Hashomer Hatza'ir youth brave Kassams to visit Kibbutz Holit

The international Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatza'ir will hold a conference Tuesday in Kibbutz Holit in an attempt to redefine their ideology and update their 95 year-old charter. Nearly 140 teenage participants from 19 different countries will aid the group in this massive modernization. "We've had a lot of time since [the charter] was created," Noach Kronich, head of the Australian Hashomer branch, told The Jerusalem Post. "A lot has happened since 1913... [and] a culture of difference exists between the countries," Kronich said. He said he hopes the conference will help the organization bridge these gaps and find a common set of modern principles. "Things will still remain open," he said, "each continent will be able to figure out what's best for them." Extending to over 19 countries, Hashomer Hatza'ir, the largest Zionist youth movement in Europe, was founded in Galicia, modern-day Poland, in 1913 with the goal of promulgating Zionism and left-wing socialism. Today, the group mainly operates activities and camps for teens and young adults. Their ideological position, up to now, has remained mainly the same. Kibbutz Holit, located near the Gaza Strip and in range of Kassam rocket attacks, was chosen by the program organizers as it represents the movement's utopian goal of socialist Jewish workers farming in the Jewish homeland. The struggling kibbutz, established in 1978, has a population of only 120 people and is "really struggling for life under the difficult conditions of the area," according to Dario Teitelbaum, the movement's spokesperson. Hashomer is helping to keep the kibbutz alive by funding a new education center for the youth group members who come to spend a year at Holit. The center will focus on alternative communities and ecological development, a large part of the group's current charter. Members will also show solidarity with Kibbutz Holit and express their support in the face of continuing rocket fire on southern Israel. "Even under risk, our efforts for achieving peace are part of the movement," said Teitelbaum. "Even at this time we do not give up our dream and actions towards peace." Teitelbaum said he was not very concerned with incoming Kassams, as he has lived on a neighboring kibbutz for over 30 years. Instead, he said, his main concern is creating an active, lasting peace. With members from various Diaspora nations such as Argentina, France and Bulgaria, the group will come together to focus on the state of Zionism in 2008, matching the charter's original view to a modern reality that places Israel as one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Though some say socialist farming communities are phenomena of the past, Hashomer members believe they can forge a new vision. "It's very important to see where the movement goes and how it develops," said Talia Zyngier, an Australian participant who has been a Hashomer member since she was nine years old. "The predominant aim is to create a consensus [among members] and to have a really strong common ground." She said the group will also alter their longstanding views on Zionism and secular Judaism. "We want to make it relevant for today," Zyngier said. Zyngier, whose entire family have been Hashomer members since her grandmother joined in Poland before World War II, said she feels part of something much larger than herself. "It's really phenomenal... we feel isolated in Australia but to come to Israel and see how big it all is and the influence [on] society," she said. Over the course of the trip, the international students will also hear lectures by older Hashomer members and celebrate the upcoming Lag Ba'omer holiday.