Jul 18, 2018

Posted by: Kelsey O'Hara

Yom Israel!

Session 1, Day 7

It has now been a week since the first day of Session 3. Seven days in which Ranch Camp has already become a home to many, and cemented its place in the hearts of those who are returning. In only those seven days, the bonds between campers have been created quickly and strongly, and kids have grown in ways they may never have expected.

In any other session, the kids’ time at camp would be halfway over. This is what makes Session 3 so special, the thing that sets it apart from the others – instead of two weeks, the kids stay at camp for 19 days. Though an extra five days may not seem like much, it allows for a much wider array of programming and activities that the other sessions, though special in their own right, don’t have time for. This was especially apparent today, as this was the first special program day of the session – Israel Day!

During Sessions 1 and 2, the Israel Day festivities took place only in the afternoon. This session, Israel Day was, as the name should suggest, a full-day affair. After a breakfast of shakshuka and pita, the campers willingly put their usual daily activities on hold to travel around to different stations, designed to help the kids learn about and connect to the country that seems to some so distant. Throughout the morning, campers participated in activities that taught them about the language, geography, and culture of Israel. They played games, won competitions, flexed their artistic muscles, and even got a chance to make their own pita.

Lunch was just as exciting as breakfast – tahini chicken, another new food that was surprisingly popular. Feeling full and refreshed, the camp was excited to jump into the afternoon’s activity – not the regularly scheduled chugs, but a camp-wide game. A combination of Mission Impossible and Ranch Camp Idol, it was reminiscent of some popular evening programs, but with an Israeli twist. Cabins worked together to find the Israeli counselors hiding around the campus. Once located, they dressed them up in funny costumes, and then took some time to choreograph a dance to a song. However, these were not just any songs, but songs that are popular in Israeli, another way to help kids connect to the foreign culture. The dances were incredible, each group’s unique, a display of their own personalities.

But Israel Day was not yet over. With spirits high from the performances, the campers retreated to their cabins to prepare for the shuk. Each cabin created their own product to sell at the traditional Israeli market, ranging from friendship bracelets to hot chocolate, hair braiding to paper pet adoption.

This is one of the more popular evening programs, and once there, it’s easy to see why. With their monopoly-money shekels, each camper was able to choose what they wanted to buy. Not only did they get a taste of financial responsibility and the opportunity to choose what they spent their money on, they also got to see the effects of their hard work as campers from other cabins came to their table in excitement.

It was a full day, filled with activity and fun, and everyone fell asleep quickly, worn out but with smiles on their faces. Israel Day is always fun, but the fun is only a part of what makes it so important. It is a day to help kids and staff alike connect with a country that is such an important thing in the lives of many Jews, but something that can be difficult to relate to in such a political climate. At camp, kids can ask questions and learn about Israel without judgement, and focus on the culture, geography, and history of the country in an environment of acceptance and support.