"It is a great privilege. Standing before of us a unique youth organization, original. It grew in the soil of Eretz Yisrael. Not that it has an utterly original ideology, but that it grew as a fruit of the conditions and needs of working youth in the country, the fruit of concern for their suffering, their fate, and their education. The movement turned to the most neglected and impoverished circles of young people, on whom all the educators and organizers had given up, and brought its members to the level of those who are building Na'an, Ginosar .This is an educational harvest. It mixes young people of Polish extraction, from the Eastern groups, of German extraction, farm youth. It did not get anything ready made. It certainly did not know at first if it would be able to bring its members up to pioneering and conquering activities, but because it did its work faithfully, because it listened to the lives of young people who worked every day, because it opened windows from the common life to the life of culture, to labor ideas, to the creations of the big brother-it succeeded in raising the young people stage by stage, planting in their hearts the awareness of its value and the dim desire, and refining it into a pioneering creation. May we be blessed with many young people who go through the school of the Working and Studying Youth."
Working and Studying Youth, the largest and most varied of all the youth movements in Israel, was founded in 1924 on the soil of Eretz Yisrael by working young people, deprived and neglected, who organized themselves to defend their work and their rights.
Today the movement has hundreds of branches, centers and clubhouses throughout Israel, from Kiryat Shemona and the Golan Heights in the north to Eilat in the south. Tens of thousands of Jewish, Arab, and Druze young people are members; young people who work and study in the cities, development towns, kibbutzim and moshavim; affected young people and young immigrants. All are guided and accompanied in ways that are appropriate to them, working to strengthen the intra-movement relationship.
The Labor Union for Youth is the organization that is the legal representative of working young people in Israel. It deals with the organization, education, professional accompaniment, defense of rights, health and welfare of working youth. The labor union maintains a professional training network in cooperation with public and governmental instituets. The movement is active among thousands of young men and young women who have dropped out of the learning and work cycle, and operates learning centers and schools as part of the technological-educational network that was founded to provide an answer to the special needs of these youngsters.
In the urban movement centers, the Arab and Druze movement centers, on the kibbutzim and the moshavim, a broad variety of educational activities take place, including seminars, continuing education, camps and excursions, alongside local daily activities. In these locations, the main emphasis is on involvement in Israeli society. The members see community activity in their surroundings as an important goal and leave their branches to become leaders and operators of centers and clubhouses in places characterized by a low socio-economic level, believing in the right of every child and young person in Israel to receive an education to values in the spirit of the Working and Studying Youth Movement.
Movement members in the Arab centers are educated in an atmosphere of peace and democracy, that educates young people to help others, and emphasizes the movement's continual striving for fully equal rights within itself and within Israeli society in general. Coping with this issue, although not simple, bears important fruit: some of the members who grew up in the movement's centers continue to volunteer and donate their time, experience and values to the youngsters who come after them.
The children of the moshavim and kibbutzim who are members of the movement have a wide range of activities in their locations, even though most of these settlements are located far from population centers, have few residents, and are mostly in the line of confrontation line on the country's borders.
In the Druze centers, there is a standing effort to integrate the unique Druze culture into the movement's ongoing activities. The movement is active in most of the Druze towns in Israel, and is a significant factor in the informal education there.
The movement holds ongoing activities in centers in the CIS (the former USSR) that encourage and prepare young people for immigration to Israel. Ongoing educational activities in the centers include continuing work to bring the sons and daughters of immigrants into activities with native-born Israelis. A young leaders' seminar annually trains about 200 members of the graduating groups who choose to focus on activities in the absorption of immigration and immigrants' children.
An educational mainstay of the movement is the service year: twelfth grade graduates who postpone their military service and live as a group in development towns and cities. Members of these groups volunteer in informal educational activities in the movement's centers, community centers, youth clubs, immigration absorption centers, and work closely with schools, etc. During this year, members of the group function, not only as educators, but are also being educated: the process they went trough in the movement continues in this voluntary process, too, to strengthen the relationship of the members to quality learning and to social and economic participation
Graduates of the service year continue their common path into the military, as a garin (core group) both in the Nahal (Pioneering and Fighting Youth), the branch of the military that has set itself social mission and security-oriented goal. Over the years, the military track has expanded to meet the changing needs of the country. Today we see more social and community-oriented service in distressed neighborhoods and development towns along with the ongoing military activity. At the end of their service, members of the garinim are incorporated into social and educational missions in their place of residence and within the movement framework.
Merhav – Rebuilders of the Pioneering Idea in Israel: At the end of the 1980s, a movement of Working and Studying Youth graduates grew out of the youth movement. The members are graduates of the movement, aged 22-30, who have chosen to live in cooperative forms in cities and villages and to be active in formal and informal education work. These groups live in cities, towns, and kibbutzim the through out all of Israel, and recently have even founded two new kibbutzim: Ravid and Eshbal. This movement is a subsidiary of the Histadrut, the general workers union. As such, it welcomes into itself anyone who wants to join, without any preconditions.
International Habonim Dror is our sister organization, and we also have relationships with youth labor unions, youth movements and social organizations for youth all around the world.
The movement's mission as we move into the next millenium is to develop models of cooperative life (in addition to the kibbutz), to assist the weaker social sectors, to absorb tens of thousands of immigrant youth, and to continue the struggle for the image of Israeli society as a more just society, egalitarian, democratic, tolerant, Zionist, and peace loving-all this under crisis conditions that are threatening the very wholeness of Israeli society.
Working and Studying Youth in the 21st century is a dynamic organization that is able to build and maintain a base of new, high-quality activity across many age groups, reaching most parts of the population throughout the country, once again giving rise to the dimension of cooperation, voluntarism, and social action in Israeli society, looking toward the vision and dream of a better Israeli society.