A Brief Visit To The Israeli Youth Movement

Sunday 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. On Friday 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.

Saturday 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.

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