It is often said that the youth of today differ from the youth of the past – that the current generation, raised in the lap of the internet and smart phone, is glued to the monitor, holed up in its room, and communicates through icons.
Many perceive youth movements as a relic of a past world that embodied activities outside the home, the spirit of cooperation, friendship, love of the land, initiative, and care for other. In 2006, the last year in which a national survey took place, the number of youth movement members in Israel stood at 176,000. According to the Ministry of Education’s list of recognized youth movements, a total of 13 movements operated in Israel in 2014.
In 2015 a total of 11 youth movements operated in the Jewish sector in Jerusalem. The movements reflect the social diversity of the city’s population: four are secular (HaTzofim – the Scouts; HaNo’ar HaOved VeHalomed – Students and Young Workers; HaShomer HaTza’ir – the Youth Guard; and HaMahanot HaOlim – Immigrant/Ascending Camps); two national-religious movements (Bnei Akiva and Ariel); one youth movement affiliated with the traditional-religious movement (No’am – Traditional-Religious Youth); and four ultra-orthodox movements (Bnot Batya; Pirchei HaDegel; Heichalei Oneg; and Ezra).
The youth movements receive support from the Ministry of Education and the Jerusalem Municipality, with the size of the movement serving as one of the determinants for the extent of support. It is difficult to assess the number of members, given the changing and fluid nature of participation in activities. The data are therefore based on the movements’ own reports to the Social Services Department of the Jerusalem Municipality.
The movement Bnot Batya is exceptionally large, numbering 17,410 girls in 2015. The reason for this is the inclusive nature of ultra-orthodox education, in which the movement serves a complementary educational function within the Beit Yaakov network of schools. The second largest movement is also ultra-orthodox in nature – Pirchei HaDegel – with a membership of 4,578 boys, ages 9-13. Taking into account the memberships of Ezra (2,042) and Heichalei Oneg (890), we find that the total number of youth movement members in the ultra-orthodox sector is the highest in the city, at 24,920.
Bnei Akiva is the third largest youth movement in Jerusalem, and the largest within the national-religious sector. In 2015 it had 3,881 members. Taking into account the membership of Ariel (1,493), we find that the total membership in national-religious movements is 5,374.
Among secular youth movements, HaNo’ar HaOved VeHalomed is the largest, in part because of its widespread activity in East Jerusalem neighborhoods within the Arab sector. In 2015 it had a total of 3,495 participating members. HaTzofim, which is the largest movement in the country as a whole in terms of membership, ranks second in size after HaNo’ar HaOved VeHalomed in Jerusalem, with 2,484 members. Taking into account the memberships of HaShomer HaTza’ir (2,240) and HaMahanot HaOlim (282), we find that the total membership in secular youth movements is 8,501.
No’am, which operates in the spirit of the traditional-religious movement, has 233 members, making it the smallest of the youth movement categories in the city’s Jewish sector.
I wish to thank Louis Goldberg, Director of the Research and Development Department in the Society and Youth Division of the Jerusalem Municipality, for the data and his help.
· Louis Goldberg, Research and Development Department Director, Culture and Arts Manager, Municipality of Jerusalem
· List of recognized youth movements funded by the Ministry of Education in 2014, Ministry of Education website
· Sheleg Mey-Ami, N. (2010). Youth Movements in Israel. Knesset Research and Information Center
· Websites of youth movements: HaTzofim, HaShomer HaTza’ir, HaMahanot HaOlim, HaNo’ar HaOved VeHalomed, Bnei Akiva, Ariel, and Ezra.