Yom Kippur War Hero

This cabin-time activity offers an opportunity for boys, counselors and Israeli staff to bond as they consider the very real challenges of war, and consider the ultimate sacrifices that people sometimes are called upon to make.

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Core Learnings: 

The Yom Kippur War shook the very foundations of Israel's sense of security
"War stories" happen to ordinary people who step up to meet extraordinary challenges

Explanation: 

Step 1: Introduction

The facilitator begins by asking the boys to share what they think of when they think of the IDF. (Hopefully, answers will tend toward "strong" and other similar terms.)

The IDF is all of those things, but it's also a Jewish army. What does that mean? Well, for one thing it means that the commanders try to send soldiers home for important Jewish holidays -- especially for Yom Kippur. Of course, if they think there's a danger they won't let them go on leave, but whenever possible they try to send soldiers home for the holidays.

Step 2: What Makes a Hero?

Next, ask the group what they think of when they think of the word "hero." (Hopefully, some answers will relate to military heroism and Israel.)

  • There are all kinds of heroes, but the most remarkable heroes don't wake up in the morning determined to be a hero. They are normal people in abnormal situations -- and they respond in heroic ways. Some people use the word "hero" very freely, but today we are going to see the story of one man who earned that title on the battlefield.
  • Back in 1973, the commanders thought things were under control, so they sent most of the soldiers home for Yom Kippur. But the Egyptians and the Syrians (you can show the countries on a map) had teamed up to try to destroy Israel by surprising it on Yom Kippur. They knew that most Israeli soldiers would be at home or in synagogue, so they planned a surprise attack.
  • An Israeli tank commander named Avigdor Kahalani, who wasn't much older than me, was in charge of the tanks on the Golan Heights -- Israel's border with Syria. He was probably upset that he didn't get to go home, just like the rest of the soldiers who were stuck up there.

Screen the video from Youtube.

After the video, engage the group in a discussion that addresses their questions and also creates a list of what makes a hero. An Israeli staff member can add a few thoughts about heroes he has known.

Step 3: Wrap-up

At the end of the discussion, the facilitator can judge if his campers are primed for a final discussion. If so, ask:

  • What is bravery?

Discussion may include:

  • What kind of actions define bravery?
  • What convinces someone to do something extraordinary?
  • Have you ever done something brave?

Variations: 

As noted, this activity can take place during the day or before bedtime. If during the day, find a quiet place where campers will be able to see the screen and hear the narrative. The cabin may be the ideal location regardless of the time of day.

If the activity seems like too much for one sitting, or if you want to go into depth and encourage the boys to discuss the issues they encounter in depth, split it into two activities, to be completed on successive days.

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