Jan 2008 Journal

previous article:Book review: The standard text for the history of Pankow Jewry
next article:Letter from Israel

Letter from Israel

The spirit of romance is not yet dead, it would seem - not even in Israel

In this age of cynicism and computers, when the younger generation seems to have lost its sense of innocence and seems no longer to retain any romantic ideals, the following incident serves to confound the pessimists. It constitutes a telling illustration of the lengths to which one young man was prepared to go in order to propose to his lady love in the most original and memorable way. My teenage granddaughter, who is active in Israel’s Scouts, was a participant in - but not the object of - this incident, so I can vouch for its veracity.

In common with other youth movements, the Scouts in Israel play a prominent role in the lives of Israel’s youngsters. The movement, which is apolitical and strives to inculcate values of independence, social awareness and responsibility, provides a framework which unites young people who live in the same area by bringing them together for weekly meetings, as well as fostering contacts between youngsters from different social and regional backgrounds at camps and outings held during the school holidays. By doing this, it cuts across ethnic and cultural barriers to forge a common bond among the many different segments of Israeli society. The vast majority of its members are of school age, though some of its paid officials and functionaries are somewhat older, having completed their military service. It goes without saying that there are close contacts between Jewish and Arab scouts in Israel, as well as between the movement in Israel and its sister-movements in other countries.

It is customary for the movement in Israel to mark important milestones, such as Independence Day or the induction of a fresh intake of nine-year-olds, with a rally involving the entire local membership. The rally itself generally involves singing and an address of some kind, culminating in the ceremonial torching of a prepared inscription made of wire and jute. Of course, for safety reasons the inscription is set at a height which ensures that none of the participants is at risk. Considerable thought, planning and energy goes into the preparation of these occasions, which serve to heighten social cohesion and augment members’ identification with the organisation.

One bright spark (pun intentional) who is active in the movement thought up a plan to use this device to propose to his girlfriend, Moran. In the strictest secrecy, and with the co-operation and hard work of about ten junior youth-leaders, an inscription was prepared in the course of several hours one Friday. That evening, when everything was ready, the young man invited Moran out and suggested that they eat at a nearby restaurant. On the way, one of his tyres developed a ‘puncture’. The car came to a halt at the side of the road and the two young people got out, supposedly to attend to it.

At that moment, the young man went down on one knee and held out the ring he had prepared in advance, the signal was given and the torch was set to the inscription, which read ‘Moran, will you marry me?’ Moran looked up and got the message. With tears of joy in her eyes, she accepted the proposal.

The youngsters who had worked to prepare the inscription also shed tears of joy as they emerged from their hiding place and congratulated the young couple. Ever practical, they lost no time in expressing the hope that in due course they would also be invited to the wedding.

I must confess, there were tears in my eyes, too, when I heard the story.

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

previous article:Book review: The standard text for the history of Pankow Jewry
next article:Letter from Israel