Youth Movements: The Establishment of 100 Educational Centers Serving Refugees and Evacuees

After enduring long hours under threat of being murdered, tens of thousands of southern Israel residents were rescued by security forces. Without any possessions other than the clothes on their backs, these souls were transported to evacuation centers in Eilat, the Dead Sea and central Israel.

An unprecedented situation arose overnight: Israelis became refugees in their own country for an unknown period of time. The people of the south were joined a week later by residents of the northern towns who were also cleared out of their homes with just one suitcase.

The evacuation centers, in normal times recreation and vacation sites, are not equipped to handle the enormous task they have been assigned. Entire communities have arrived to “live their lives” over the course of days, weeks – and probably months.

The youth movements were the first to extend a reassuring, steady hand to the displaced children and teens. Within hours the movements managed to set up education and play centers, firstly for small children and even babies. A few days later, the first schools for elementary-school ages had already been formed and filled up. Classes are being held in makeshift classrooms with 19-year-old counselors on Service Year functioning as teachers.

During the three weeks it took the government to organize responses, it was the movements that created the reality on the ground. Throughout the days and weeks that the movements have been running these activities, there have been countless precious moments of joy mixed with sadness for the over 50,000 young people who were uprooted from their homes and lives. The kids who need to keep being kids… the teens who just want to live their lives… are being given a semblance of normalcy during the hours that classes and activities take place.

A parent who witnessed one of the youth movements active in an evacuation center provided the best description of its immense importance: "As soon as the movement got to work, a routine was created, we all got our heads on straight, and we adults were able to start figuring out what was needed from us.”

The movements have effectively created spaces in all the evacuation centers where children and teenagers can, at least temporarily, silence the noise of chaos, restore some certainty in life and simply be young again. The teens also see the counselors, who are close to them in age, as the natural address for them to share their feelings, their fears and the horrific sights they saw on October 7th.

The movements will continue to run the education and play centers until the evacuees return to their homes. The following youth movements are partners in these tremendous efforts: HaShomer HaTzair, Tzofim, Ha’Ichud Ha’Haklai, HaNoar HaOved V’HaLomed, Bnei Akiva, HaMachanot HaOlim, Ezra and Ariel.