by Lisa Tenenbaum, Director of Israel Engagement
Israel learning at camp is an integral part of our Jewish education program, and we are proud of the way we teach Israel to our campers. Throughout the past few years, we have worked to develop and elevate our Israel education program in consultation with the Goodman Initiative as well as professional development with the URJ’s Israel team. The pillars of Israel Education at Crane Lake Camp are that it is:
- a vital element of a Reform Jewish identity
- integrated into the fabric of camp as a part of the lived experience in the summer
- built on personal relationships and ongoing cultural exchange
- presented with multiple narratives, perspectives, and stories
- interactive and experiential
This Wednesday, our Erev Yisrael (Israel evening) was the epitome of all of these values. Our campers experienced Israel spirit all day by dressing in blue and white and enjoying hummus for lunch and shakshuka for dinner. We began our morning t’filah by singing Am Yisrael Chai, and the Israeli counselors shared their thoughts about what it is like to be an Israeli.
The evening program particularly highlighted the experiential nature of our education program, as camp was transformed into 1930’s Palestine under the British Mandate, and campers became the chalutzim (pioneers) of some of the first Zionist settlements and kibbutzim. From 1936-1939, pioneers that were already living in the pre-state of Israel, as well as many new immigrants, helped to establish 54 new settlements in the Northern part of Israel. They were a tower with stockade, or choma u’ migdal in Hebrew. Even though the government of the British Mandate did not allow building at this time, the pioneers were able to circumvent the regulations because of an old Ottoman law. Check out our film above that explains this fascinating period in Israel’s history with our staff and campers as the stars!
After seeing the video, our “pioneer campers” were given instructions about building their tower and stockade. Each group had to write a cheer using three Hebrew words, and create the map of Israel using their bodies before they could receive their building materials. Once the activities were complete, each group built their own stockade. Campers used the supplies given, as well as items they collected around camp to build their fortresses. Just as the chalutzim experienced challenges while building the future State of Israel, campers were given specific challenges to follow such as building silently and only sending one team member at a time. Watch our video below to experience the program alongside the campers!
We closed the evening by singing Hatikvah and remembering how the hard work of those pioneers helped to create the State of Israel. We are so lucky to have a group of talented Israeli staff, that can help us learn more about Israel’s past while they share their stories of Israel’s present and hopes for the future. By experiencing Israel’s history first-hand, campers better understood this historical moment in the founding of the State of Israel.
Lisa Tenenbaum is the Director of Israel Engagement and Rosh Mishlachat. This is her 7th summer as part of the Limud Team, and her 17th summer as part of the Leadership Team at Crane Lake. It is her job to enable both campers and staff to learn about Israel, and to help them develop meaningful connections to Israel. She lives in Wellington, Florida with her husband Barry. Her three children are all CLC alumni who remain active and committed members of the Jewish community.