Our winning stories

We asked our chalutzim to write a short story about a moment they had at camp this summer.  Over the next few weeks we will be posting all these stories on this blog.  In the meantime, here are the two that won our contest.   Each of these campers will have the opportunity to tell their story at our gala event in Denver on December 12th.

By Nomi Small

I sped up the hill, through a maze of knee high grass and fallen trees. “Come on guys!” I laughed as I turned back to see my Ohel still at the bottom of the hill. Once everyone made it, our two counselors told us to sit and look at the view.

On the field two or three Ohalim– our version of bunks- were playing and the others were sitting in a circles in front of the cafeteria. The grounds keeper was driving up the dirt road, the horses were munching at the grass, and I think I remember two counselors hammering on the roof of the barn. Between hills we could see boulders and a blood orange sky.

“We wanted to take you here because we knew that this picture will stay with you forever.” explained one of our counselors.

After the picture sank in and the darkness began to grow, our counselors brought us down to the foot of the hill. We sat, told a story or two, and then they told us to close our eyes.

In a day in a half we would finish the first month ever at Ramah Outdoor Adventure and head back home to one of seventeen different states. I stepped off the bus a month before admittedly nervous for my first overnight camp experience; this went above and beyond my wildest dreams. I learned outdoor skills, went on excursions, and created great friendships. In the entire time I was at camp, I was only upset once when my team didn’t win color war; it was rare to find me without a smile. Something was changing though. I was surrounded by the camp atmosphere, but it was already starting to feel like a memory.

We were told to open our eyes and we began to half hum, half sing a tune. Something thick, heavy, and warm coated my throat; the corners of my eyes were hot, and I began to sing just above my breath.

The darkness began to settle and our counselors told us it was time to head back. My friends jumped to their feet and started walking. I slowly got up, sighed, and fell behind the others up the path.

Glancing forward, I saw my counselors just ahead holding hands and laughing, and my friends all smiling and talking.How are they all happy right now? This is the end of our last Shabbat at camp. I sighed and the lump in my throat grew. Notice me, I thought to my counselors as I let my vision blur. I hung my head and kicked the dirt with my sneakers.

At some point my counselors looked back. I pretended not to notice as they let go of each others hands and came back to sandwich me between them.

“Small, why are you so sad?” my Israeli counselor asked.

“I don’t want to leave. There’s nothing waiting for me at home.” I choked through the tears.

We stopped and they let me collect myself. My Israeli counselor took my hand and turned so we were facing each other.

“Do you know what we say in Hebrew?”

“No,” I sniffled.

“It’s not over, it’s just the end.” she said. I couldn’t help but let a hint of a smile cross my face.

“I know, it’s just, I don’t want it to end,” I said, blowing my nose on my hand and wiping it off on my shorts.

My other counselor slipped her hand into my snot covered one, and we began to walk towards camp again.

“Let’s sing!” said my Israeli counselor. “The whole wide world is a very narrow bridge…”

And that’s how we went back into camp; the three of us, holding hands, singing, and smiling. “…And the main thing is to have no fear at all.”

I’ve been back from camp since July and I miss camp more than I missed my family when I was there. I’ll be running and the girl scouts camp will remind me of base camp, a hill will remind me of my counselor who preferred uphills to down. I’ll pass Mexicans playing soccer and then I’ll remember my friend who plays goalie. And whenever I take my inhaler, I’ll think of my friend who really struggled with her asthma on excursion. And that’s only during cross country. On the other hand, at least it’s only 249 days until I can go back.

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IMG_5474 matt-with-stick-on-mountain

By Elyssa Brezel

I can almost see it, that dream I’m dreaming.

My moral drops as I approach another steep hill. The top seems so far away, too far. I wipe my sweaty forehead and keep going.

There’s a voice inside my head saying, “You’ll never reach it.”

I’m hot, I’m tired, and I want to quit. I want to be back at camp making paper in omanut with Katharine. I want to be anywhere but here.

Every step I’m taking, every move I make feels lost with no direction.

I quit; I’m a failure. I stop my bike and slowly begin trekking upward with my bike in hand. I feel lower than ever, but I deserve it. I can’t do this. I’m not a biker. I’m not meant for this.

My faith is shaking, but I gotta keep trying, gotta keep my head held high.

Up front, four have already conquered this hill. They’re done. They’re winners. Behind me, three are hot, exhausted, and walking their bikes. Next to me, Louie struggles but refuses to raise the white flag. He’s intensely focused despite the pain written across his face. He keeps on pedaling. He keeps on going.

There’s always gonna to be another mountain.

I swing back onto my bike. I remind myself of how many hills I have conquered in just three days. A hill in middle-of-nowhere, Colorado is nothing compared to what I’m made of. I’m strong and determined. I think of those cruel swim practices I faced during swim season. I think of how I conquered them all, and I remember that I’ll conquer this too.

I’m always gonna to want it make it move.

I exhale deeply and look at how far I have left to go before I reach the Promised Land. I look back and see what I did entirely by myself; no one did it for me. I can do this.

Always gonna be an uphill battle.

With all the energy I have left after five days of rafting and biking, I throw myself into this. I remember what my mom cheered to me as when I learned to ride a bike. Pedal to the medal.

Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose.

I think of that Nike commercial: everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you going to get up? I’m back on my bike; nothing is stopping me now.

Ain’t about how fast I get there.

I’m not the best biker of the pack, but I still get to eat dinner every night. No one cares about my speed or skills. They care about me as a friend, and that’s all that matters.

Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side.

I hear the finished bikers cheer for me as I give it everything I have. I began this trip as a strong person, but I’m now even stronger for persevering through the most mentally taxing thing life’s ever thrown at me.

It’s the climb.

“Congrats!” Elliot high-fives me. “You did that like a champ!”

That’s because I am one.

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