HDOZ / HDANZ Hagshama Seminar

HDOZ / HDANZ Hagshama Seminar by Tomer Belkin

Hi Everyone!

My name is Tomer, I’m a third year madrich from Sydney and a resident member of shnat 19 (Go Shavit Shemesh!). I lead years 7 & 8 in the Sydney Ken by day and sit as the Mazkir for Australia’s Digital Ken (Ken Hashemesh Ha’Olah or KSO) by night. I’m sure you’re riveted to meet me, and whilst I’m super stoked to meet you, I’m moreso here to tell you all about my time on our annual hagshama seminar that took place in for a week in holy land in July.

This year’s Hagshama Seminar was the first one in three years (it’s almost as though there was some kind of global pandemic), and as such was the first in history to have not one nor two but three shchavot (year groups) on seminar at the same time!! This seminar was built as a way for us to see the movement in action in Israel and to take time to reflect on our movement experience, both looking back and going forward. Saying that the schedule was tightly packed would be to make light of tightly packed schedules. I won’t list everything we did in hopes to save some characters, but in a mere week, we explored the biblical and political history of East Jerusalem, the graffitied streets of Nahariya, the urban kibbutz of Nof Hagalil, and the neighbourhoods of Haifa. We also powered through a handful of incredible peulot and splashed around in the admittedly filthy Nachal Ha’Kibbutzim. Our hostels were beautiful, our beds cozy, and our potatoes, in true Israeli fashion, were fluoro yellow.

Now, you’d think that days upon days of six-hour sleeps, hikes, bus rides and the like would leave any sane individual drained, but truth be told, I feel more rejuvenated than ever. After seeing the effort, creativity and chutzpa with which Israelis and our hagshama-stricken Olim fought to make our holy land a better place, I was bluntly reminded that you, me, and everyone else graced with the opportunity to give a minimum third of their time to Habonim Dror is in fact, participating in much more than weekly peulot and the occasional machane. We’re part of a world movement, a revolution. We are a network of likeminded individuals that above all else, value making the Jewish world, the world at large, better than we found it. For many of you, I doubt this is new information. But amongst the daily hustle of life, the stress of finishing that peula or making it to weekly meetings on time, not to even mention any studying or work that needs to be juggled, it’s easy to forget. The experience of being part of a world movement, of a countercultural Socialist Zionist Revolution is more than a matter of fact, but a feeling. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt since Shnat, one that I got to relive upon reuniting with my shichva in Israel. 

A particular centerpiece of the seminar that reminded me of this was a Mifgash Bein-Dori (intergenerational meet up) organised by Olim and movement members together. The meet up was an opportunity to reconnect with those who made aliya with the movement alongside current Shnatties and to discuss current dilemmas facing the movement.

Coming back, I realise that more than a volunteering opportunity, Habo is a lifestyle choice. A decision I made long ago set me on a life path guided by intentional values. Going on this seminar made me realise that ultimately, we don’t actually need camps or peulot. As fun and incredible as these structures may be, if you strip them away, our values remain the movement’s foundation. On these values we can create any number of structures, so long as we are guided by the same vision. The vision of the same kind, sharing, socialist, united Jewish world that sent me on Shnat in 2019.

Aleh Vehagshem,

Tomer Belkin