What an amazing first full day of programming!  Today began at 6:00am when our chalutzim awoke for the first time at the Chava.  It was a relatively warm morning (60s) with crystal clear blue skies.  We began with Teffilot (prayers) followed by a relatively light Shmirat Hagoof (physical exercise).  Today, our chalutzim had a full day of programming.  In addition to our regular activities from session I (wilderness survival/orienteering, biking, horseback riding, gardening/service projects, wilderness arts and crafts and climbing) we debuted three new activities that were wildly popular.  Our M’tayalim chalutzim (entering 6th/7th grade) had a chance to do mining in one of our two rock mines.  (In fact one chalutz found a small piece of topaz!)  Our Sollelim and Bogrim chalutzim (entering 8-10th grades) had a chance to do duathelon training and also to go on exploratory hikes around our ranch with Stevo.  These three new activities have so far proven to be very popular.  Despite an afternoon thunderstorm (followed by a cool rainbow) all the programs ran as planned today.

Because this was the first programming day, our instructors spent much of each initial lesson going over safety protocols for the sport.  For example, in the barn, the students learned how to approach a horse and lead it around an arena.  On the bikes the beginner groups learned how to change gears on sand and how to stop on a downhill, while the more advanced groups hit some of our trails including trail etiquette.  And in our climbing program, the chalutzim practiced fastening their harnesses and learning basic belay language.

We have been emphasizing the need to constantly drink water during these first few days on the Chava.  Because we are 7800 feet above sea level, a normal person needs to drink at least 4 liters a day just to begin to acclimate.  Ideally we have told them that they should be drinking closer to 6 liter each day at the chava. We insist that the chalutzim walk around with their water bottles and we take frequent breaks throughout the program day.

The food so far has been amazing!    We hired an additional cook in the kitchen, and she has assisted the three existing kitchen staff members to make even meals than we had first session.  Our salad bar has also grown to include a wider variety of produce and condiments than it had first session.  I could not believe my eyes today when I looked and saw our youngest campers taking full plates of salad even though we also had enchiladas beans and rice as the main course.

Tonight we began our day long observance of Tisha baav.  After a delicious prefast meal, we all walked to the beit am (social hall) to listen to the Aicha and to sing slow songs.  As chalutzim walked into the beit am, they were greeted with the tune of Alie Tzion and the site of dozens of burning candles.  All of our chalutzim stayed for the reading of Aicha, although only our oldest Edah remained for singing of songs.  Just as we saw during first session, by 9:00pm most of our chalutzim were exhausted and wanting to go to sleep.

Tomorrow is a special programming day in camp.  Our staff has arranged for a day of educational activities that will empower the chalutzim to examine what Tisha-baav means for a modern Jew and why is it that we continue to commemorate this day as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

On Wednesday we return to our normal programming.