Youth movements took advantage of the Passover holiday vacation to hike and camp around the country without any health restrictions, for the first time since in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The HaNoar HaOved v’HaLomed (NOAL) youth movement, a socialist Zionist movement which focuses on equality, inclusion and coexistence, reported that a wide and varied range of activities took place across the country in which 40,000 youth members took part. In addition, the movement decided to include youth who recently immigrated to Israel from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus in the tiyulim (hikes) conducted by the Netanya, Nahariya, Tiberias and Rishon LeZion kenim, or branches.

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Maya Shenglof, a communarit (in her year of national service before the army as an educator in the youth movement) in the Nordau branch of NOAL in Netanya, explained her experience of bringing these olim on the hike.

“I sat all night preparing treats for the kids. I hardly slept because of all my excitement and worries that they might not enjoy the trip and that they might feel different and out of place,” she said. “But I was surprised to find that the other kids were very interested them and engaged with them [the olim] right away, which was incredibly meaningful.”

“My first tiyul in Israel.” Maya Shenglof and youth from the Nordau branch of NOAL in Netanya. (Photo: HaNoar HaOved v’HaLomed)

“Boris, a nine-year-old boy and one of the new olim, gave one of his counselors a leaf at the beginning of the trail and asked him to give it a name and keep it until the end of the trail,” Shenglof continued. “He named the leaf ‘Mir’ [‘Peace’ in Russian and Ukrainian]. At the end of the trail, the counselor returned the leaf to Boris safe and sound, and Boris received a medal with the inscription ‘my first tiyul in Israel’ and also made a medal for his leaf. I finished this trip feeling a lot of satisfaction and especially felt a lot of love.”

NOAL added that during the Passover break it held dozens of hikes, from ‘traditional’ movement trips such as the ‘Ascent to Tel Hai’, which takes place in the upper Galilee region near Kiryat Shmona, to trips for youth in primary school, to trips by the Arab kenim in Israel’s south before the beginning of Ramadan. In addition, many “kenim achim” (‘brother branches’) meetings were held in preparation for this period in which Passover, Easter and Ramadan fell at the same time.

32,000 members of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, which is a religious Zionist movement, took part in their Passover hiking trips. The movement’s central tiyul was a two-day trek that included accommodation, returning to its pre-coronavirus form. Each district of the movement camped in a different area in the country – including the Galilee, Gilboa, the northern Negev; the Golan Heights and the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Bnei Akiva youth on their Passover camping trips. (Photo: Bnei Akiva)

Yair Shachal, Secretary General of Bnei Akiva, said in a statement: “There was a special level excitement during this year’s trips. We finally returned to our pre-COVID hiking trips and the kids were ecstatic! They had waited a long time for this moment, to be connected to the Land of Israel in the simplest sense of the word. This is perhaps the most appropriate preparation for Chag HaHerut (the festival of freedom, another name for Passover).”

This week, some 70,000 youths from the Israeli Scouts, or Tzofim, youth movement, participated in various hikes including ken-based, leadership-based and ocean-related activities from the Dan region (greater Tel Aviv) to Eilat. In addition to hiking trips, the kids participated in social activities such as cleaning up the shores of the Kinneret. In addition, the movement has launched the “Tracker Chairs” project, which provides a way for young people with disabilities to go on hiking trips.

A beach-cleaning activity with the Tzofim on the Kinneret. (Photo: The Tzofim movement)

Ezra, a national religious youth movement, also reported a 15% increase in registrants and its highest number of registrants ever. The movement’s Passover trip is multi-age and is divided into branches, with each branch hiking a different trail in Israel. The movement increased their regular security precautions in light of the recent spate of clashes and violence in Jerusalem.

Shaul de Malach, Secretary General of Ezra said: “Many parents have appealed and reinforced our choice to safely continue running the trips during this period. I thank you all for your trust and the staff and the branches for their leadership.”

This article was translated from Hebrew by Benji Sharp.