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A Summer Like They’ve Never Had

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Junior leaders from Dror Israel’s youth movement recalibrate camps and seminars to make sure thousands of kids and teens throughout the country have the summer they truly need

During the many months of lockdown while Israel battled the coronavirus, Dror Israel’s youth movement was forced to move all activities online. Members were able to meet their friends and counselors only from the other side of a computer screen. In late May, the government finally gave youth movements the green light to reopen their doors. However, the long list of accompanying restrictions issued by the Ministry of Health has forced youth leaders to get creative, calling on every ounce of ingenuity to reinvent activities.

Building your home is one of the profound experiences of an Israeli summer camp

Reconfiguring the youth movement’s annual training seminar for junior counselors posed a significant challenge. But as educational director Omer Ashwal (32) explains, cancelling was never an option.

“No way are these teens finishing the summer without junior counselors’ certificates,” Ashwal said. “We’re talking about teens from all over the country – Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, from the city and from rural areas, new olim and veteran Israelis – a real cross-section of Israeli society. Our leadership seminars are so special because the students who enter the program – at-risk teens, teens who had a really tough year – come out leaders. These are kids who decide to be responsible and give back to their communities. It’s very inspiring,” Ashwal added.

Ready for the summer, youth Counselors waiting for their students

Restrictions on activities require students to sign a health declaration every time they walk in the door, two meters distance at all times, sanitization of activity spaces multiple times every day, and hand washing upon entering and exiting. Physical contact of any kind is completely banned from all games and activities and during discussions students are required to sit far from one another, with masks on their faces. The new reality will take some getting used to for all involved5.

Courses will be held all over Israel, even in the Negev.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking restriction of all is that which closed the youth movement’s summer camps. For two months youth leaders and educational coordinators have been wracking their brains, drawing up extensive plans to run the annual summer camps – the highlight of youth movement activities – in line with Health Ministry guidelines. Sadly, these plans were rejected and the national summer camps were unable to gain approval. Instead, mini-camps and hikes in smaller groups will be held on a local basis at youth movement centers throughout the country.

“Our members, children and teens from all over the country who sat at home for two months, need this summer camp experience – to head into nature, the freedom and release of camping, now more than ever,” says Nadav Raviv (28), from the youth movement’s education department.

Last weekend, youth movement counselors met in seven small local groups for preparation seminars for the summer. Ashwal explained, “instead of a big national seminar at the camp, the counselors met at seven places near their homes. We emphasized that the counselors need to get the message across that the local camps will be just as good as the national camps that the kids are used to – or even better – and then the kids will feel the same. We drafted a completely new educational program which is really interesting and challenging.”

The leadership seminars will be starting in just a few days, and we wish them all good luck! Behatzlacha!

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