*** Israeli youth groups

Israeli Youth Groups

Jewish Tzofim
Figure 1.--This 1942 postcard from Palestine shows Jewish Tzofim. I am not entirely sure of the relationship to the Scout movement. I can't read the writing on the back.

Describing the Israeli youth movement is somewhat complicated. This would include not only the modern Isreli organizations, but organizations formed before Israel became independent in 1948, both during the Ottoman Era and the British Mandatory period. Activity during the Ottoman era is poorly documented nd appears to have had a Turkish and Islamic orientation. There was much more activity during the British Mandatory era which included Christians, Jews, abd Muslims, albeit in separare groups. The British gained control over Palestine from the Ottoman Turks during World War I (1917-18) and governed under a Laegue of Nations Mandate. This can thus be confused to the modern usage of Palestine which is associated with Arabs. Israel has an active Jewish youth movement which also permits Christians and Muslims to form Scout groups. The situation in modern Palestine is different. There are no Jews except in the settlements and the Christian population has plummeted. We also will list here the international Zionist youth movements which developed in Europe during the 20th century.

Ottoman Era ( -1918)

We have very little infprmation abput youth groups in Palestine during the Ottoman era. We do note that the Ottomans began organizing youth groups in the early 20th century. This appears to have been an influence to the founding of youth groups in Europe especially the Wandevogel in Germany and the Boy Scouts in Britain and other countries. There Ottoman groups seeking to modernize the Empire and among other ininatives were these efforts to establish European-like youth groups. We have no information on the 19th century, but notice some activity in the early 20th century before and during World War I. What might be called a Boy Scout movement appeared in the Ottoman Empire on the eve of World War which turned into a paramilitary movement. It had a basically Turkish and Moslem orientation. hile we have found information about Ottoman groups in the capital and Turkish areas of the Empire, we have found very little information on the non-Turkish populated areas like Palestine. Islam was not a problem among the Arabs in Palestine, but Turkism was another matter. Palestinian Scouts today on their website claim that the Scouting was founded very early (1912). We have some photograohic vidence of this, but have not been able to find and documentary details. It appears to be Myslim group. We do not know of any Christian or Jewish youth groups which may have been regarded with suspion by the Ottoman authorities.

British Mandatory Era (1919-48)

We note several youth groups during the British Mandatory period in Palestine. We only note Scouts among the Arabs. We note Boy Scout troops organizing after the British victory in Palestine and the end of World War I. There may have been some during the Ottoman period, but we have found no evidence of them. The Palesrinia Scout web site claims that Scouting was foundded in 1912, but we have not been able to find any informtion about such early groups. With the arrival of the British British we begin to see large numbers of Scout groups, both with the arabs and the Jews. The Arab groups were organized the schools. The Ottoman school system was limited. The British began opening many new schools and for the first time, large numbrs of Palestinian children attended school, both boys and girls. Under the Ottomans schools were mostly located in the cities. And because most Christian Arabs lived in the cities, Christoan Arabs tended to be better educated than Muslims who ominated the larger rural population. As schools began to open in the villges, more Muslim children had access to education. And many of the new schools sponsored Scout troops, especially the secondry schools. A factor here was the popularity of youth groips at the Jewish schools. We do not know to what degree the Arab troops were mixed Christian-Muslim units. We note Jewish Scout groups during the Mandatory period. We do not yet, however, have details these troops such as who the sponsoring groups were. We do not know of any mixd Jewish/Arab troops. We have found no information on any umbrella assocition during the Mandatory era that coordinated Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Scouts. We do note a jamboree which may have include troops of the differented religions. We are still redarching this. There were other youth groups orgnizd among the Jews.

Israeli (1948- )

Israel based on the United Nations Partition declared its independence (1948). The neifgboring Arab countries invaded resulting in the Independence War (1948-49). This ended with an independent Israel, butvthe invading Aran armies did not allow the Palestinians to create their own state. Jordon annexed the West Bank and Egypt Gaza. Jews left or were expelled fromn these areas and the Arab world in general. After indepbdence something like 15 percent of Israel were were Palistinians, including both Christianand Muslim Arabs. The youth groups founded during the British Mandatory era for the nost part continued in independent Israel. This included Christian, Jewish, and Mostem groups. The most important groups are GADNA, a Jewish group, and the Scouts which include Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups.


