Updates from Our Sister Movement in Israel

By Shula Smith, Bogeret of HDNA, Member of Kvutzat Charish in Be’er Sheva

Context from the editor:

Before the war started, Habonim Dror’s sister movement Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed (NOAL) ran kenim all along the border area known as Otef Aza, the Gaza Envelope - on a given Tuesday you would see kids and teenagers in these cities, kibbutzim, and moshavim wearing blue chultzot tnua with red strings, running peulot and playing with their kvutza and all the things we know happen in a youth movement. These communities that were brutally attacked on October 7th were home to our chanichim. Kenim are mourning the loss of madrichim and chanichim who were murdered, and are praying for the return of others who are still being held hostage. In addition, chanichim from cities and kibbutzim near the Lebanon border in the north have been displaced within Israel. The losses in Israel hit everyone, and the movement is no exception.

Immediately, madrichim from the youth movement and the wider Dror Israel adult movement responded to the crisis. Kommunarim and Garinerim on their gap years, Bogrim in their twenties, thirties, and beyond; scores of movement members traveled to the hotels to which people have been displaced to figure out how to meet the needs of the youth and adults. Hotel lobbies in Eilat, the Dead Sea, and many points around the country have become kenim of sorts, with madrichim in chultzot tnua, brand-new teenage madatzim, fun and silly activities, sichot ishiot.

In addition, Dror Israel has begun a number of educational projects beyond the youth movement: schools, kindergartens, day camps, community organizing initiatives, trauma work with old people, and more. This infographic shows our work in numbers, but the reality is far more day-to-day and human: meeting each other, building relationships, listening, understanding people’s needs, running sichot - the things that movement members do in their everyday messimot but here and now, working with people who are displaced from their homes.

Shula writes a personal update from her experiences as a madricha for Kibbutz Reim, whose entire community including its NOAL ken was evacuated to a hotel in Eilat.

I spent the last week in Eilat working with kids who had been evacuated from their homes. They left their homes because they were under attack, and they haven’t gone back because at this point there are no homes to go back to.
Many of the communities suffered heavy losses, especially because on a kibbutz where everyone knows everyone even one loss impacts the community tremendously. And aside from the loss of life, people experienced and saw things that a person should never have to experience. Children have deeply violent images stamped in their memories, their parents watching them relive the experiences over and over again.
On Tuesday October 10th the first NOAL educators arrived to Eilat. After the initial shock of war and fear for everyone’s personal safety, brave rakazim got on a bus and headed straight to Eilat. When they left their homes they weren’t sure where they would sleep that night or where the evacuees even were, but they decided to act first and think later.
I had the privilege of heading down to Eilat once the activities had been running for a week already. By the date of writing this the movement has 45 points of activities for those who have been evacuated, including but not limited to re-establishing movement kenim, running schools, and wandering around hotels and playing with children. One of my most proud moments was watching tenth graders who are madrichim in the day-to-day put on a chultzat tnua and choose to run a peula for fourth graders, even though they were in a hotel in Eilat instead of in their homes. In general the movement here has quickly established both peilut to keep kids busy and interested, as well as empowering younger madrichim to be responsible for the children together as partners. Recently in Eilat we had a seminar for “madrichim of resilience” where we sent 10th-12th graders to a two day seminar to quickly learn how to be madrichim. When they got back to their hotels they immediately started opening up kvutzot and leading kids.
Can you imagine experiencing such trauma and hardship and still deciding to take responsibility for children who are younger than you and your whole community? The week in Eilat initially presented me with an overwhelming darkness, but slowly I started to see how much light was around me, how much people were choosing life in spite of their depressing conditions. The communities that I met are inspirational. They continue every day to make the tough choice to choose to live a full and meaningful life, and they do it as a community, together.