June 18, 2021
It happened! Yesterday morning, under a blazing hot sun, we swung open our gates to welcome the first of 425+ chalutzim who will be coming through our camp this summer. Tzevet (staff) lined up on the migrash (field), some in costume, to unload bags and welcome chalutzim back to our transformed ranch. They checked in at our new mirpa’ah (wellness center), met their new ohel (tent) mates, and had a delicious pizza dinner in our new chadarie ochel (dining halls). Due to our Covid protocols, we did not have our traditional opening campfire, and instead opted for ohel bonding which allowed everyone to go to sleep having had at least a few conversations with their ohel-mates.
This morning, I was awoken by the sound of younger campers chatting with each other at 6:00 am. While the tzevet (staff) and I would have prefered for everyone to have slept in later, their voices signaled the excitement felt by so many to be (back) at camp (as well as their apparent jet lag). This morning we started our regular programming with chalutzim riding bikes, climbing on the bouldering wall, learning outdoor skills, and caring for our farm animals. As planned, each ohel is rotating through activities with their ohel-mates and madrichim (counselors). Overall, chalutzim and tzevet are in incredible spirits; they are excited to be back in community and hanging out with friends old and new. Before sitting down to write this, I walked through our lower tent circle where I saw one bunk of boys playing in our Ohel Koby game tent and another playing in the gaga pit. On Sunday and Monday, we will be retesting all chalutzim for Covid. If we have no cases, we hope to expand our cohorts to include an entire edah (age group). In the meantime, it is nice to see everyone’s smiling faces outside, something that many of us have not seen in over a year.
As I sit here on my front porch, I can hear the sounds of happy children playing on the migrash (field) and watching our operations crew setting up for Kabbalat Shabbat in the Pardes Tefillah. Chalutzim are beginning to shower by ohel, changing into white shirts, and preparing to spend our first Shabbat together. Tonight we will have a more subdued Shabbat dinner, with singing, birchat hamazon and dessert happening by edah in a more socially distanced fashion. Tomorrow we hope to have a relaxing Shabbat with a late wakeup, teffilot by edah and organized freetime. The heat wave that we have been experiencing over the past ten days has finally broken with more seasonal temperatures expected in the coming days. Sunday brings a full day of programming in both our regular program areas, and some special activities such as cardboard fort building, bug-catching and spike ball.
Since last August we have been preparing to reopen camp amidst this ongoing pandemic, and our planning has paid off. Our program is taking into account local health regulations, new scientific understandings about COVID, and most importantly, creating a warm and fun environment in which our campers and staff can flourish. Just over 24 hours into this unprecedented summer, I can say that we are on our way to having an amazing season where chalutzim and tzevet will grow spiritually, intellectually, and physically, all while being part of a joyous Jewish community.