Return home with plans to rebuild shared society and work towards peace
During the recent military operation in Gaza and rise in inter-community tension and violence in mixed communities here in Israel, Dror educators, students and youth participants who live in the south and center of the country spent the week under frequent rocket fire, running to bomb shelters throughout the day and night. Simultaneously, those who live in mixed cities such as Lod, Haifa, Yaffo and Akko faced riots, lynch mobs in the streets, and Molotov cocktails, and feared going outside.
Many families from hard-hit areas who had the means fled north to friends, family or hotels in quieter areas to escape the violence.
Dror Israel educators were in touch with their students and participants throughout the country to make sure they were staying safe and to help them share their feelings and process the situation. They heard about the sleepless nights, the panic attacks, the rocket that fell so close to home... So they started thinking that they, too, could provide these kids with some quiet and fun few days away from the violence, on Dror’s picturesque Kibbutz Ravid near Lake Kinneret.
The 3-day emergency seminar for students and participants in the HaNoar HaOved youth movement from the center, south, and mixed cities would be a chance not only for the kids to recharge, but also discuss the situation and process it with their counselors and peers.
Dror’s Kibbutz Ravid, considered a kind of “home base” for the nation-wide organization, also houses Dror’s pre-army academy Mechinat Yiftach. Putting their leadership skills to good use, students from the academy organized and ran fun and relaxing activities for the teens on the seminar.
In addition to getting a much-needed break from the rocket fire and violence, the seminar was a chance for the teens to meet other youth from across the country and, while processing their experiences, to talk about how to be leaders in the communities and neighborhoods. They talked about how to create a moderate environment amidst the extremist fervor. They discussed the importance of co-existence in Israel and examined what it means for them to educate towards peace and shared society. The teens brainstormed and shared ideas with one another about what they’d like to create when they return to their communities.
Sammy, a teen participant from the Bat Galim branch in Haifa, shared about the experience in his neighborhood:
“Lately in our neighborhood there have been a lot of demonstrations. I know that it’s not like in the south where they had lots of sirens and needed to run to the bomb shelter all the time, but even still, I wouldn’t wish on anyone to experience this kind of fear of going outside at night. Fear that at every moment your life is in danger that you’ll be attacked by a lynch mob…”
About the seminar, Sammy explained that “the seminar was an attempt to deal with this really complicated reality that we are living. I’m glad that my counselors invited me to the seminar. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
The diverse group of participants, from big and small towns, from various ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic statuses, are connected not only through their participation in the movement and by their experience of the rockets and violence, but also by their desire to be leaders in creating a more just and peaceful society.
Thankfully, the program’s ending coincided with the signing of the ceasefire, and the participants headed back to their communities and neighborhoods armed with ideas about how to foster coexistence and peace.