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In a Time of Chaos, Passover Hikes Create Normalcy for Impacted Youth

As the war in Gaza hits its six-month point and escalation with Iran looms on the horizon, the HaNoar HaOved youth movement is doing everything it can to create a sense of routine for its young participants despite the fear and uncertainty. This includes putting on its annual Passover hikes for both elementary-age children and teens, set to take place this coming week as children go on school break ahead of holiday’s start. 

HaNoar HaOved is affiliated with Dror Israel and is one of Israel’s largest, most diverse and most impactful youth movements, educating towards social justice, tolerance and peace. During wartime, HaNoar HaOved has been particularly active supporting youth in areas most affected by violence, such as Israel’s northern and and Gaza area borders.

The youth movement’s northern region is planning a two-day hike with hundreds of participants from fourth through eighth grades, led by youth counselors in tenth through twelfth grades. The hike’s participants come from some towns which have been not been evacuated, such as Carmiel and Misgav, and some which have, including kibbutzim from the Northern Galilee and the northern border city of Kiryat Shmona, most of whose residents remain in evacuee centers due to constant bombardment from Hezbollah. 

160 children from Kiryat Shmona, who have been evacuated to Tel Aviv and Tiberias since October 7, will join their friends on the hike. Kiryat Shmona’s residents have been spread throughout the country since their evacuation, and the hike will be a special opportunity for the city’s youth to re-connect. For many displaced youth, hikes can pose an unexpected challenge, as sleeping bags and hiking gear were left behind in evacuated homes. Yoav Leventer, the hike’s coordinator, reports that the staff is making an effort to make the hike accessible to both evacuees and northern residents who have remained in their homes. 

In the south, HaNoar HaOved is planning a hike near the Dead Sea for 180 youth from fourth to eleventh grades. The participants include residents from Sderot and kibbutzim of the Sha’ar HaNegev regional council, who returned to their homes only last month after their evacuation following October 7. For many youth, the return home has not been an easy adjustment and these southern towns face ongoing rocket fire. The hike will bring a much needed reprieve of normalcy and fun amidst their difficult reality.  

According to David Schwartz, logistical coordinator for the youth movement’s southern region, “the hike is an incredible opportunity to get out into nature and enjoy something new in a group setting.” He explained that “these Passover hikes are a cornerstone of HaNoar HaOved’s annual activities, and [that] the decision to go ahead with them despite the war is a powerful choice to create an alternative to the total disruption of everyday life.”

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