As unusual as this past school year was, there is nothing ‘normal’ about this summer either. Since international travel has not exactly been an option, Israeli youth and young adults have turned to domestic options to boost their summer plans.
Thankfully, local ministries have prepared for that eventuality well.
We’ve talked to some of the FIRM Member Ministries that work with young adults on a regular basis and asked them how their work has changed this year. Some try to continue with their usual programming while making necessary adjustments to meet national guidelines. Other ministries, which depend heavily on social interactions, had to rethink their strategy and cancelled events in favor of online engagement.
All of them think first of the young people they serve. How can we bless them? What can we do to make them feel seen and cared for?
These are the questions that motivate them to take 2020 in stride. See the updates below from some of Israel’s frontline ministries that have been ceaselessly serving the young generation this year.
A group of young people gets off a bus wearing face masks, as currently required by the state of Israel. They just finished high school and they want to recharge before the next season. The global pandemic has robbed them of a proper graduation. Soon they will have to enroll into the army, so this summer is their time of transition.
None of it has been easy in 2020, so they decided not to give up on a great opportunity.
The group arrived at Netsor – a pre-military preparation program put on by Netivah. This unique summer event is designed to help young people bond and develop supporting relationships that will carry them throughout their time in the military and beyond.
The Netsor program doesn’t shy away from big issues that accompany young people at this stage of life. Apart from the expected concern of moving away from home and into a demanding environment, these young men and women will have to potentially face anxieties and moral dilemmas that they didn’t have to think about before.
Learning about respect, purity, honor and identity at Netsor will help them approach the military service as an opportunity for growth, rather than a survival period.
Netivah challenges young adults to strengthen and grow in their faith, while encouraging them to be a testimony and a light, especially as they join the Israeli military service.
They knew that despite the unwelcoming conditions of today’s world, they cannot give up on their young people and call off Netsor.
So, with limited number of participants and many safety measures, they adjusted the program to fit current guidelines. By the end, the counselors pray for the participants, they themselves bless one another as well, tears flow, and a sense of accomplishment unites the group. Netivah leaders know it was all worth it! And they will do it again.
Lech L’cha is one of the few Israel-based discipleship programs in Israel. They run a 3-month discipleship school, held twice a year, for young Israeli believers. They join the program after their army service, setting time aside to seek the Lord, be discipled and prepare for ministry.
The program includes in-depth teaching from Israeli pastors on Biblical topics and day-to-day matters, prayer & worship evenings, as well as hiking and learning Biblical stories in the places where they actually occurred!
Lech L’cha’s most recent discipleship program, in early Spring, had to finish two weeks earlier than planned because of the Covid-19 outbreak and resulting restrictions in Israel.
It became clear pretty quickly that this is not a temporary situation, so the leaders reached out to the participants through online meetings and prayer.
The participants of the Spring program were eager to reconnect when the circumstances allowed. Because of that, in June Lech L’cha organized a final “reunion weekend” for this special group and a small graduation ceremony. It was a beautiful finale to their most unusual program.
Since the pandemic has put all summer events on hold, Lech L’cha has been putting in the time to reconnect with participants of their program from previous years.
It has been incredibly encouraging for them to create a network of alumni, who share great memories from being discipled as young adults straight out of the army.
Right now, Lech L’cha is getting ready for the next 3-month program, scheduled to begin in October. The interest in the discipleship school is growing, but so are the challenges. Presently, Lech L’cha is in great need of a new vehicle to serve the group arriving for the Fall program. Nevertheless, they are hopeful that if God brings the participants, He will take care of everything else, too.
KATZIR YOUTH CAMP / TENTS OF MERCY
August is usually the busiest month for Katzir staff and volunteers. Planning goes on for months before young Israelis flock to their youth camp in great numbers, to enjoy youth-led worship, challenging messages from God’s Word, discussions and prayer with their peers, and service projects. Katzir usually hosts almost a hundred people at each camp. Sadly, none of that is possible in the summer of 2020.
Because of the ongoing pandemic and strict restrictions in Israel, Katzir Summer Camp had to be cancelled for the first time in years.
The difficult decision was met with disappointment, but the leadership was left with no other choice. Currently preparations are underway to host an online event, to give the youth a sense of community, while considerations are being made for alternative events later this year.
While the government of Israel is trying to determine the course of action for the entire nation, Katzir leadership is planning possible youth camps during the feasts of Sukkot (in October) and Chanukah (in December).
As we pray for wise decisions to be made about the fast-approaching new school year, the hope of Katzir is that the holidays will be an opportunity for them to bless and encourage the young generation.
The vision of Katzir, which means Harvest, is to give young Israelis a place to grow in their faith, be uplifted and commune with other youth from all over the country.
It is the community aspect of it that is being challenged right now. Although the global upheaval has changed all of our plans for this year, leaders of Katzir remains hopeful that they will continue their programs later this year.
ALL ISRAEL TOGETHER
It has not been an easy year for young people to be entering into adulthood. Whether it is joining the army or looking for their first job, young adults in Israel are facing greater challenges than their predecessors. More than ever, they look to the older generation for messages of hope, courage and faith.
We are grateful for ministries like Netivah, Lech L’cha and the Katzir Youth Camps for investing so much in Israeli young adults. They are imparting eternal treasures to the next generation of believers in this land. Help us encourage them in these trying times!
This article originally appeared on FIRM and is reposted with permission.