Israel has its equivalent of a nationalist youth group. It is the GADNA; and ALL high school and junior high students are required to participate-boys and girls. The GADNA are dressed in khaki uniforms. They take training and engage in paramilitary exercises. GADNA has not replaced Scouting in Israel.

Hamahanot Ha'olim

Hamahanot Ha'olim has strong connectioins with the Scout movement. It is a pioneering movement of teenagers in Palestine. They stress defense and personal fulfillment. The group evolved from groups in the Herzliya Gymnasium (high school) in 1926; they established Kvutsat Hahugim in Hadera in 1929 and eventually settled in Beit Hashita. This group merged with breakaway Scouts groups in Haifa and Jerusalem and formed Hamahanot Ha'olim movement was established. It affiliated itself with Hakibbutz Hame'uhad. Former youth members established kibbutzim. There have beebn seceral reorganiaztiionsm but the group remains active in Israel with about 3,000 members.

Israel Boy & Girl Scout Federation

The Israel Boy & Girl Scout Federation enjoys the destinction as the only non-political youth movement in Israel. The Federation is supported mainly by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Some individual scout troops are sponsored by public bodies such as municipalities, churches, schools and various philanthropic organizations. The Israel Boy & Girl Scout Federation was founded in 1953, although the member assiciations such as the Hebrew Scout Association and other small scout units have existed since 1919. The Boys' Section in 1951 joined the World Bureau of Boy Scouts. The Girls' section belongs to the Asia-Pacific region while the Boys' section belongs to the European Scout Region. Members of the Federation take an active part in the work of the Regional and World activities. The Israel Scout Movement has played a special role in the country's life and in its struggle for independence. The Israel Scout program is co-educational in keeping with the prevailing practice throughout the Israeli school system, with boys and girls working and studying together on an equal footing. Pioneering has always been one of the fundamental principles of Israeli society and its educational system, and thus the Israeli Scout Movement educates its members in this spirit - to work and to voluntary services. All Israeli Scout associations belong to the Federation and are bound by a single constitution, however, each Association may also have its own regulations in keeping with its special character. A major aim of the Federation is the strengthening of ties of friendship between the various Israeli Communities and providing them with a deeper understanding of each other's way of life. All Associations have similar programs based on the fundamental principles of Scouting with emphasis on community service, camping and hiking.
Arab scouts:
Catholic scouts:
Druze scouts: A schoolboy came up with the idea of Druze Scouting. Salaman Falah, a 10th grader in the Haifa Reali high-school, who after watching activities of the Hebrew Scouts in the school, decided that Druze children should also have such an exciting option. Until then, there was no youth group operating in the Druze vilages. With Salamans initiative a group of Druze teachers got together and discussed his idea. The Israel Scouts Federation in 1955, with the recomendation of Prime-minister David Ben-Gurion, accepted the Druze scouts with Salaman at their head. The Druze Scouts has become the largest youth group proportionaly in Israel. There are 5,000 members which is about 10 pervcent of the scouts in Isreal, while the Druze population is only 1.5 percent of the population. The Druze scouts are divided into 5 Regions: Carmel, Center, Higher Gallili, Lower Gallili and Golan. Every region has a commisioner, and there is also a general commisioner for all of the 5 regions. The movement is composed of approximatly 45 troops. The Druze scouts operate according to age groups. Memvers in the 3rd through 5th grade are called Ofarim (Fawns), and have a lot of games, and learn about the movement and their area. Memvers in the 6th through 8th grade are called Tzofim (Scouts), and they promise, travel alot and have combined activities with other members of the Israel Scouts Federation. Members in the 9th grade and above, are called Sollelim (pavers), and they are counsellors, and have preperation for the army.
Hebrew Scouts Federation (Hatzofim): The Hebrew Scouts Federation was founded in Palestine in 1919, immeduately after World War I. It was based on the appraoched developed by Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the world scouting movement. It goal is to educate youths about Jewish spiritual values and culture and personal fulfillment of Zionist ideals. Hatzofim alumni volunteered for the Haganah (Jewish self-defense organization) during the fighting to maintain Isdrael's independence in 1948. Thwy also founded several kibbutzim. Hatzofim has about 40,000 members in Israel.
School scouts:


