Sometimes when we think of summer camp, we conjure up visions of meeting up with old and new friends, spending long, hot summer days at the pool or lake, playing fun games, and singing camp songs. At the Jewish Agency summer camps in the FSU, the campers do all the above and much more. Take the summer camp in Kharkov, Ukraine, for example. In this week-long camp, the campers not only met their friends, participated in sporting competitions and art and crafts activities but they also took part in a variety of seminars and workshops on a vast range of topics. In this camp, each day was devoted to a different theme as shown below in the camp schedule:
Day 1: Orientation to camp and introductions
Day 2: Personal and Jewish Identity
Day 3: The Jewry of Eastern and Western Europe between 19 and 20th centuries and the Jewish
Day 4: Zionism and the history of pre-State Israel
Day 5: Holocaust
Day 6: Declaration of the State of Israel and the Struggle for its Existence
Day 7: Our Pride and connection to Israel
Among the most notable days in the camp was Day 6. On this day, one of the main group activities was called the Information War which focused on current events in Israel. The highlight of this activity was when all the campers took part in a ceremony in support to Gilad Shalit and his family. There were small group discussions on the dilemmas surrounding prisoner swaps in exchange for captive Israeli soldiers and extensive talks about Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier being held captive by Hamas in Gaza. They expressed their concern for Gilad's welfare and wished him a quick and safe return home. During the ceremony, the "Erev Chag" song was played, which was written in Gilad's honor.
Each camper released a yellow balloon up into the sky, representing solidarity and unity with Gilad Shalit and his family.
Interviews with campers:
"My name is Sergey Vavilov and I am 18 years old from Lugansk in the eastern Ukraine. I'm sorry that I didn't come to this camp in the last years. It is very interesting here. I like the program and our counselors. A lot of my friends are here and the atmosphere is very warm and very Jewish. It is very important for me not to forget that I have Jewish roots, never forget the Holocaust, and understand and accept our culture and traditions. Israel for me is homeland, a state where I hope to live in one day. I'm looking forward to joining in the Taglit- birthright program."
Sergey Vavilov: "I have participated in the youth club in my town but this is
the first time I have come to a Jewish camp."
"Hi, I'm Vladimir Chahalev, and I am also 18 years old from Gorlovka in the eastern Ukraine. This is my fourth camp. There once was a Jewish Agency office in our town and that is how my parents found out about the Jewish summer camps. I try and come to all camps and seminars of the Jewish Agency.Now, the Jewish Agency office in our city no longer exists and I have don't have an opportunity to participate in the youth club.
To be a Jew for me means to know about Jewish traditions and history and interact with other Jews.
Israel for me is a wonderful country with an ancient history, where it is easy to breathe and which I don't want to leave. The country where I want to live ...
I'm planning to participate in the Jewish Agency activities in the city where I'll study and then, after I graduate, to come to Israel in the framework of MASA program.
Vladimir Chahalev: "At camp, I like the relationships between campers
and counselors, as well as everything I learn about the culture
and traditions of the Jewish people. This is almost the only place
where I can come in close encounter with my Jewishness
and that is why I like the camp environment so much."