Senior members of the Israel Scout Movement who had spent their pre-army year working with youth in various places marked the end of their service by joining the “Desert Troop” on a visit to a number of immigrant towns in order to hold discussions with people of their age from different communities in Israel. The aim was to bring about better understanding of “others” and to create a basis for inter-cultural relations. Some of the “Scouts” had worked in schools in Bedouin villages in the Negev together with Arab young women of their own age.
They spent Shabbat in Yeruham in the south with religious families and a group of Bnei Akiva members. They studied Jewish sources together and this enabled the mainly non-religious young people to change their opinions about religious youth, whom they learned wished to bring about better understanding between different communities.
The joint Scout Desert Troop visited “Kamer” a hostel for children in need of special care in the village of Lakiah in the south. They organized games and workshops for the children of different ages.
In the town of Sderot “Desert Troop” organized activities for 35 children and youth aged 8-19 and then prepared ice cream and threw balloons filled with water at each other, a game enjoyed by all. They then divided into two groups and met with students in the town to whom they handed printed information about their program and discussed aspects of life in this town, comparing it to the places they came from in the center of the country.
The Troop met adults in the town center who told them about life under barrages of bombs that were fired from the nearby emplacements in the Gaza Strip. They heard about difficulties of life in towns far from city centers. Some of the older residents described how when they first settled in Sderpt they had good neighborly relations with the Arab citizens across the border, but this had deteriorated in recent years when the Arab military became more belligerent.
In the evening, the visitors went to the local pub in Sderot where they heard a lecture by Sagi Yaniv about activism for improvement of Israeli society and possibilities of working toward these goals. He called upon the young people to take the initiative to overcome indifference that exists to a large extent among Israeli youth today. At the end of the evening the participating adults, students, Jews, Arabs and Bedouin sat at tables and continued the dialogue on aspects of the lecture they had heard.
The next day the Troop spent in Beersheba. They went to a local youth club where together with Bedouin youth leaders they organized activities for the children attending the club. Some of the Troop members had worked together with these leaders during their year of service.
The next stop was Ben-Gurion University where discussions were held with students. They heard a variety of opinions voiced, some of which to their surprise were quite radical. At the Orot Center in Beersheba the Desert Troop joined the young people there to draw graffiti and some of the results were quite amazing.
At the pub that evening, the young people heard addresses by two female lawyers, Insaf abu Sharaf, an activist for Arab women’s rights, and Debbie Guild of the Citizens Rights Movement. They spoke about the necessity to introduce changes in the laws for the benefit of women in general and especially for Bedouin women. In response to a question from the large audience, the speakers discussed how educated Bedouin women coped with the problem of leaving their traditional way of life.