has become a foundation for teaching values and supplementary education in Israel.
In 1939, ANA registered as an Ottoman association with the offices of the British Mandate Jerusalem District.
The goal of the association, as it appears in the founding documents, was “to improve the accommodation conditions in Eretz Israel in order to make it easier for those who are interested, especially youths, to become familiar with the country, get close to nature and develop social
connections.” Thus, in addition to providing accommodations, the hostels served as educational centers for informal educational activities for children, youths, young people and families from Israel and abroad.
The first hostel opened in Kfar Vitkin in the Hefer Valley in 1939, on land purchased from the Jewish National Fund (KKL).
The hostel hosted summer camps for schoolchildren, youth groups and immigrant university students.
In the 1940’s more hostels were established, mostly in temporary buildings, but after the State of Israel was founded in 1948, ANA opened most of the hostels in permanent facilities.

ANA Today

ANA currently runs a chain of 18 modern, high-level youth hostels located throughout the country, from Tel Hai in the north to Eilat in the south, with 6500 beds in total.
The hostels in outlying areas and near hiking and heritage centers, as well as historical sites and national parks, provide visitors quality accommodation and a unique atmosphere that enriches their experience.
In addition, ANA organizes and provides 1 million nights of lodging and instruction for schoolchildren, youths, young people and families from Israel and abroad. This includes annual school trips and seminars, Ministry of Education summer camps for young counselors, field studies, military preparation courses, courses for immigrant youths, at-risk youths and more.
ANA lends its hostels and resources to important national projects. The association is also designated as an essential organization in times of emergency and has provided a wide range of services to many thousands of people who have been evacuated from areas of conflict over the last decades.
Since its founding, ANA has received many awards of recognition from important institutions and various government ministries for its activity and contribution to Israeli society.
Throughout the years, ANA employees and management have considered their work to be an educational-community mission and they work based on the spirit of the association.

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