A Brief Visit To The Israeli Youth Movement
morning: It is still dark when I dump my bag at the hotel's
reception and head out for the beach. The sky turns purple and pink while
the waves and the sand dig my feet deep into the ground. It has been so
very long! I decide to take a walk to rediscover Tel Aviv. After all it
will only be a few hours until the rest of the delegation will arrive.
The Yemenite Quarter has been changing. Crazy all this construction work.
The shuk is still closed up but when I close my eyes I can smell the
spices and hear the chattering well hidden in my memory. I dander down
King George and finally reach Rabin Square. In one week it will be filled
with people demonstrating for peace – and democracy! I came here to
understand how the youth movement of Israel managed to pull together, to
unite from secular to religious from right to left winged everyone to
participate in this statement…
The next day: a visit at Moreshet in Kibbutz Givat Haviva. Ofer, a Young
guide from HaShomer HaTzair tells of Jewish Resistance fighters in the
Shoa. I did not realise it before, but I had missed for this place and
longed for an educator like Ofer. A place of remembrance dedicated to
young women and men who stood up to fight, even when it seemed hopeless.
The biographies chosen are diffrent from one another. However, he does not
fail to combine it in one message: By taking a stand and reclaiming the
power over your own fate you are reestablishing your dignity! And who has
not heard about the uprising in the ghettos and camps. However, to draw
from here a line to the imperative of acting on issues that our society or
the world as a whole faces today, it's genius! And the fact HaShomer
HaTzair has grown as a movement ever since they started educating
youngsters about the roots of the Israeli youth movement proves that. I
feel I have been taken to the youth movements Masada.
A few days later I stand once more, this time with my with my colleagues,
on Rabin Squere. Our guide Nadav (Dror), has a raspy voice. It is hard to
know whether it is because of all the talking or if he is shaken by his
emotions. He shares his memories of that fateful day in November 1995 when
not only Rabin was assassinated but also a generation's hope for a life in
peace was murdered. His question: "What did we do wrong – as a society –
as youth – personally?"
In the center of the square is a tent. Yair (HaShomer HaTzair) tells us
that it is one of 20 that hold an exhibition about democracy in Israel. He
explains a little about how demonstrating for peace became an emty phrase,
and how it is necessary to educate people about the development of
democracy in Israel. Prior to the rally the entire youth movement pulled
together to write a booklet on democracy education. Mike, from the German
Hiking Youth, summarises the day: "And we praise ourselves about having
political discussions when stuck on issues like plastic bags…"
And the cutting.edge political discussions continue. we visit
Kibbutz Niran in the Jordan valley, an illegal settlement under
international law. We discus tons of heavy topics: several peace plans,
the role of settlements, taxation of Israeli and Palestinian products,
boycot of settlement products, the situation of refugees… As everyone
pours what they have seen and experienced over the last days into the
discussion also my emotions are on a roller coaster: sad and angry, amazed
and uplifted, confused and hopeful. What sticks with me: Barak made it
more than clear that he will leave this place if there is a chance for
peace. So overall: hopeful.
night. The delegation split up. Most are now on their way home. I
walk down Arloserow street and wonder when or if I have seen this many
buses parked one one spot. People are pouring on the square from all
directions. I curse myself for my bad Hebrew skills. If only I understood
the speeches given! Nevertheless, it feels good to be here. I still do not
quite understand how it is possible that all the youth movement joins to
this event which is so clearly a left-winged domain. However, what I did
understand is that apart from this event youth movements join together to
empower young people. Soon to be launched: a school-project with a common
curriculum to motivate people to take responsibility in society. And I am
so glad I am German. Because German government highly subsidises youth
exchanges with Israel. I will have the chance to bring many people here to
witness this amazing side of eclectic country.
My last day in the holy land I spend with my old friend Buzi in Sde Boker
in the middle of the Negev. He is the best person with whom to reflect on
youth movements, Israel – and pretty much anything- because he has this
amazing gift of putting things new perspectives. So we stand at Gurion's
grave and watch how the sun colouring the sky pink and purple. The morning
dew dampens my hair and the silence of the desert sourrounding us makes my
heart sing. Right now all I know: Everything will be all right.