Campers Explore What Israel Means to Them at the Jewish Agency Summer Camp in Yekaterinburg, Russia
This summer camp was devoted to deepening the campers' connection to Israel.
The counselors, both local and Israeli, were a resource for the participants. By sharing their personal stories, lecturing on life in Israel, and leading group discussions, the counselors made Israel come alive for campers, many of whom have never visited the far-away Jewish State.
Campers were encouraged to explore their connection to Israel
Another way the campers learned about Israel was by playing a simulation game called "Sochnut TV." The campers became journalists and excitedly ran around the camp collecting stories and interviewing fellow campers, counselors, and other staff members – all in preparation for a special TV broadcast on the State of Israel.
The special atmosphere of the camp enabled the campers to express
their personal attitudes towards Israel and strengthen their bond to the country.
Interviews with campers:
"Hi, my name is Katya Zlatkina and I am 15 years old. This is my second time at a Jewish Agency camp. Just as last time, I am very pleased and already want to return to camp next year. I liked the way this camp was organized and the topics we discussed. We respond to questions in a different way than at school. Here at camp, we are encouraged to develop our own ideas. The camp is the only place where I can talk about being Jewish and learn about Jewish history and tradition.
Soon, I'm moving to a city where there is a Jewish Agency youth club. I now want to attend a youth club because it will bring me closer to Shabbat, its traditions, the Jewish people.
As long as a Jewish woman lights the candles for Shabbat, as long as a Jewish man chants the blessing over the wine and challah, as long as a Jewish family is alive, then our history, tradition, and the Jewish people has a future. "
Katya performs a song she wrote following camp last summer. The song is called "Shabbat Candles." With other campers clapping to the music, she says, "After the Shabbat service, everyone wishes each other a "Shabbat Shalom" and there is an atmosphere of unity and a sense that we are all one big family."
Lighting Shabbat candles at JAFI camp
"My name is Ilya Tzalo. It's very difficult for me to write a short letter about this amazing camp.
One of the most important aspects of camp for me is that we are all Jews. It means that we are both friends and family. It's an amazing feeling that you are among the same people as you. I never had such a chance before. You begin to feel not just among friends. No! You begin to feel part of a new family – even if we come here for a short time - but the dialogue, which arose in the camp, has moved into everyday life, even after we return home. This feeling of family, unity with other Jews, their faith and culture is not missing at home anymore. Going to the summer camp inspires us to want to be active year-round in our local Jewish community and at the Jewish Agency.
Now everyone I met at the camp wants to surf the net for materials about Jewish tradition, watch the movies from a list that we got when we talked about the Holocaust, and buy a Russian-Hebrew dictionary. Hebrew is heard in the camp all the time. Here, many of us come to the synagogue and pray for the first time. It is not about mechanically repeating the ancient texts, it's about truly praying and letting the words into your soul. When we experience the prayer that way, we feel that millions of Jews around the world are sharing the same experience and we are one people and one family."
"This was my first Jewish summer camp. In the past, I participated in seminars and community events but never came to a camp. Everything is different for me here. The atmosphere is very warm and discussion topics fascinating. I knew a bit about Jewish history and tradition before, but I learned lots more here.
July 11 – 18, 2010 / Av 5770