Circle of Existence - A project by Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation
For many years, the National Scout Organization (NSO) of Israel – The Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation – has recognised that while there are a number of Scout Associations inside the NSO, the Federation has the capacity to try and break the barriers between the communities and create better understanding among young people in the country.
The Federation has more that 25,000 members registered with WOSM – and is made up of people from several faiths and beliefs, notably the Hebrew Scouts, Orthodox Scouts, Muslim Scouts, Catholic Scouts and the Druze Scouts. All work together when participating in events outside Israel, for example at World Scout Jamborees, but sometimes there is not much contact between them back home in Israel. This is the basis for the current Messengers of Peace Project – Circle of Existence – to create opportunities for young people to mix with Scouts from all Associations and to not just co-exist, but actually exist together.
The system of Scouting in Israel has its own special way of organising – in Tribes. Generally the tribe meets all together in a facility of the community, or a Scout Centre. It is not uncommon to see 200 young people meeting in the same open space, the 16 and 17 year old Scouts (young Leaders) providing the programme, instruction and support for the younger ones who are operating in the small teams – sixes, patrols – as part of the Scout Method.
For the Circle of Existence project, the Leadership of the Federation approached all the Heads of the different Scout Associations in Israel to explain what the project was about. They received the agreement of all the Associations and then began the recruitment of those who would provide the training. Israel has a strong tradition in Wood Badge Training and Junior Wood Badge training with courses having up to 200 participants every year, and all the Associations participate together. So it was easy to establish the training team who would provide training on dialogue and mutual understanding to all involved in the project. Recognising that breaking down barriers and creating understanding is an important but difficult task, the Federation also commissioned educationalists and experts while creating the training package. At this moment, the people involved in the project understood that they had the commitment, the enthusiasm and the spirit to work together with others in ensuring that educationally, what the project intended to do was sound and strong.
The initial training courses were held for 20 trainers and facilitators – ranging in age from junior Leaders to more experienced senior Leaders. This team was now ready to go back to their tribes and create the momentum to develop joint activities between tribes. Hebrew tribes met with Orthodox and Muslim tribes and likewise the others Catholic, Druze and Hebrew intermingled and all the permutations and combinations were reached to ensure total interaction. Many young people had never had the opportunity to mix with someone of a different belief since communities tend to stick together and also because spiritual development activities are generally related to the faith of the Scouts in the respective Associations, as in many parts of the world.
The first encounter had four circles, which met twice with groups of 80 and 120 Scouts in each circle. For these circles a further 3 meetings are already planned. The project is growing in popularity amongst Scouts in Israel and more circles will be created in the coming months. The Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation now strongly believes that together, they are helping to create a more tolerant and peaceful environment for young people to develop and grow in Israel through Circle of Existence.
Meeting Yuval Herscovitz
First, I would like to thank you for this wonderful opportunity to meet you. Being a Scout is a significant part of my life. I believe that Scouts in Israel have a huge impact on the Israeli society. I feel very inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s fight for justice and equality, and his famous tag line and speech ‘I have a dream’ has impressed me a lot (like millions of others), and as a Scout, I want to contribute to ensure liberty for all human beings, regardless of faith, race, gender or social background. I am very glad to be part of Hebrew Scouts, which is spearheading a big change in society, by instilling in young Scouts like me, the values of equality, mutual understanding and existing together amongst all members of the Israeli society, be it whichever background one comes from: Jew, Arab, secular, migrant, and so on. I am also strongly drawn to the discipline that Scouting has instilled in me. We all live in extravagant times, when computer games, television and internet compete to get children and young people’s attention. Yet, Scouting has made me value simple things like going out in the nature with friends, develop other hobbies and interests and not get bogged down in front of a computer and lose the social touch which is so important if people want to live together in peace in a highly multicultural society like ours. Ultimately, I would like to reiterate that being a Scout for me has been a huge privilege and great fun. Meeting with you is a fantastic reminder that we, the Scouts are one big global family. Please send the true support and love of Scouts from Israel, and the Hebrew Scouts in particular, to all other Scouts in the world. Tell them that we keep our hands open for peace and dialogue, which we derived from the unique Jewish history and faith and the values of our beloved Movement, Scouting. - Yuval Herscowitz
Passionately recollecting the meeting with Yuval at the Israeli Scouts headquarters, Luc says, ‘What could be a better expression one could dream of getting from a young 13-year old Scout, as to how Scouting transforms the life of a child’
A personal experience in Circle of Existence - by Dr. Amos J. Simon, International Commissioner (Israel Boy & Girl Scouts Federation)
This Messengers of Peace project was initiated in order to motivate peace in populations with conflicts and minorities in Israel. The goal of this project is to tighten the bond between groups of teenagers, each representing a different culture and religion in Israel, using Scouting activities as a tool and a method to achieve the goal. Improving the communication between teens can be achieved by providing them with the platform for direct encounters with different cultures, customs and traditions, as well as different communities and families, their lifestyles, education, history and ideology.
