Jun 15, 2018

Posted by: Emily Reilly

Farewell Chalutzim!

Session 1, Day 8

Seven days ago, the campers of session one gathered at the Denver Jewish Day School to load the buses, or took the long drive up to camp with their parents, maybe nervous but excited as well. Now a week has gone by, and in that time, campers have already participated in activities they never thought possible, done things they never thought they would be able to do, made connections with people from all over the world, and created memories that will last a lifetime.

This morning, however, started with a tinge of sadness, as we said goodbye to our mini campers. Though they only stay for a week, they left their mark on the camp, and will be missed by many. Tears were shed as they finished their last meal, not only by the minis but by their friends in other cabins, and staff members as well. Though they had only known each other for a week, the friendships they made will last years, and the many goodbyes were heartfelt. The camp put their hands together to form a tunnel for the minis to go through as they sang a goodbye song, and then the entire Chalutzim unit gathered in the commons for one last song circle before the vans were loaded and parents arrived.

For the rest of the camp, morning activities continued as usual – but the afternoon held a special program in store. With ten staff members from Israel, signs for an “Israel Trail” in the Outer 400, and the Israeli flag flying right next to the American one, Israel has always been a part of Ranch Camp culture. So today was Israel Day, a celebration of the country that is so important to camp life.

The program started in the morning, when campers climbed the stairs of the Israeli-flag adorned Chad to a breakfast of shakshuka, a traditional Israeli breakfast food consisting of eggs poached in a flavorful tomato sauce with onion and pepper. The Israeli menu continued into the afternoon, with a lunch of falafel, pita, and tzatziki sauce. The meals were a prime example of the encouragement and support that Ranch Camp brings, as campers tried foods that were new to them and were surprised to find a new favorite dish.

After a restful menucha, cabins met in the commons as is usual – but instead of splitting up for chugs, they combined into their activity groups and traveled around camp to five different stations, where they played games to learn trivia about Israel, learned traditional dances, participated in an all-camp art project, and even made their own pita!

Israel Day came to a close with one last Israel-themed program. After dinner, campers went back to their cabins to prepare for the shuk, or market. Each group created goods to sell, and then gathered in the Chad to exchange what the others had made for monopoly-money style “shekels.” Campers could snack on brownies and lemonade, adopt a paper dog, get their hair or nails done, or play games with others. On the other side of the Chad campers burned off some steam before bed with Israeli dance, including a new dance that was introduced tonight.

Many of the experiences that campers get here are unique to camp, and Israel day is certainly no exception. As campers participated in the many activities, they got to learn about a different culture in an accepting and open environment, without judgement of their own background or the background of others. Ranch Camp is, above all, a safe place for kids to explore and express themselves and learn about their Jewish community all over the world, and today exemplified that perfectly.