Teens across Israel refuse to let the coronavirus keep them down, attending Dror Israel youth movement leadership courses fine-tuned to Health Ministry guidelines
Any other summer, thousands of Israeli high schoolers spend two weeks at Dror Israel’s youth movement camp for an experience like no other – the leadership course for junior counselors. The course, nationally recognized in Israel, includes intensive hikes, fun, bonding with new friends from all over Israel, discussions about their role in the country’s future, learning about health and safety and how to write and run educational activities. Afterwards, the teen participants from all over Israel become officially certified junior counselors who will spend the following year (at least) running activities for younger children in their home towns as part of the youth movement
This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, regulations are keeping camps closed, and of course bringing so many people together from different parts of the country would be unwise and potentially unsafe.
We talked to Adam Kausman, a youth counselor for 9th graders in Kfar Sava in Dror Israel’s youth movement, who told us about his experience last week running a special regulation-compliant leadership course, similar to dozens happening this summer in diverse communities throughout Israel.
What was it like planning the course, which is so different from every other year?
“When we first heard the news that the leadership course would not happen as usual and began planning an alternative here at a high school in Kfar Sava, I was sure that no kids would sign up. I mean, who wants to spend their summer literally in a school, wearing masks, no physical contact allowed, not leaving town, not camping out overnight, not meeting new friends. Fortunately, I was wrong. We had 41 participants, all going into 10th grade, which is a good size group any year.”
And they all hung out together?
“No, not at all. They were split into three groups. At first, they could see each other – socially distanced – when outside during breaks, but a few days in new regulations were handed down from the Health Ministry and we separated them entirely, no mingling allowed. The kids were actually really great about it. They were very strict about the rules after we made it clear that following them was the only reason we were allowed to have the course at all.”
What was it like running youth activities with masks, sitting far apart, and meeting all the regulations?
“Very bizarre. A lot of the time we really had to yell during discussions to be heard through the mask, on the other side of the room. You can’t always tell what kind of facial expressions people are making. And fun silly games are a critical part of any youth movement activity! We had to wrack our brains to make a whole list of games and activities that don’t involve any physical contact.”
So these kids are going to be junior counselors this year?
“Absolutely. I was really surprised and impressed by them. I think maybe the situation and the lockdown has made them not take for granted the youth movement or any social activity, and empowered them to want to take responsibility for the local youth movement and their community. During the lockdown, the online youth movement activities were for many the highlight of their weeks and really lifted their spirits. They told me how they want to give back and make sure younger kids have the same experience of a youth counselor looking out for them. I know they’re going to do an amazing job this year, pandemic or no pandemic.”