When Would You Step In to Help?

In 1948, more than 4,000 volunteers from 56 different countries walked out of their every day lives to help Israel during the War of Independence. This session will allow campers to hear some of their stories and to examine the question: when would you step in? It's ideal for an after-hours bunk activity, a Shabbat discussion slot, or as a rainy day substitution.

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Israel declared Independence on May 14, 1948, almost six months after the United Nations passed the "partition plan" to create an Arab and a Jewish State in Palestine.
Israel fought and won its War of Independence declared by its Arab neighbors after they rejected the Partition Plan.
Over 4,000 Jewish Volunteers from outside Israel came to fight and aid in Israel's War of Independence.


Stage 1: The Trigger Story

  • Introduce the video:
    • Give your campers a brief history leading up to Israel's War of Independence (provided).
    • Over the past couple decades, a group called Toldot Yisrael has been interviewing thousands of people who participated in Israel's founding. While these people are all over 80 now, when they got involved, many of them were no older than your campers.
    • The 15 minute clip they are about to see is centered around the experiences of six people who got involved during Israel's founding moments. What is remarkable about these people is that they didn't start out in Israel and they did not wind up there because they had no place to go. While the War of Independence was fought primarily by people who had made aliyah -- moved to Israel -- either before the Holocaust or after the Holocaust, more than 4,000 of the people who came to help Israel in this fight came from overseas. They left the security of good homes and good jobs, college and their families, because they felt an urgent need to help.
    • As they watch this clip, encourage them to keep track of the different motivations that these people had for leaving their lives to go to Israel's aid. What made them do it? How did they help?
  • Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kxzEGSmgYl4

Stage 2: Discussing the film

  • Begin the discussion with the following comment by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he dedicated the Israeli memorial to the volunteers who came to fight during Israel's founding:
    • "You came to us when we needed you most, during those difficult, uncertain days in our War of Independence. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The people of Israel and the State of Israel will never forget, and will always cherish, this unique contribution made by you -- the volunteers of Machal."
  • Here are some conversation starters for your group:
    • Do you understand why Prime Minister Rabin said that?
    • How did the different interviewees help?
    • What did they risk to do it?
    • Why do you think the volunteers were inspired to help?
    • Did you relate to any of the volunteers’ stories? Did they remind you of anyone you know?
    • What surprised you about the video?
    • Do you think you, or people you know, would act in a similar situation?

Stage 3: When would you step in to help?

  • The discussion should now move into an area that is more personally relevant to the campers: issues of responsibility in their own lives. Feel free during the discussion to bring up examples from the video as well.
  • Essentially, the issues in the video come down to the question: “Who are we responsible for?” Within this question are other questions: What does it mean to be responsible? Who is responsible for us? How do we fulfill our responsibilities?
  • Ask your campers: When you hear the word ‘responsible,’ is there a person who comes to mind? Do you have a story to share about them?
    • How do the characters in the video understand who they are responsible for?
    • How do they act on their sense of responsibility?
    • How do you decide for whom you are responsible?


Variations in format

  • This activity could be done in a large group for the movie, and then broken up in smaller groups for the discussions.
  • If you can't do this activity with the video, ask a few staff people to take on the roles of the people in the video and introduce themselves and their decision to come help, what they wound up doing to help during the war.
  • If your camp has a regular video activity or a camp newspaper, this discussion can be brought in to that space as well. Have campers go out and interview others -- campers, counselors, Israelis, and staff (both Jewish and not-Jewish) and pose these questions:
    • Who are you responsible for?
    • How far would you go if you were called on to act?

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