One of the core values of Ramah Outdoor Adventure is that Chalutzim (campers) will feel connected to the land and people of Israel, articulate how their lives are impacted by Israel and its citizens’ choices, and be able to engage in conversations about Israeli society. We accomplish this goal through a variety of methods: we hire a number of Chevrei Mishlachat (Israeli staff members) to work at camp. We bring Israeli chalutzim to camp. We sing Israeli songs, hang Israeli flags, conduct learning sessions about Israel related topics, and use Israel themes throughout much of our program.
Each session, we also have a Yom Yisrael (Israeli day). Part of this day often contains a game, such as yesterday morning activity when the chalutzim had to escape to Palestine without being caught by the British. We used the upper part of our camp (about 75 acres) as the “playing field.” Other aspects of Yom Yisrael are more discussion based, such as yesterday’s program with the Bogrim (9/10th graders) on what it means to be “pro‑Israel.” We examined recent op-ed pieces by Yossi Beilin advocating for the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, thereby ending the “interim agreement” created during the Oslo Accords and by Dani Dayan who advocates for continued settlement expansion, and an acknowledgement that Judea and Samaria will forever remain a part of a Jewish Israel. A fascinating discussion ensued based upon the broad spectrum of thought enumerated by each of these Israeli leaders.
While the day has ended and these programs have concluded, one physical aspect of our Israel education begun this year will remain for years to come. Over the past six weeks, our chevre mishlachat have been working on creating a Ramah version of the Shviel Yisrael (Israeli trail). The Israeli trail stretches 580 miles from Eilat to the Hermon. The Ramah version of the trail stretches around 1.5 miles and takes us from the animal barn in the south to the border of Pike National Forest in the northern part of our ranch. Throughout the trail there are numerous red, white and orange signs, modeled on their Israeli counterparts to delineate the path. Along the route are many plaques that name an area through which the actual Israel trail passes along with facts about that area. In this way, our chalutzim are able to “visit” many sites along the 580 mile trail and learn about their historical and cultural significance to the land of Israel.
Yesterday, on Yom Yisrael, we held the official ribbon cutting for the Ramah Shviel Yisrael. Each group of chalutzim had a chance to visit a few sign markers. Over the next week of this camp season and for years to come, we look forward to having our chalutzim hike the entire trail and learn about all the different regions of Israel through which the original trail passes. We hope that our chalutzim’s experience on the Shviel Yisrael will continue when they hike the actual trail during visits to Israel, perhaps as part of the inaugural group of Ramah Seminar Adventure, which will begin for our entering 12th grade chalutzim next year in Israel as an option on the broader Ramah Seminar program.