Founded in 1919, the Tzofim was the first Zionist youth movement in Israel. Today, the Tzofim is the only official "National Youth Movement" in the country. It was the first egalitarian Scouting movement in the world, where boys and girls participate together on an equal basis. More than 20 Kibbutzim have been established over the years by Nahal Garinim of the Tzofim. In Israel today, there are over 300,000 Tzofim graduates. Currently, there are over 60,000 Jewish Tzofim and over 25,000 Arab Tzofim. The number of active Tzofim has grown by over 55 percent in the last 10 years alone, while almost all other youth movement in the country have greatly decreased in membership. There are over 160 tribes (troops) in almost 100 cities, towns, moshavim and kibbutzim. Over 1/3 of the Tzofim tribes are located in development towns and challenged neighborhoods.

Internationalist Zionist Groups

A wide number of Jewish youth groups promoted Zionism in the 20th century. Most were founded in Europe. While they share a desire to promote Zionism, they have a wide range of political, religiious, and cultural orientaions.


The Brit Yosef Trumpeldor (BETAR--Joseph Trumpeldor Alliance) was the educational youth movement of the Revisionist Zionist Organization and, subsequently, the Herut movement. It was founded during December 1923 in Riga, Latvia. BETAR's goal was to establishment a Jewish state in the entire British Mandate of Palestine. It was to gather in Jewish exiles, but did not have a socialist component like many Zionist groups. Betar believed in military training for self-defense and had a strong pioneering spirit. The Betar who actually settled in Palestine established a kvutsa (an early kibbutz) called Menora in Petah Tikva, and were active in settlement enterprises around the country. Betar spread to other countries, and established a world organization with Ze'ev Jabotinsky as its head (1931). The movement increased its membership substantially as rising anti-semitism in Europe during the 1930s increased interest in emigration. Betar played an important role in organizing clandestine immigration in the years leading up to World War II. Betar is still active in Israel and the Diaspora


Ezra is a religious youth movement named after the Biblical prophet Ezra. It was founded in Germany during 1919. We have no information about its operations in Germany. Groups were founded in Plaestine only in 1936. In Isrrael it was affiliated with the Orthodox Agudat Israel party, but now classifies itself as non-political. The aim is to educate young Jews towards the building of the Land in the spirit of Orthodox Judaism. Its members have helped found several kibbutzim and moshavim, as well as in various community and educational enterprises. It is active in Israel and the Diaspora.


Gordonia was a Zionist pioneering youth movement named after Aaron David Gordon, a philosopher of Labor Zionism. He idealized manual labor, mutual aid and human values. Gordonia was Founded during 1925 in Poland, but grew into an internatioanl movement. Gordonia first became active in Palestine during 1937. It joined with the Hapoel Hatza'ir political party and in 1945 helped establishment the United Kibbutz Movement. It merged with other groups in 1951 and no longer is active.


Habonim is an impirtant Zionist youth movement founded tio promote Jewish culture, the Hebrew language, and pioneering in Palestine. It was founded in London during 1930. It was affiliated with the Zionist Labor Movement. Branches were opened in the United States, South Africa, India, and Israel. The Habonim served as the nuculeus gor the Habonim Union, into which youth movements in several countries were merged during 1958. Making Habonim the largest youth organization in the Zionist movement with about 20,000 members. The Habonim Union in Israel helped found Hanoar Ha'oved Vehalomed while continuing as an active pioneering movement. Members have help found several kibbutzim.

