The leaders of tomorrow

A conference prepares pre-army youth for the future.

praying guy 88 (photo credit: )
praying guy 88
(photo credit: )
For those concerned that the youth prefers partying to engaging in social struggles, the fourth annual convention of the pre-military academies came as a relief. With high school behind them and army service ahead, more than 550 religious and secular young men and women came from all over the country came to Beit Shmuel to listen to lectures and participate in workshops. This year's gathering was titled "Economic and Social Issues Affecting Young Leaders" and at least for a few hours, it seemed to lecturers and participants alike that all is not lost. The organizer was Rabbis for Human Rights, the NGO in which rabbis from all denominations work together to treat humanitarian cases in the framework of Halacha and Judaism. The large patio of Beit Shmuel and the big hall in Merkaz Shimshon could hardly hold them of the convention's participants. Privatization, human and civil rights, poverty and the state, and rights of converts, widows, orphans and the needy were scrutinized, with the help of some of the most prestigious names in the media, academia and economics. Rabbi Nava Hefetz, head of the education department of RHR and the driving force behind the idea, said more than once during the day, "These kids are our last hope. I believe in them, I believe they have received the tools that will allow them to better our society. They will be our tikkun [correction] for the Israeli society." Some of the workshops dealt with a proposal for an alternative "social Pessah Seder." The results, around the tables on which they enjoyed a hot meal supplied by Meir Panim, gave the organizers a glimpse of the day's success: The four cups of wine were dedicated to the weaker among us, including foreign workers, and much time was devoted to the quest for peace in the region. By the end of the evening, the director, Rabbi Arik Asherman, invited a group of Palestinian friends of the RHR, and one of them recited, together with Rabbis Levi Weiman-Kelman and Na'ama Kelman, the prayer for peace. "This is really unusual," commented one of the participants, "but finally, when you think it over, there is really no difference and maybe it is not so unusual."