Like hundreds of thousands of Israelis who set out on hiking trips during the holiday of Sukkot, thousands of participants of Dror Israel’s associated youth movement HaNoar HaOved celebrated the holiday on a camping trip…but with a twist.
750 youth counsellors in the 9th-12th grades spent the last four days of Sukkot restoring hiking trails, cleaning campgrounds and refurbishing memorial sites in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel.
The participants came from rural youth movement branches all over the country to take part in a 45 year tradition honoring the memory of Yossi Yofeh, the past head of the youth movement’s rural activities, who was killed during military reserve duty in 1977. For four days straight, the teens set out early in the morning to various work projects. They collected hundreds of garbage bags of litter from campsites and restored overgrown and unsafe hiking trails throughout the north!
The Sukkot camping trip aims to bring together youth leaders from all over Israel, give them leadership experience in the outdoors, strengthen their connection to Israel’s land and history as well as broaden their scope of responsibility to others and society.
Hadas Kerem, a Dror Israel educator and the educational director of the Sukkot camping trip, explains that when they contacted the Jezreel Valley regional council months prior to Sukkot to brainstorm potential projects, they were immediately put in touch with the Chen family from a kibbutz in the area. The Chen family had created a lookout point at their kibbutz to honor their son, Sharon Chen z”l. Sharon was 19 years old when he died during his military duty in 2014. As the years went by, upkeep of the lookout point had become hard to maintain, and the teens’ help was greatly needed.
Called to action, a large group of participants spent hours cleaning and restoring Sharon’s lookout point. Rotem, Sharon’s sister, came to meet the group and shared her brother’s story, thanking them for their commitment and willingness to be a part of this living memorial.
After four full days of camping out with no showers, forging new friendships, and connecting to Israel’s outdoors and history, the young leaders went home knowing they had made a difference.