Hanoar Ha'Oved

Hanoar Ha'Oved is a movement of working teenagers. It was established in 1926 by the General Federation of Jewish Labor (Histadrut ). Its goal was meet the cultural, social and economic needs of working youth. It emphasized the spirit of pioneering achievement and labor. The movement established night schools and labor bureaus for youth who had to work rather than persue their studies full time. Most of the teachers came from kibbutzim. , Hanoar Ha'Oved founded its first kibbutz, Na'an, in 1933. Hanoar Ha'Oved members founded dozens of other kibbutzim. Hanoar Ha'oved wasone of the many groups which merged with the Habonim Union in 1959. The merged group founded Hanoar Ha'oved Vehalomed (Working and Student Youth). Two additional groups for working and student youth have since been established, Hanoar Haleumi Ha'oved Vehalomed and Hanoar Hadati Ha'oved Vehalomed. Hanoar Ha'oved Vehalomed has about 80,000 members.

Hashomer Hatza'Ir

Hashomer Hatza'Ir is the oldest operating Jewish youth movement and has a proud history. The groups explains that it is a world organization of Zionist youth that strives for personal pioneering fulfillment in Israel. Hashomer Hatza'Ir has a unique educational program and principles that combined scouting, personal example, socialist Zionist fulfillment through "aliya" and a collective lifestyle. The group was Founded in Poland in 1913-1914 and merged with other Zionist groups in 1916. Hashomer Hatza'ir members first arrived in Palestine with the Third Aliya (1919-1923) and began founding kibbutzim. The group's kibbutz movement was established in Palestine in 1927. Polish members of Hashomer Hatza'ir attempted to resist the NAZIs after Poland was defeated and occupied in World War II. Their members were among the leaders of the ghetto uprisings. Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, was a member of Hashomer Hatza'ir. After the war, they took part in organizing the Beriha movement. The group in 1946 formed a political party which, along with Ahdut Ha'avoda, became Mapam in 1948. Hashomer Hatza'ir now operates as a youth movement in towns, villages and kibbutzim of Israel, as well as in many Diaspora communities.

Hanoar Harzioni

Hanoar Harzioni is a pioneering Zionist youth movement. It was established in Poland during 1932. The group supports various forms of settlement, kibbutz, moshav, and development towns. They attempt to inbue members with a pioneering, pluralistic outlook. It is still active.


Hehalutz is a worldwide federation of Zionist youth which promotes various "halutzic" movements, recruiting young people to settle in Palestine and training for labor and rural work. The group belonged to World Zionist Organization. They were committed to promotng of the Hebrew language and culture and training for a life of labor in Palestine. Pioneering youth associations appeared during the early 20th century. The first countrywide convention of the Hehalutz associations in Russia was held in Moscow during the relatively open atmpsphere of the early years of the Russian Revolution in January 1919. Joseph Trumpeldor was especially influential. The movement convinced several thousand Russian halutzim (Zionist pioneers) to emmigrate to Palestine 1919-21. Afterwards Lennin and the Communists repressed Hehalutz and banned emigration. Hehalutz associations were founded throughout Eastern, Central, and Western Europe; northern Africa; North and South America; and South Africa. The movement was strongest in Poland woth its large Jewish population. Hehalutz by 1935 had about 0.1 million members. The NAZI liquidation of Jewish communities and murder of their inhabitants during Workld War II deprived Hehalutz and other the pioneering movements of potential recruits. Hehalutz operated in the NAZI imposed ghettos as long as possible and members formed the activist core of fighters in ghetto uprisings as wll as Jewish partisan units. After the War they helped found Beriha movement. The destruction of the centers of European Jewery, however, undermined the organizatiion's base, Hehalutz is now only active in South America.

Maccabi Hatza'ir

Maccabi Hatza'ir is a pioneering Zionist youth movement. It was founded in Germany in 1926 and spread to other countries. Maccabi Hatza'Ir and the Maccabi Youth were beginning in 1933 the youth element of the World Maccabi Organization, the international Jewish sports organization. Maccabi Hatza'Ir did not confine itself only to sports. They promoyed "aliya" and rural settlement in Palestine. The first convention was held in Tel Aviv during 1936. Members formed groups to settle in Palestine, joining already established groups as well as founding new settlements of their own. It is still active.


The Israel Boy & Girl Scouts Federation

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Youth movements," Jewish Virtual Library, 2002.


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Created: June 13, 2002
Last updated: 1:13 PM 3/24/2017