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I spent the past couple of days with some scouts from Israel. They do things very differently than we do and some of it is very impressive. Here's my understanding of their program.

Scouting in Israel goes from 4th grade through 12th grade. There is only one program. So no cubs, just scouts. It's essentially our webelos and scouts combined. The scouts I talked to said that scouts is very popular in Israel.

There are very few adults involved. My impression is it's somewhat like the venturing model where the adults are advisors at best but mostly take care of support. Note that the venturing model assumes older scouts, 19-21, whereas the Israeli model is doing this with 16-18 year old scouts. A big difference is that adults are never around for more than about 6 years. They typically start around age 24 and are gone by 30. I'm not sure but I think they're paid. Probably not much and that might be part of why they leave.

There are no ranks. I didn't hear anything about badges. I'm under the impression that requirements are a lot fuzzier than what we're used to. There is a book of skills and characteristics that scouts should work on but the program is not defined nearly as in as much detail as what we get with ranks and merit badges. The scouts that lead get to decide what it is they will cover.

A unit is called a tribe and is much larger than what we're used to. One scout I talked to came from a tribe with about 700 scouts. That is not a typo. They all said that's typical. That means about 100 scouts per grade level (everything is by grade, age was never mentioned). Each grade from 4th to 9th is broken into what I'd call patrols of about 10 scouts. Rough guess is about 50 patrols in a tribe. The leaders of these patrols are the older scouts (10th - 12th grade). These leaders are grouped into teams and those teams are led by the oldest scouts. I think they're all called counselors. Each counselor decides the program for their patrol. They need approval from the older scouts that are above them. Something to think about is that with so many scouts they can't meet as a single unit. Everything has to be by patrol.

I'm under the impression that there are about a dozen adults helping with each tribe. Think of it, 12 adults for 700 scouts. They're job is mostly associated with money, so gear, dues, making reservations. Adults can get involved in training the older scouts and advising the oldest scouts. They can disapprove plans from the older scouts. To put it bluntly, the scouts own it. My visitors all made comments about how they wouldn't want to be in the BSA because they can't see how they could lead the way they are used to.

My visitors thought the BSA's summer camps with buildings and dining halls were preventing the best part of scouts, namely building their own. They got really excited about describing pioneering structures for summer camp. They prefer to start with an empty field and a pile of poles and rope.

The outdoors is not nearly as big a component in Israeli scouts compared to the BSA. Given the population density in Israel it makes sense. I talked to them about some of the high adventure trips I've done with my troop and they thought that was really cool.

The thing that impressed me the most about these scouts is their confidence at leadership. While they were typical, forgetful teenagers, they could lead. Their leadership development program seems much stronger than ours. I believe everyone goes through it. It starts in 9th grade with training. In 10th through 12th grade it's full time and takes on more and more. They must lead. There is no troop program that can bail them out. There are no den leaders or ASMs to pick up the slack. These positions are mostly handled by the 12th graders. Everyone knows they must lead when they hit 10th grade. Compare that to the BSA's program where training is a week at best and minimally requires 16 months, which can be such things as bugler or historian, which are less about leadership and more about responsibility.

I'm sure that the good SPLs from the BSA are as good as these scouts, but all of their scouts go through this leadership development while few boy scouts go through the best of the BSA's leadership program. They seem to understand how to implement scout led better than we do. I may be missing some important details but I was impressed. All the things I've grown uncomfortable with in the BSA, focus on advancement and adults that won't step back, have been easily dealt with. The biggest problem I have with it is I wouldn't be allowed to go camping with them. For the betterment of our program I could live with that.

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Was this the Tzofim Friendship Caravan?

They've passed through our council camps on multiple occasions, and gave me a similar impression to yours. I also visited a show that they gave at a local synagogue. They are very talented youth. (The caravan patches are really nice too.)

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5 minutes ago, qwazse said:

Was this the Tzofim Friendship Caravan?

Yep. They're in the U.S. for 3 months. They'd been here a month and the day they were at my house was the first day they had down. So I mostly let them be, fed them good food, and had a campfire in my back yard. They didn't do their show. Another group was in town a few years ago but I was on a high adventure trip.

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