The result I see is the building of a foundation, one that is strong enough to achieve cooperation between teens from all Scout Associations in Israel, and as an extension of that, reaching out to all teenagers in the country, and eventually to their communities. The success of this project will prepare a strong base that can bring a big change ultimately in the Israeli society as a whole. The final result will also be that of a guaranteed peaceful and shared existence of all Scouts who will go through this project from the various Scout Associations that have partnered in this project.
I'm heading one of the Circles as a Scout Leader and would like to share in a few words the excellent experience I had in the first two meetings, both of which were very successful as I see them due to several of the following reasons:
1. Very warm hospitality by the hosting tribes. For example, the second meeting in the Orthodox tribe of Ramla started with a beautiful march and play of the tribe’s (Scout Group’s) wind instrument orchestra. It was a wonderful welcome and not to forget the tasty refreshments and hot beverages provided to all of us on a cold winter day of January. Later, the hostesses took us sight seeing in their beautiful historical town of Ramla, where for centuries Jews and Arabs (Christians and Muslims) have been living together peacefully. The excellent lunch, back at the tribe’s den, and the impressive concluding ceremony (again, with the Scout orchestra playing) gave us all a true feeling of joy and satisfaction.
2. The good atmosphere. Scouts from all Associations are very happy to meet each other and their spirit and humour was high throughout the day when the meetings happened. In the days following our meetings of ‘Circle of Existence’, I visited all groups of the two Circles I headed and was very impressed by the continued cooperation between all Scouts from the different Associations. During my visits, I heard the laughs, the mix of Arabic and Hebrew languages, the traditional games, songs and dances that the Scouts taught each other, all in a very respectful way with no boundaries, using the Scouting way (and Scout activities) to establish together new friendships that unfortunately today cannot exist in our Israeli reality. I felt that the kids were the true "Messengers of Peace" in those meetings and I'm very excited about the changes we are seeing.
3. The structured program. Each meeting of the Circles is going very well and seems to be contributing to the goal of the project. The Scouts enjoy it, not only from what I could see but also from what they keep telling me in their feedbacks. However, I think that the fact that we also maintain a degree of flexibility in the programme, allowing for some spontaneous activities to result from interactions, such as unplanned visits to a nice Church, Mosque or a Synagogue, is also a key factor for the success of the project.
4.The continuation of the process. Already in our second meeting I could see that the Scouts from the different organizations were waiting to meet each other. It was only the second meeting between them and they were already friends telling each other what happened in their lives since their first meeting, exchanging Facebook addresses and mobile phone numbers. They were constantly taking photos of each other and there was lots of talking (and more talking). They seemed like a normal group of teens belonging to one background (or one Scout Association in our case) that share so much together in daily life, here in Israel (in general) and in their Scouting life in particular. But in this case, the difference was that all of these friends were from different backgrounds, different Scout Associations each following a different belief or faith. One should see this exchange in person in order to believe that existing together in Israel is not just a word or a dream. The young Scouts proved to me in every Circle that the dream can definitely be fulfilled here in the shared land of various religions and faiths if they can be brought under same roofs, such as in the Scouts.