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The youth are ready to lead!

Youth movement leadership training course welcomes 1,000 Arab junior counselors and 4,000 Jewish junior counselors!

Dror Israel educators are working day and night in our associated youth movement HaNoar HaOved to give tens of thousands of Israeli kids and teens from all sectors an amazing summer full of meaningful and fun activities.

The summer camp at Kfar Hachoresh has welcomed thousands of Jewish and Arab teens for overnight camping trips, seminars, and the lifeblood of the youth movement – the leadership training seminar which kicks off the year for the 5,000 high-schoolers who will serve as junior counselors for 100,000 younger kids in their communities over the coming year.

Arab youth leaders graduats their training

Below is a translation of a Facebook post by Keren Lipshitz Zitoun, the national supervisor of social & communal education in Israel's Ministry of Education, Department of Youth and Social Projects, which she posted after visiting the leadership course for the Arab youth movement chapters at Kfar Hachoresh.

Keren Lipshitz Zitoun

Have you ever heard of "junior counselors for justice?" I did for the first time yesterday!

Yesterday afternoon, we visited the leadership training course of the Arab branches of HaNoar HaOved [the youth movement associated with Dror Israel –TN]. 1057 kids who just finished 9th grade came for a week to this summer camp, to learn and explore so that they can go back to their hometowns as junior counselors. There are over 50 branches in Arab communities in this youth movement, and what makes this junior counselor course unique (and different than the similar course for the Jewish community two weeks earlier) is that they received a new kind of training – junior counselors for justice! What does this mean? A young person, who is highly knowledgeable about the rights of youth at work, and who goes to their school, their community and their youth movement activities to offer advice, to give guidance and to shed light about the rights of youth vis-à-vis their employers, so that these youth won't be exploited.

Junior counselors for justice

I was joined in my visit by Mohammed, the referent from the Finance Ministry for educational affairs. It was important for him to see, alongside us, how much the counselors, coordinators and participants themselves attest to the incredible importance of these activities in the lives of youngsters and in making them feel empowered. Earlier that same morning, there was a visit from the Ministry for Social Equality and their financial department for the development of Arab society in Israel.

We already have government decision 922, which greatly enhanced the ability of youth movements in the Arab communities (but unfortunately, wasn't utilized by youth organizations). Ahead of us lies a marathon of work and meetings in order to ensure that there will be a government decision 923 which will further invest in youth movements and youth organizations.

If I had to sum up this heart-warming visit, I'd tell about how at the end, we sat in a room with teenagers from a few different branches of the movement. Teenagers that talk about their responsibility towards their communities. About how much the youth movement is a place that helps them gain confidence in themselves, to be proud of their identity, to feel like they belong and most of all that they can give back to their community. Even when I tried to take the conversation to them as individuals, to tell them how great they were, they pushed back and kept coming back to what's most important: that you need to take care of your community, of your environment. No more violence, no more indifference.

I left deeply moved, along with all the other visitors. Seeing this made me incredibly proud. This Saturday we will read the weekly Torah portion called "Ra'eh", a reading which lays out a list of laws of what the people should do and how great it will be if we follow all these laws (and how bad it will be if we don't…). As a person whose faith isn't reflected in laws about what's forbidden and what's permitted, about blessings and curses, but rather based on the importance of the human beings and their relationships to others, I have to say: Arab and Jewish youth are capable of dreaming together the same dreams and of wanting the same opportunities to succeed. Informal education is the key pre-condition for growing up to be a good, caring, and socially active person.

To all my friends in HaNoar HaOved, Jewish and Arabs who dream together as one (there were too many of you to tag!), I love you a lot. You are our hope!

Shabbat shalom – may you have a Sabbath of peace.

(Facebook post from Keren Lipshitz Zitoun on August 6, 2021 – national supervisor of social & communal education in Israel's Ministry of Education, Department of Youth and Social Projects).

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