Dafna Eisbruch Writes from Israel

Me, in the back row in the pink shirt, and the friends in my kvutza, or commune. We’re all olim from Habonim Dror America and Australia, and we live in an apartment in Haifa with a beautiful view of northern Israel and the sea

Me, in the back row in the pink shirt, and the friends in my kvutza, or commune. We’re all olim from Habonim Dror America and Australia, and we live in an apartment in Haifa with a beautiful view of northern Israel and the sea

Hi AARC members and friends!

I’m writing to you from Israel to share with you a bit about what I’m up to these days since my childhood in the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Havurah. I work with an organization called Dror Israel, which is a social and educational movement established by graduates of the youth movement Habonim Dror and its Israeli counterparts. We work in all sectors of Israeli society, educating towards equality, faith in humanity, social cohesion and mutual responsibility. We see ourselves as the continuation of the kibbutz movement’s legacy–if a hundred years ago, Israel needed farmers to feed the nation and establish its borders, today Israel needs educators who can unite Ethiopians, Arabs, Russians, Mizrachim and Ashkenazim around a common vision for coexistence and shared society.  We live in communes (“urban kibbutzim”) and run many different types of educational projects.

A meeting between Arab kids I work with in the town of Kfar Manda, and Jewish kids from Afula. They made a wall painting together in Hebrew and Arabic of a quote by poet Saul Tchernichovsky: “Because I still believe in humanity and its brave spirit.”

A meeting between Arab kids I work with in the town of Kfar Manda, and Jewish kids from Afula. They made a wall painting together in Hebrew and Arabic of a quote by poet Saul Tchernichovsky: “Because I still believe in humanity and its brave spirit.”

My main job is in the youth movement, the Noar HaOved veHalomed (Working and Learning Youth). It’s the second biggest youth movement in Israel (with 85,000 participants, it ranks after the scouts and before Bnei Akiva) and is active in most cities and many kibbutzim and Arab villages in Israel, running weekly activities for kids from fourth grade and upwards. Teenagers go to leadership camps and learn to be counselors for elementary schoolers, as well as learning about issues affecting society and meeting with youth from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The motto of the Noar HaOved veHalomed is “our home is open to every girl and boy,” and we believe that building a youth movement where everyone has a place will help us to build a society where everyone has a place.

Another project I’m involved in is a new coexistence museum exhibit on Kibbutz Eshbal, a kibbutz belonging to Dror Israel. The exhibit explores Arab and Jewish culture in the Galilee region, the everyday experience of meeting someone from the other culture in common settings like the mall or the hospital, racism and examples of racism in Israeli society, apathy and its effects, dilemmas of building a shared society (what should be together and what should remain unique and separate?) and profiles of Arabs and Jews working to build partnerships between Arab and Jewish communities in the Galilee. It’s geared toward high school groups, who discuss the challenging questions raised in the exhibit together with a guide. The goal of the exhibit is for students to critically examine the existing relationship between Jews and Arabs, and to invite them to be partners in shaping positive relations. 

High school students from Carmiel discuss the coexistence exhibit with a guide. Since its opening last month, 200 students have visited the exhibit.

High school students from Carmiel discuss the coexistence exhibit with a guide. Since its opening last month, 200 students have visited the exhibit.

A third significant project that Dror Israel runs– and that many of my friends led this year–is a yearly trip to Poland for Israeli high school students to learn about the Holocaust. Visiting Poland is a rite of passage for Israeli eleventh graders, and many students go on trips sponsored by their schools – but those trips can sometimes use the Holocaust to teach problematic nationalistic values, in the spirit of “never again to us at any cost, we must build a strong army to defeat our enemies.” The Noar HaOved veHalomed trip, in contrast, teaches students about the history of European anti-semitism, the rise of Nazism, the ghettos, extermination camps and Jewish rebellion with a focus on understanding human morality. Students learn that they always have a choice between acting to create a just society based on equality, or acting apathetically towards the inequalities in society and thus enabling human suffering. Eight hundred students from all sectors of society participated in the Noar Haoved veHalomed journey to Poland that took place this March. 

Students leading a memorial ceremony for their peers at Łopuchowo, the site of a Nazi massacre of Polish Jews

Students leading a memorial ceremony for their peers at Łopuchowo, the site of a Nazi massacre of Polish Jews

While the cost of traveling to Poland is high, the movement is committed to making the trip available to all youth including high-risk youth. To this end, there is a scholarship fund for the trip. If anyone is interested in donating, here is a link to the fund (in Hebrew).

Those who are interested and social media-savvy can check out the Noar Haoved veHalomed on Instagram.

We also run Habonim Dror’s Israel programs, MBI (a summer tour for students entering eleventh grade) and Workshop (a gap year for high school graduates)! Both programs are cool ways for Jewish kids to experience Israel in ways that speak to AARC’s humanist Jewish values. MBI students meet Israeli kids their age from the Noar HaOved veHalomed, and Workshop participants volunteer in the youth movement.

I think often of my Jewish upbringing at the AARC and love reading the blog to catch up on what’s going on with you. Sending good wishes and happy Passover from Israel,

 

Dafna Eisbruch

dafnation@gmail.com