Tuesday, November 28, 2017

DD is a Young Guard

Me aged 18, on a kibbutz with my Youth Movement
DD started going to one of the local Youth Movements last week. I've written about this before but Youth Movements here (and in the Jewish world) are more than just clubs. It's a whole ideology and a community that you grow up with. They used to be closely linked to political parties but not so much anymore. I would say that my Youth Movement in London was the reason I emigrated to Israel. It can be a powerful force in your growing up experience. Historically it's part of the country's Socialist origins. All the public schools have half day on Tuesdays so that they can go to Youth Movements in the afternoon. It reflects the European background of the original ruling classes. Think of the power of Hitler Youth, it's a similar concept but obviously without the racism and genocide.

The representatives from the various groups came to the school to recruit. We didn't get any of the religious groups as it's not a religious school. They know their potential clients. I didn't push any of it even though some of her friends started going to scouts and Noam (The Youth Movement of the Traditional Jewish Community) last year. My thoughts were:

a. She needs to choose a group that meets locally as we don't have a car.
b. She'll go where a group of her friends go - it's all about the social at this age.
c. I didn't start going to my Youth Movement of choice until well into my teens and I got the full experience, life-changing influences, and life-long friends out of it.
d. It ultimately won't be my choice but hers.
e. Lots of kids I know started going to a group but dropped out after a few months. They don't have the pull that they once did and many many more kids don't go to a Youth Movement nowadays. So even if she starts a group it doesn't mean she'll stay with it.

I would have chosen Noam for her. I would say that Noam probably reflect our family situation and outlook the best. But I left it too late and she told me she wanted to go to Hashomer Hatzair (The Young Guard). I had no recourse. The leaders come to collect a group of them from school (this year, next year they can walk themselves if they're still interested), the local clubhouse is very near, her friends were going.

But Hashomer Hatzair!!!! It's extremely left-wing and anti-religion! It's so not me. It's so not us. But so far they've made some posters and played board games. I collected DD and her friend the other day and as we walked home I could hear them behind me chanting: "Young Guards! Be strong!" and then answering with; "Strong and Brave!"

I was remembering my own Youth Movement chants: "Who are we?"   "Bnei Akiva!" (The Children of Rabbi Akiva)  "What is our cry?"  "The Bible and Work!"  "What is our motto?"  "The Land of Israel! The People of Israel! And the Bible of Israel!"

Over the past 35 years Bnei Akiva has got more religious and right wing whereas I have got less so on both accounts. I loved my time in BA but it wouldn't be appropriate for us now. When my nephew offered DD his Bnei Akiva shirt which he thought she'd love to have, I had a strong reaction against it. DD had no idea what it meant but I knew that  wearing it would be announcing our religious and political stance - wrong ones for us on both accounts. When DD announced that she wanted to go to Hashomer Hatzair, I didn't have this strong reaction. So maybe it's not such a bad fit after all.


  1. It's a lot to think about at such a young age - and I understand your concerns. But - as you say, at this stage it's probably more about where her friends are going and the fun aspect, and she could just as easily lose interest in the future.
    I think you are wise to take note of what they do at meetings and what she says/repeats afterwards and chat with her about it as appropriate for her age.
    I was never a "joiner" - my sisters attended Brownies & Girl Guides (only equivalent I can think of) but I never did. Anything like this should of course reflect your family values and I don't think you should feel pressured to let her attend anything that you aren't comfortable with.

    1. They don't not reflect our family values in that they are good kids, socially responsible, patriotic, and only strive to do good. The fact that they are not concerned with religion at all shouldn't be a problem for us.

  2. My friend's son went with a large group of his peers last year on a summer long trip to Israel as part of his Youth Movement and he found it life changing. I hope your little one enjoys her new club!

    1. Yes the Israel Trip at age 16 is a 'thing', almost a rite of passage. DD is already in Israel so I don't know what her defining moment will be.