Noga’s D’var Israel
I would like to talk today about a subject that is very close to me- and that is the youth in israel. (Or us some like to call us- troublemakers). But more specifically I would like to talk about youth movements and mostly about the Israeli scouts- which is very different from any scouts you may know and is very close to my heart.
So for a little bit of background, A youth movement is not a youth group. It is an organization formed in a way that children in grades 4-8 are counseled and mentored by teens usually in grades 10-12. These kids come on a weekly basis to activities that usually teach in an informal way basically anything the councelors want to, with a goal that by the end of the year they form one strong group out of a grade.In many places it’s the most social event of the week.
In Israel of 2016, there are more than 250,000 active members in youth movements.
So my main question and what I would like to focus on is why? being in the scouts as a kid is pretty obvious- its fun, its social and its what everyone does. But why would high school kids today spend so much time hiking, doing outdoor activities, preparing for real camping trips, being in charge all year of a group of little kids and I don’t mean just doing activities for them- actually being in charge of everything that happens to them. So
In order for you to understand this question I’m going to try and explain in two sentences what it actually means to be a counselor in the scouts through high school. It means coming home every day around 10-12 pm and just then starting to study for exams, because straight after school you went to a team meeting for 4 hours ending up with just one written program. It means having personal talks with each and one of the kids in your group and being the first person they come to when something happens, it means becoming best friends with your teammates and missing full weekends of fun- for trips with your group and half of your summer at camp (but a real camp with tents- not like here).
and how do I connect to all of this? I moved back to Israel in grade 5 and signed up for the scouts- just because all of my grade was there. We have a “שבט” of 600 kids in my tiny moshav (which is considered pretty big). Eventually in grade 10 I became a counselor of grade 5 with 6 other teammates. In grade 11 I was head of 80 grade 4 kids (first years) and 9 grade 10 counselors. Being a head of a grade basically meant I was in charge of everything you can think of. All the way from being in touch with parents and financial issues to leading my new counselors who did not have a clue what they were doing and making them into an actual team of counselors- and eventually to being the first person they come to when something happens.
I guess everyone has their own reasons for it, and there are so many reasons- if it’s wanting to make a change, social reasons or even because it’s just something you do. But what all of these counselors have in common, is that feeling of satisfaction after finishing the year, seeing your personal impact on a whole group of kids, seeing the change they have done in a year, knowing that without a doubt they count on you for everything- I think that alone answers the big WHY.
I could go on days about the scouts and the different roles and still it would be just the tip of the finger. The youth movement world is huge and it has so many aspects to it. I guess if you’re not part of it you will never understand. Though I do hope I was able to make you understand a little bit. To be honest there are many things that i have a problem with in israel, countless things. But i do know that growing up in the scouts has shaped me into who I am today and that it’s so unique and so special and actually it’s- so Israeli. that when I grow up I will definitely want my kids to grow up the same way i did- in a youth movement- in israel.
Just a note from Rabbi Helfman-> I used to work in the reform tnuat noar in England. It ran just like this… North America is the only place in the Jewish world, really, where these tnuot are not popular. HaShomer HaTzair and Habonim Dror still run like this in Canada, but that is it. I wish we could turn NFTY/YEAH/JVC into more of a Tnuat Noar….