Members of the Israeli Scouts Friendship Caravan performed recently at Abbey Delray North. Photo by C.B. Hanif
By C. B. Hanif
The Israeli Scouts Friendship Caravan rolled into Abbey Delray North on a June morning, 10 teens showing off great voices while singing of love for their country through a medley of songs in Hebrew, English and Yiddish.
Their energy was amazing, their routines deftly choreographed beneath exquisite harmony and outstanding solos.
Also present, and trying not to look like a proud papa, was Shelly Weil, who for 38 years has been hosting the exemplary cultural program.
“Every year I look forward to getting a new group of scouts because they’re 17-year-old kids, and I don’t see them again unless they come back as a leader,” said Weil, of Delray Beach.
“We have four such caravans that are going to cover the United States, probably about 35 to 40 different states, as ambassadors, and that’s their prime purpose of being here,” said the member of the Israeli Scout International Board.
To pull off the visit of the scouts, or Tzofim, each year, “I make a lot of calls, visit a lot of people, bring them pictures, CDs and so forth, and try to get them to a diverse population rather then just going to synagogues, where obviously people know Israel,” he said.
“For example, we’ll take them to a church on Sunday morning. Sometimes I like to bring them to a Baptist church or an Episcopal church. On Saturday we’re going up to Palm Beach Juvenile Detention Center, where we were asked to come up and talk to the kids who are incarcerated, for major crimes.”
Said Ori Zeltzer, one of the caravan’s leaders, “Though our main thing is to put on as much of a show as we can for the communities that we pass through, the main issue here is being the best ambassadors Israel can get, and showing people here that sometimes Israel is much more different than what you see in the newspapers, or TV, or the local media. These are the kids of Israel.”
Zeltzer said he too was a scout from age 9, then at 18 went for six years to the Israeli army, from which he was discharged two months ago. Similarly, for these youths, “Next summer they’re going to be recruited to the army,” and, after multiple years of service, “Maybe one of them will become a caravan leader.”
From their Abbey North audience of more than 100 the troupe garnered rave reviews, such as Scott Wang’s: “It was upbeat, nice, pleasant, positive, no political messages. Young people, I think they just want to enjoy life, and have peace.”
If there wasn’t a subtle message in the choice of one of the closing songs, there at least was a hint of future possibilities.
“I learned in Tzofim,” said the youth who introduced the tune, “that there is no such thing as a change that is too hard to make. And the lyrics of the next song say it all. ‘If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change’,” he said, as the troupe moved into Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.
When the teens concluded with the Israeli national anthem, there was a contrast between the mainly gray-haired audience and mainly dark-haired youths, yet solidarity in that most seemed to know the lyrics.
Afterward, the teens accepted donations and sold T-shirts and CDs of their music.
It makes one wonder what ambassadors we’re sending to other countries. And why other countries’ ambassadors aren’t working as hard as Shelly Weil.
C.B. Hanif is a writer and inter-religious affairs consultant. Find him at www.inter