Youth movements in disarray as budget cuts loom

Following the devastating impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing war, Israeli youth movements now find themselves on the brink of yet another challenge - a significant budget cut in the seven-figure range

Tamar Trabelsi-Haddad|
Sapir Gorin, a youth leader in the Scouts movement, expressed deep distress upon learning about the anticipated cut in funding for youth movements. "The Scouts movement has instilled in me a clear understanding of values, which has shaped my confidence in becoming a more responsible citizen for our country," she says,
Gorin, an 11th-grade student from Kiryat Motzkin in northern Israel, passionately urged against any cuts that would harm the youth movements, emphasizing their crucial role in fostering ethics, morality and their contribution to society. "Don't take away our home," she pleaded.
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Those who have grown up in households with youth group counselors or as students in youth movements can attest to the profoundly positive influence this framework has on children. However, it is now evident that numerous youth organizations face the imminent threat of closure due to an expected budget cut of around $8 million that would significantly impact the support provided to youth movements.
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Sapir Gorin
(Photo: Courtesy)
The government has been urged by the National Student and Youth Council to reconsider the planned budget cut, which warns that such a reduction would have an immediate impact on youth movements, particularly in smaller communities.
Roni Kamai, spokesperson for the National Student and Youth Council, emphasized the vital role of youth movements as a substantial support network for adolescents, children and the entire community. "Now is the time for the government to strengthen and continue supporting these movements," Kamai asserts.
In response, 89 local authorities have addressed their concerns to Minister of Education Yoav Kisch, demanding the cancellation of the proposed budget cut for youth movements. Initiated by the head of the Gezer Regional Council, Rotem Yadlin, a letter sent to the minister highlighted the immense importance of youth movements in local communities. It emphasized their role in promoting values, fostering youth leadership, encouraging volunteerism and representing vulnerable populations.
"We anticipate your commitment to preventing the budget cut for youth movements, especially during times of crisis when the State of Israel should be investing in engaged and volunteer-driven youth, as they will be the foundation of future leaders," the letter said.
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Youth movement in Israel
(Photo: Dana Koppel)
Libi Shaham, 17, a dedicated youth movement activist, said that the groups have helped teens mobilize in time of crisis.
"On October 8, youth movements demonstrated their unwavering commitment, as they have always done during times of crisis," she said.
Shaham, actively involved as a member and leader, recounted their efforts. "Together with my friends, we established a packaging center for soldiers and their families, organized educational activities for children in hotels designated for evacuated communities, and actively participated in coordinating a rally led by youth movements, dedicated to the memory of abducted soldiers and fostering unity," she explains.
Shaham raised a poignant question, asking: "Given all of these actions, why is the government choosing to cut funds precisely in the areas where investment is most crucial?"
Dr. Yaniv Efrati, an educational faculty member at Bar Ilan University, emphasized the immense significance of youth movements. "It is crucial not to underestimate the value of frameworks like youth movements," he says.
He further explained that, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war and the resulting mental distress, there are children and adolescents whose emotional well-being is deteriorating. They are experiencing existential anxiety, loneliness and pain without the necessary tools to cope effectively, leading to risky behaviors such as addiction and inappropriate sexual behaviors.
To cultivate resilience among these young individuals, Efrati suggests using informal systems like youth movements and volunteer organizations. These environments provide a sense of purpose and meaning, allowing adolescents to feel valued and capable. They serve as safe spaces where they can freely express themselves, fostering a sense of hope and an optimistic outlook on the future.
The Ministry of Education said in a statement that: "This is a cut that stems from a broad cut affecting all government ministries. Considering the importance of youth movements and under the guidance of the minister, the Ministry of Education is exploring alternatives to bridge the funding gap."
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