Israel Scouts Share Their Country's Story Through Song And Dance
The Israel Scouts is the largest youth organization in Israel, with more than 80,000 members. Every year a small group of scouts takes a trip to the U.S. to perform songs, dance and talk to people about their home country. They call it the Friendship Caravan.
One group is currently in Arizona, which has hosted Israel Scout caravans since the ‘70s.
The Israel Scouts don’t let their audience just sit back and watch them dance. At a recent performance, Shahar Kempler taught the audience at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society what they need to do to dance along to the next song, Hava Nagila.
“Hava nagila is the number one Jewish song for generations,” Kempler said.
Only this version has a modern twist.
Each of the 10 scouts comes on stage and talks a little about themselves. They talk about family members and the things they love about home.
“It opens the doors to talk about Israel and to show and to portray how Israel is today,” Kempler said.
And not the Israel that comes up in the news, like that last week four people were killed in a terror attack in Tel Aviv. This is the reality these kids deal with back home, but their performances are an effort to look past the headlines and show how they see their country.
“Tel Aviv is basically the entertainment hub for Israel, like anyone can find everything they need over there, and that’s really what’s fantastic about it,” said scout Alon Maidan.
He introduced the audience to a song by an Israeli pop singer, called “Golden Boy,” which he said is played in clubs all over Israel.
“We often just hear about the bad stuff - the war and the terrorist acts,” said Jill Leshin, who has been watching the Israel Scouts perform since she was a little girl.
She said her trips to Israel connect her to this music.
“It just brings all those wonderful memories of Israel and the people and the land and the magic of Israel back here, and it just fills my heart.”
A lot of the people watching here today are similar to Leshin. In fact, when asked who has been to Israel, more than half the crowd raises their hands. The scouts also visit groups outside the Jewish community. Caravan leader Alinoy Blaish says they talked to a troop of Boy Scouts the other day.
“They asked 'which disease we have in Israel' or 'do we walk with a camel to school?' We live as everyone,” Blaish said.
Those are some of the ideas they are trying to get across, that Israel is like other Western nations. The troop acts as cultural ambassadors and focuses on the country’s entrepreneurial spirit rather than its history of socialist ideals.
“Israel, being a very young nation, has managed to produce so many different startups,” Alon Maidan said.
Everybody is trying to do their own thing and create their own success, he said.
Before these kids can pursue something like a startup, they’ll have to serve in the Israel Defence Forces. Blaish just finished five years of service.
“When you’re in the army you think that’s what you have in life, you know, only army,” she said.
She said she’s returning to the Friendship Caravan with a new perspective.
“And when I see those kids smile and dance and perform, I think that there will be peace, you know what I mean, like it makes me feel very hopeful.”
The Israel Scouts perform again 7 p.m. Wednesday at Temple Solel.