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      Op-Ed: To Fear or Not to Fear at the Jamboree

      Published: Sunday, February 09, 2003 11:57 PM
      With nearly 30,000 scouts attending the World Scout Jamboree in Sattahip, in the Chonburi Province of Thailand, it would make sense that a tiny contingent of less than 300 scouts, who cancelled at the last minute, would not be missed.


      With nearly 30,000 scouts attending the World Scout Jamboree in Sattahip, in the Chonburi Province of Thailand, it would make sense that a tiny contingent of less than 300 scouts, who cancelled at the last minute, would not be missed.

      Not so. The Israeli contingent was missed.

      Every four years, in a different host country, scout organizations for youth, from approximately 100 countries around the world, get together at tremendously large campsites for twelve days, to participate in programs of non-competitive sports, survival adventures, science expos and religious encounters. The scouts see this event as a chance for youth, ages 14-18, to come together and share in universally valuable youth experiences.

      At the previous two World Scout Jamborees, in Holland and Chile, the Israeli scouts made their impression. Eight years ago, the Jamboree was facing the decision of whether or not to allow Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza to be recognized as a delegation from Palestinian territories. This year, there was a contingent flying the Palestinian flag, but, due to fear of a terrorist attack, there was no contingent under the Israeli flag.

      One of the popular sites at the Jamboree is the Cross-Cultural Center. In the 1999 Jamboree in Chile, the Israeli scouts shared the booth with representatives of Tzivos Hashem, the children?s organization of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, who are involved with scouting.

      ?The Israelis would tell visitors at the booth about the Land of Israel and we would tell them about Jewish religion and heritage. It was a good partnership. Even though the Boy Scout movement in Eretz Yisroel is not a religious movement, the Chabad youth and Israeli scouts all got along fine, everyone was happy working together,? reports Rabbi Shlomo Goldfarb, one of the four-man team representing Tzivos Hashem at the Thailand Jambroree, himself a member of the Order of the Arrow, a coveted status in the Boy Scouts of America. ?This year, when the Israelis cancelled, we missed them. Another Jewish organization tried to replace them, but it wasn?t the same.?

      The Tzivos Hashem team were not the only ones to miss the Israeli scouts. ?There was a buzz about their absence,? said Rabbi Pinny Gniwish of Montreal, recipient of the National Shofar Award for his work with Jewish youth in the Boy Scouts of America, at the Jamboree with Tzivos Hashem.

      ?At previous Jamborees, the Israeli scouts stood out. Jewish scouts from other nations would feel pride to be near the Israelis and rush to befriend them. Non-Jews were impressed to see that Israel was standing in her place in the brotherhood of nations, as a nation with universal values of goodness,? says Eagle Scout Michoel Albukerk of Tzivos Hashem. ?The State of Israel has always given Jews in the Diaspora a feeling of pride, confidence and security. As the Oslo disease continues to spread, Israel was the only country to withdraw from the Jamboree because of fear. This is clearly another victory for terror.?

      The World Jamboree is a vehicle for brotherhood and world unity, but without the Israelis, the public relations turned out to be very one-sided. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Walid al-Shatle, the head of the Arab scouts from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as saying, ?We came here to do scouting, not to talk about politics, but if someone asks me what is happening in the Middle East, of course I tell him my story. The Israeli army demolished my house. My wife is expecting. She?s got twins. Only G-d knows how we will feed them. But I still hope we will have peace sometime soon.?

      Note: al-Shatle does not know how he will feed his twins, but he had the luxury of being at the Jamboree. And he didn?t even have to worry about having his head blown off. But somehow that didn?t get published.

      Goldfarb, who was preparing programs for the Israeli scouts, until they withdrew, was in contact with Naaman Shahada of Hatzrot Yasaf, a Druze village between Nahariya and Akko. Shahada is the leader of the Druze scouts, who wanted to attend the Jamboree. ?Shahada was pressuring me to get a statement from the Boy Scouts of America that they would bring all their scouts, in hopes that the Israeli contingent would follow suit,? said Goldfarb. ?The Druze very much wanted to go as part of the Israeli contingent.?

      The statement from the Americans was never received and the Israelis gave their final decision to retreat. In the end, the Americans did send a contingent, but only a fraction of the size originally planned. The King of Sweden, who is a scout, attended and so did the King of Thailand.

      Despite the terror alerts, and the discouraging news that the Israeli scouts would not be in attendance, Tzivos Hashem was there, and so was the Chief Rabbi of Thailand, Chabad shaliach, Rabbi Yosef Kantor. ?We had a true shlichus at the Jamboree, we were on a mission from the Rebbe,? explained Gniwish. ?Shluchim of the Rebbe take precautions. Then, we get on with the job and carry on without fear.?

      Though small in number, the Tzivos Hashem contingent was able to work on positive public relations for Jews and for Eretz Yisroel, as well as servicing the dozens of Jews at the Jamboree from New Zealand, Switzerland, Belgium, Chile, France, England, Argentina, the United States and Canada.

      On New Year?s Eve, there was a special arena program in which tens of thousands of scouts gathered together to hear advice and blessings from a variety of religious leaders. Rabbi Kantor, in his long coat, black hat and full beard, addressed the crowd. Having lived in Thailand for ten years, Kantor began his presentation in Thai, endearing himself to the crowd, before speaking in English. He explained how the numbers of the auspicious day of their gathering, 1/1/2003, added up to seven. He told them that seven is the code of the world, which was created in seven days. And inside this code are seven laws for all nations to observe. He briefly explained the seven laws given to Noach as the way to bring the world to an era of peace.

      ?And now we need a Call to Action,? he said. ?Call to Action? is a common scout term. Then, he pulled out a long, curved Yemenite shofar and blew loud, long blasts. When he stepped down, it was amidst enthusiastic applause.

      ?The Israelis were missed. They give hizuk, inspiration, to the Jewish scouts who come from faraway countries, and they make such a good impression on all the scouts,? said Rabbi Shmueli Gutnick from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who interrupted his rabbinic studies in South Africa to be the third member of the Tzivos Hashem team. ?We really hope they will join us at the World Jamboree 2007 in England? notwithstanding the arrival of the Geula Shlaima in the meantime.?
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      Aliza Karp writes about issues of concern to the Jewish world, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe's perspective on defending Israel, with special focus on the Jewish community of Hebron.