Saturday, July 31, 2010

Youth Council in Kiryat Malachi--On the Move

On July 26th, I met with Moriah and a member of the Kiryat Malachi Youth Council, Lital, in Moriah's apartment. Moriah lives in the Weitzman neighborhood, very close to Dalia.  This year the Youth Council was restructured, under the leadership of Moriah Ben-David, who was appointed the Youth Director (ages 12 to 18) for the city of Kiryat Malachi in late August, 2009.

I talked almost exclusively with Lital as my main purpose was to hear from a member of the Youth Council about the group itself. All but two of the YC members this year are girls. They hope to add more guys in the fall (to replace the graduates, like Lital.)

Lital just graduated from high school. She has been active in Migdalo, a program mainly for teens in the poorer neighborhoods in town so that teens have some place to go after school and in summers.  it is directed by Yaffa Golan. (Yaffa's son Yarden was a counselor in Seattle the summer of 2009). Migdalo, a Better Together program, is one of two teen groups in KM that has its own steering committee/leadership group, and Lital has been a member of that leadership group. This fall, they appointed her as the representative from the group to the KM Youth Council.

Lital was wearing a yellow KM Youth Council shirt so I asked her about it. She said that the group felt it was important to have a YC shirt so that teens around town would recognize who they were, to "brand" them. Three or four in the group worked together on the shirt project. They made a design, checked out places that print shirts, found a good, cheap price and had 50 made, the minimum number. They distributed a bit more than 20 this year and will have more for new members that join in the next few years. Each shirt had the logo of KM, the MATNAS, and the Jewish Agency. (At that time they did not have the TIPS logo, but they do have it now and will use it from now on. Moriah has taught them it is important to recognize those who support the group.)

Lital said that it took a while for the new youth council members to learn to function as a group. They didn't really know each other in some cases they knew others enough to say "hi" but that was about it. The city gave them the "first building" in town, Beit Harishonim, to use as their center. It was messy inside, so they spent a lot of time cleaning it up, painting it, putting up pictures, etc.

The group meets regularly from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday evenings and sometimes on Wednesdays too when needed. (If they cannot attend meetings or if they will be late, they are required to contact Moriah in advance.)

At the beginning, they had activities to learn about each other and more about themselves. Through these activities and planning of events (includiing cleaning of Beit Harishonim and taking responsibility for different parts of the clean up), Lital said she learned a lot about herself. She learned that she could "give" more than she thought she was able to. Also, she learned in depth what "responsibility" meant and how important follow through was. She learned that if she volunteered for something, she had to follow through because others counted on her, so she could not say later that she could not do it.

The first big event that they planned was the "opening ceremony" of the youth council where the YC members were officially sworn in. It was in the MATNAS auditorium, and the place was full. The YC members felt it was important to have a big public event so that people would know who they were and what they stood for. One girl named Avniela who never had spoken up much, volunteered to be the master of ceremonies. (Moriah was surprised to see her volunteer, but let the group take control of the program.) It turned out that Avniela was a great MC. BTW, she represents the "teens at risk" in the Youth Council. Less than 6 months before the event, this young woman would never have volunteered to do such a thing.

One memorable training program that 15 out of 20 of the YC members attended was a workshop on leadership for members of Youth Councils in all of the southern region of Israel, around Purim. They got permission from schools to be absent. The program was from noon to 9 p.m. They attended a number of workshops on being leaders. For example, in schools, they are not taught to speak in front of groups. At one workshop, they learned and practiced how to do so, a skill that Lital feels has really helped them. A side effect of the workshop day was that they met and interacted with youth leaders from other parts of Israel.

As a result of the meeting, several KM YC members wanted to get together with the YC in Ashkelon and share ideas. So far they have not succeeded, but they continue to try. (They are learning that planning takes a lot of work and not every suggestion that they work on comes to fruition.)

They divided into sub-committees for a while, but then found out that many wanted to work on several different sub-committees, so they have dropped that idea for the time being.

They were involved in the KM 60th anniversary celebration and helped with different parts. One thing that they did with other youth was to work with the local deaf group and learned to sign the song "Yachad Lev v'lev" and sang and signed with them at the 60th anniversary celebration.

For several months they have been planning a big event that will take place this coming Tuesday afternoon, August 3. (Unfortunately, we fly out of Israel that morning.) The event is to mark 1500 days that Gilad Shalit has been a captive. At 5 p.m. participants will gather near the soccer field and then march together with signs (made by the youth) to the park near the MATNAS, where a program will follow, totally planned by the youth. They had hoped to get a member of Gilad's family, and he did agree to come at first, but then when other bigger communities started to plan a similar event, he had to turn them down. However, another representative of the national group to free Gilad will come and speak in KM. Other speakers include the mayor, the head of the MATNAS, and a member of the YC; the KM chief rabbi will give a blessing for Gilad; and Limor will sing as will a choir from AMIT high School. (I heard her last week when she tried out for Kohav Nolad...she has a lovely voice.) They will have 150 balloons that will be released in the park, symbolic of 1500 days Shalit has been a prisoner.

About 7 from the YC also went on a bus rented by the city to a Gilad Shalit event as his parents were walking to Jerusalem from the Galil. The mayor had invited them to represent the city youth. They had to be ready to leave at 6 a.m., not a common time in the summer for teens here. In advance, the YC made signs for the group to take and had extras for some other people on the bus.

As a follow up activity to the big event on August 3, they plan to go to different youth groups in town and hold small discussions called "Cafe Dilemma." They will talk about the "costs" of freeing Gilad, and of not freeing him. Members of the youth group will help lead the discussions.

In advance, the group did big cloth posters and put them up in town.

 The flyer (above) is being passed out now throughout town.

One more event is in the planning stage but still the early stages. The group wants to do something on the problems of drugs and alcohol, or on responsible driving. At this point, the have not yet decided on which area to focus. Once they do, they know they want an event where they can bring in a teen group that sing songs focusing on these issues to get the attention of teens in town. Then they plan to do follow up activities, mainly through the youth groups in town to have educational discussions on the focus problems.

The group also has a Facebook page at!/profile.php?id=100001024635531 for ‏נוער קריית מלאכי

I also asked Lital what the Youth Council meant to her personally. She said that although she only had one year to be involved since its rebirth, it really helped her a lot. As I mentioned earlier, she really learned what responsibility meant in depth and the importance of follow through. She also learned how to deal with many different kinds of people. Through the YC events and programs, she was pushed out of her comfort zone and succeeded, growing and maturing. She is religious, so will not go to the army but will do "national service." She originally had planned to work in a hospital. But since her experience on the Youth Council, she decided to work with teens at risk in Petach Tikva. She feels that if she is capable, and should take responsibility to do something more challenging.

Now I have finished my "reporting," and want to add a personal note.

If Lital is representative of the teens on the Youth Council, I think that TIPS can be proud of what the group has succeeded in doing. It has taken them longer to do some activities than we had expected, but they are working as a group, learning and growing from the experience, and leading the teens.

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