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Habonim Dror

Balancing Aliyah and Diaspora Education

Last year, I was privileged enough to be a part of Habonim Dror Southern Africa’s Bogrim Leadership Tour, an ideologically based tour of Israel that aimed to show what it takes to be an activist and responsible citizen in Israeli society. On this trip, we were privileged enough to meet several HDSA Olim. None of them have lost their youthful, Zionist idealism that motivated them to move to Israel and build it. I felt immensely proud to be part of a movement that fostered the growth of these individuals and will continue to do so as long as it exists.

HDSA’s educational programmes in Israel are evidence of our commitment to our original Zionist ideals. The Shorashim Programme affords Grade 10s a chance to experience the beauty and magic of Israel for three weeks. Many of them choose to extend this process by participating in the Shnat gap year programme, on which they experience real life in Israel first hand and engage meaningfully with the ideas of Aliyah and K’vutzah. I have already mentioned our premier ideological programme in Israel, Bogrim Leadership Tour. I can confidently assert that many of our members who have experienced it, including myself, aim to spend a portion of their lives contributing to Israeli society.

Yet, as an HDSA Oleh living on Kibbutz Tzora pointed out, the State of Israel is in a dramatically different position to what it was when his k’vutzah left South Africa 40 years ago. The military and economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the fabric of Israeli society has already been successfully built. After visiting any Israeli city, few would contest that it is one of the most highly functional and technologically advanced societies in the world. Consequently, the need to work the land and build a new society from nothing is not a great as it was half a century ago. This has led many contemporary Jewish organisations worldwide to the realisation that building a strong Diaspora is essential to a successful Israel. For instance, the Jewish Agency, historically arguably the largest and most successful promoter of Aliyah, has changed its Mission Statement. It now focuses on “Israeli-diaspora relations”, as opposed to the encouragement of Aliyah alone.

Like many South African Jewish Organisations, HDSA believes very strongly in the need to build and maintain a strong Diaspora in conjunction with encouraging Chalutzic Aliyah, which remains the movement’s highest aim. Our year-long educational programmes in the Johannesburg and Cape Town Kenim have recently kicked off. This year, we are expanding our involvement in the Jewish small centres (Durban and Port Elizabeth) significantly to ensure that as many young South African Jews as possible receive this dynamic form of education during the year, and not just in a Machaneh context. Recently, Shomrim (Grade 11s) and Bogrim 1s (Matrics) had the opportunity to take part in our annual April Leadership Seminar (10 – 15 April) – a highly ideological camp with the aim of training our future leaders to be top class madrichim, responsible and engaged members of the Diaspora and passionate and committed Zionists.

This constant engagement with ideology will serve to build responsible and passionate members of the Diaspora, motivated by deeply rooted Jewish and Zionist ideals. HDSA members have always been active members of the South African Jewish community, as well as many sectors of civil society. We believe this stems from a commitment to Jewish values – a strong sense of community and an unwavering drive to fight against injustice, as Jews worldwide have continued to do for centuries.