Atara Kelman

So far, my trip to join the Chidon Hatanach in Israel has been more special than I could have anticipated. The combination of the competition, the touring and the wide variety of Jews makes the camp a special place.

The entire machane is really centered around the competition. We took a 60 question test on Thursday, and only 16 of us make it to the round on Yom Haatzmaut. It feels really great that I made it through to that round, and I was definitely having small heart palpitations when I was the last name they announced (supposedly random order). That said, for a lot of people here, the focus is less on the test, and more on becoming a part of an international community of Jews, and strengthening their connection to the land and state of Israel. There are people here from across Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Belarus, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Gibraltar, Czechia, Finland, Romania…), South America (Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia…), North America (Canada, US, Mexico), Australia, Israel, and South Africa. chidon-2016While everyone has some level of English or Hebrew, I could count another 10 languages people have conversations in. And along with a wide variety of cultures, there is a huge range in connection to, knowledge of, and observance of Judaism. While many people don’t keep Shabbat or know what Netialt Yadim is, almost everyone knows the Shweky tune of V’he Sh’amda. Not everyone comes to minyan in the morning, but those who do experience a different nusach of tfila each time.

We’ve been lucky enough that we’ve been getting some level of VIP treatment; we’ve meet with Natan Sharansky (who told us how his most meaningful Yom Haatzmaut was in a Soviet jail where Jewish prisoners delivered their Yom Haatzmaut addresses through their main means of communication: emptied to​il​et bowls), will be meeting with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and have gone to parks (and had fun sheppard-ing), museums (Yad Vashem was especially moving bec​a​use of ​the ​large European contingent), and many, many, hikes (including Masada).

With the final round this Thursday, plenty of cramming is certainly a large part of my time, but that’s not stopping us from enjoying ourselves and spending time engaged with the people of Israel, the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel.

Moadim l’simcha l’geula shleima!