Dror Israel’s Unique Forgiveness Tours Reach a Plethora of Audiences
In the days leading up to Yom Kippur every year, many people take part in what are called “Forgiveness Tours”. The tour consists of a walking tour around the old city of Jerusalem with textual learning at various stops. To conclude, the participants visit the Kotel (the Western Wall) and pray for the new year.
The HaNoar HaOved youth movement leads dozens of groups on such tours each year. One group in attendance this year for a Forgiveness Tour was a group of HaNoar HaOved’s teen participants from the Amal Ramat Aviv vocational school from the Jezreel Valley. Their group leader, Toviah Botwinick said that the teens were excited to visit Jerusalem because it is a very meaningful and culturally significant place. He said that the youth movement's tour related to the idea of forgiveness not only from a personal perspective but also in regards to atonement for social issues. “It’s an interesting opportunity to take kids at the beginning of the school year, when they’re still getting used to being back in school and some may be feeling a bit lost. Bringing them on the Forgiveness Tour creates a real sense of community and meaning. They get to face themselves, things they’ve been thinking about and things they see going on in society. It’s fun to see what each person takes from it… no one walks away having not experienced anything,” Toviah tells us.
Though Forgiveness Tours traditionally take place in the old city of Jerusalem, the Educator’s Kibbutz of Rechovot used the model to engage the residents of their city in local issues. Over 200 participants from Rechovot and the surrounding area take part each year in a community Forgiveness Tour led by a group of social activists from Rechovot and members of the Dror Israel's local educators’ Kibbutz. The tour aims to create connections between different communities of Rechovot, to encourage social connections and community building in the city. This year, the Rechovot tour was held in the Oshiot neighborhood, a diverse neighborhood where old and new immigrants from around the world reside. The neighborhood is also home to housing for disadvantaged residents and dozens of different synagogues.
The participants of the tour learned about imminent and possible social change and were inspired to get involved themselves- each according to their diverse abilities and interests. Shiri, a tour leader from Dror Israel who coordinated the planning and leading of the tour along with other social activists, says that after the tour, participants contacted her and asked to be included in one of the many community projects that are taking place in the city this year.