Monday, June 16, 2008

The Tzofim Are Coming!

In the United States there are two Scouting organizations recognized by the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM), the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. In Israel there are six associations that are part of its Scouting organization. Most Scouting organizations have boys and girls within their ranks. Israel is no exception here. As a matter of fact, segregation by sex as in the United States is quite rare. In Israel the Hebrew word for "scouts" is tzofim. Among the six Scouting associations, the Hebrew Scouts Association is by far and away the largest at 60,000. The Arab School Scouts Association has some 13,000 members, while the last four groups of Arab and Druze Scouts number a few thousand each. Each year three or four caravans of Israeli (Hebrew) Scouts travel to the United States and entertain crowds in key cities. A very intense competition is held to determine the forty Tzofim who possess the best voices, the most energy and best smiles to act as ambassadors to israel. Several dozen other Tzofim who are lucky get to travel to the U.S. to be located at a number of summer sleep away campus run by various organizations, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) being the chief sponsor. Also, the Friends of the Israel Scouts help raise money to finance the caravans that criss-cross the country performing songs and dancing their way into the hearts of attendees. In some cities the Tzofim perform private concerts for summer day camps, which is great for the kids, but doesn't allow for outsiders to see the show. Last year the Tzofim performed at the uptown J.C.C. for the first time in over a crowd in front of a crowd of over 200. This year, however, the J.C.C.'s summer camp is sponsoring the caravan and they are holding a private show just for day camp attendees. But I will be there and I will get pictures (I hope) of their performance. I am excited...can you tell? These young men and ladies are an inspiration and they beam with confidence about the future of the state of Israel. They are Israel's greatest secret weapon. Interestingly, most of them will enter military service and fulfill a commitment of two or three years right after the summer. So, this free trip from Israel to the U.S. is a great opportunity for them, but an even better opportunity for those of us lucky enough to be in the audience.

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