At 'Camp Palmach,' Kids Relive Militia's Glory Days

The activities centered on the experiences of the fighters of the Palmach, who struggled against the British to found the State of Israel.

A group of youngsters with British accents emerged from the thicket of old eucalyptus trees along the banks of Nahal Hashiva, an area that sits between Kfar Tavor and Kfar Shibli. Erel Moatti, a fourth grader from Kfar Tavor, and his fellow classmates waited for them to begin moving away from the thicket - this was their signal.

Children at  “Camp Palmach,” near Kfar Tavor.
Yaron Kaminsky

Moatti, outfitted with green camouflage and face-paint, explained the reasoning behind his appearance. "I'm a spy," he said. "This means we're battling the British. If we manage to infiltrate the British camp, then we win. They taught us how to break in during the day, quietly."

Moatti and 70 other third and fourth grade students participated last week in "Palmach Week," staged by Kfar Tavor's branch of Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, a youth organization founded by the Labor Zionist movement. The culmination of the event, "Camp Palmach," took place over the weekend.

The activities centered on the experiences of the fighters of the Palmach - the elite strike force of the Haganah, the prestate underground Jewish militia - who struggled against the British to found the State of Israel.

"The campers complete a variety of tasks, including acting as brigade commanders, forming factions and serving as go-betweens," said Hadar Saks, a youth group coordinator and counselor. "During the week we inculcate the Palmach values - which are geared toward developing a good and model society, and not just creating a soldier who is an effective fighter."

"The children of Kfar Tavor grow up on the legend of Yigal Allon, who was a native son of the village and a Palmach commander, but they don't know much about that period of time or the values of the Palmach," Saks said.

In the three days leading up to the camp, the children studied the history of the Palmach. They were given quizzes and held campfires that hearkened back to the days of the Palmach, during which they sang songs and told stories that glorified the kibbutz movement.

Some children were initially unsure of whether they wanted to attend the camp. "I had to decide between going to camp or staying in front of the television, going to the pool and playing with friends," Moatti said.

This past weekend, though, there was Moatti: on the ground, near the thicket on Nahal Hashiva, which is named after the seven Palmach members killed in the battle for Beit Keshet. The eucalyptus trees stand adjacent to the Kadoorie Agricultural High School, many of whose graduates enlisted in the Palmach - including Yigal Allon, Eli Ben-Zvi (the son of former president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi ), Yitzhak Rabin, Haim Gouri and others.

"We're proud to be from the town where Yigal Allon was born," said one camper, Noah Pivnik. "It's really cool."