The two Katies with Shnatties from HDANZ and HDOZ

Choosing Hadracha During a Time of Crisis and Questions

By Katie Felstein, Bogeret of HDUK, and Katie Rumanovsky, Bogeret of HDOZ. Members of Garin Tof Miriam in Hadera

 

“Youth movements gave the youth observation posts from which they could both criticize and reject their society and positively choose a society that, though not yet existent, was reflected by the lifestyles and relationships within the movements.”

-Tzvi Lamm, “The Eternal Basis of the Youth Movement”

 

Kvutzat Tof Miriam was supposed to be having a seminar in Israel this month about the new stage of the Garin, with new members who would have just made aliya and a new madrich. Instead, on the 7th October, everything changed. 

We, the Katies (Felstein and Rumanovsky), woke up to the horrifying news of the Hamas attack in the South of Israel from our home in Hadera. We dealt with the fear, shock and anxiety that the whole country (and diaspora Jews) went through on that horror of a day. Whilst we both already had upcoming flights to England prior to war breaking out, we decided to make the most of our time in Israel. We spent quality time with Kvutzat Nissan, we visited the HDNA/HDUK Shnatties on Ein HaShofet, we had a Yom Garin and we went to Zichron Ya’akov to volunteer with other movement members. Whilst in Zichron, we shared with Nathan Brown our worries about feeling disconnected from both Israel and the movement since we were going to be in England for an unknown period of time. Nathan suggested that we take on messimot during our time in England, and together we thought of how to make this happen. We decided then that we would invite the Australian and New Zealand Shnatties, who were flying to the UK due to the war, to peulot that we would run from Katie (Felstein)’s home in Manchester. 

Since being back in the UK, we have made sure to stay in communication with friends and partners in Israel, to check in with members of our garin, to speak with our madricha Avi and to keep ourselves updated on the news in Israel in order to maintain our connection whilst being away. However, being back in the Diaspora has presented us with new and varied challenges that we are still figuring out how best to face. We have now experienced the intensity of viewing the war from social media and the international news, compared to living through it from our home in Hadera. The uncertainty regarding when our garin will be back together in Israel is a scary and unsettling concept. Listening to stories of people facing antisemitism around the world and feeling that fear ourselves has been painful to experience. Hearing the voices of Jewish families desperate for their relatives to be rescued, listening to the cries of those grieving murdered loved ones and watching the humanitarian crisis in Gaza unravel has completely devastated us. Speaking with tzabarim (sabras - Israel-born people) who have been called up for miluim (reserve duty) brings up feelings of guilt for not being in Israel ourselves to support our movement partners. Knowing that our families don’t want us to return yet is placing a heavy burden on our shoulders. Yet being in the comfort of a physically safe home and writing about these Diaspora challenges feels like an insult to the soldiers who are on the front lines and all those who are still living through the war. However, what we have found works best in answering these dilemmas is choosing hadracha. 

Our first invitation to the Shnatties (HDOZ/HDANZ) was to come round for a home-cooked dinner and an erev tarbut last Sunday night. We wanted to provide a comforting and familiar space for them to be together with their shichva in a Habo environment. We ran a light-hearted erev tarbut, playing games and writing songs, and the chanichimot laughed and engaged in the activities together. 

We then invited them back for a peula on Tuesday morning. Our aims for this peula were to provide a space focussed on processing and discussing the war and their personal experiences over the past 10 days. We found articles of opinion pieces, printed off instagram infographics depicting the dangers of social media, played videos of grassroots peace organisations such as Omdim B’Yachad and asked the chanichimot to share their thoughts and feelings. Using ideas from Tzvi Lamm’s text quoted above, we asked the Shnatties to use the platform that Habonim Dror provides by running activities in their communities and Kennim back home. The chanichimot responded by sharing their fears and concerns with us and asked insightful questions. They expressed their feelings about having been in Israel for eight months on Shnat, having to now leave due to the war and how they felt about returning to their diaspora communities. 

A main concern that we discussed was how to be a left-wing Zionist in trying times such as these - both regarding the war and antisemitism. We encouraged the chanichimot to answer their dilemmas by choosing to be madrichimot when they return back home. In these times of despair, we pushed for them to choose hope and hadracha as forms of rebellion. We told them about movement activities within Israel, and how peace and rebuilding communities is still a realistic goal. We encouraged the Shnatties to be the left-wing Zionist voice in their communities that they need for themselves, and to remember that they are the leaders of a movement. Choosing not to engage with Zionism can be the easier decision, but to be in the youth movement and to stand on this ‘observation post’ is to be a radical member of society who feels empowered by their beliefs and chooses to take action to carry them out. 

We felt personally inspired by the chanichimot choosing hadracha in a time that is not obvious, and running this peula was both meaningful and important for our process too. Seeing a group of young madrichimot going back to the Diaspora and knowing that they are about to make a real impact on their communities makes us, in the Tnuat Bogrim, feel a real sense of partnership. 

On a personal level, we don’t know what the future of our garin will hold, and we don’t have dates for when we will return to Israel. On a societal level, we don’t know how harmful the long-term impact of the war will be on Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian societies, and we don’t know what a peace process could possibly look like. We all have so many questions, but we can only work with what we do know. We do know that we will continue to choose to be madrichot. We do know that we will continue to reach out to loved ones in Israel. We do know that we will maintain our connection to the movement as long as we decide to take on messimot. We do know that we will commit to educating ourselves and others to the best of our abilities. 

We are so grateful to have our movement members and partners. We pray for and will work towards a peaceful future with you and we send love to each and every one of you.

Aleh ve’hagshem,

Katie Felstein & Katie Rumanovsky