29 Jun Faran, Summer Camp Shlichah
Ramah, My Home | August 20, 2021
One morning, as we were on a camping trip, I woke up hearing my camper Ava saying a sentence that describes my summer. She woke up, and said: “Ugh, stop! I hate these mosquitoes, I can’t wait to go back home. To our cabin.”
This sentence describes my summer. First, I too hate mosquitoes. And second, Camp Ramah in Canada, and especially cabin 41, is my family, my home.
Thank you for making my smile wider and my stomach hurt because of unstoppable laughter.
Thank you for making my dreams come true, and for the greatest summer ever!
It’s never enough, so I’ll definitely see you next summer!
And while I still hate mosquitoes, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being my HOME.
Survival Week | August 9, 2021
Sweat stains, bruised shoulders, sore knees and shaky legs.
It sounds like a description of something out of the military, but it’s actually just a brief description of the week of survival my and campers and I experienced.
“Faran, this is the hardest moment I’ve ever had,” one of my campers told me as she dragged the canoe on her back up the mountain.
The survival week included rowing for hours, carrying heavy equipment on our backs, sleeping outside, learning survival techniques and physical and mental difficulties alike.
It was without a doubt my most significant week with the campers. I never thought I would be with them during some of the most challenging moments they had ever had in their life. They had to deal with the pain, stretch their own boundaries, and found in themselves strength they did not know existed.
The week was really satisfying and instructive and I had the privilege of being there for my campers, smiling at them during the tougher moments and being with them in the same boat, literally.
A Sunset to Remember | July 29, 2021
The sunset the other night was the most beautiful I have ever seen. The pictures are really worth a thousand words.
This week we did a “white night” for the campers, as the custom is called in camp. It’s really “a day without sun” where we wake them in the middle of the night and then have a night full of fun activities. During the night, we held a party with Israeli songs, a bonfire, sports games and then watched a breathtaking sunrise.
There are many moments here where I say to myself, “Wow, for this moment, I came to camp,” but if there is one thing I will never forget it is the amazing sunset after the white night. In front of me was pink colored with shades of blue and yellow, and the sounds of campers laughing in the background, the chirping of birds, the smell of clear air and a bonfire that warmed my feet. I could not have asked for a happier moment than this.
Army Boot Camp Day at Camp | July 19, 2021
I led an army boot camp day for my campers today!
The purpose of the day was to connect the campers to the spirit of the military, strengthen their teamwork skills and enrich their knowledge of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
The day included introductory activities to the various IDF units, learning camouflage techniques, a crawling competition, various teamwork exercises, a master chef competition with military food, writing letters to IDF soldiers, an IDF quiz and a panel with soldiers from the Shlichim delegation who told the campers about their military service and answered questions.
The campers really enjoyed it and the day was both meaningful and fun!
Some Things Never Change | July 12, 2021
The week went by so fast that I barely had time to digest what happened.
But I will never be able to convey the feelings I had when I hugged my campers, kids I had not seen for three years.
It felt like coming full circle, and on the other hand a fresh start.
They’re 14 now; I’m 22.
They finished a few grades and I completed my military service.
And yet, there are three things that will never change:
- The place they occupy in my heart
- Our shared jokes
- And the fact that getting them up in the morning is a war in and of itself
Last night they wanted me to tell them stories from my time in the military. They all sat in a circle and I told them about Operation Guardian of the Walls, which happened during my final weeks in the army. I told them about the feelings I experienced when a rocket fell a few meters away from me, about what I did in the operation as a fighter, and about how I give thanks to God in prayer every morning since the operation ended.
I’m excited to keep sharing stories about my life in Israel as camp continues and further connect my campers to the Jewish State.
Why I Returned to Summer Camp | June 24, 2021
Why did I leave everything in Israel behind and go back to summer camp? To reunite with my family. Let me explain.
On November 21, 2018, on my first day of military service in the IDF, I had my first interview with my commander. They asked me to tell them about my family.
I replied, “I have a lot of siblings in Israel and siblings in Canada.”
“So you’re a lone soldier then? Where do your parents live?” they asked.
“No, I’m not a lone soldier. My parents live in both Israel and in Canada,” I said. “You see, I just finished a year of service as a ShinShinit (gap-year Israeli emissary) in Canada, after which I was a counselor at a summer camp. During my time in Canada, I met people who became my family in the Jewish community in Toronto — hundreds of brothers and sisters, parents, uncles, etc. — and they are family to me in every sense of the word. At the end of my military service, my dream is to fly back to my family in Canada and see them again.”
The commander did not understand what I was talking about. But shortly after I was discharged from the army in June 2021 after serving as a platoon commander in the brigade fighters and rescue division, I was on my way back to Camp Ramah.
Besides wanting to see my Canadian “family” again, I had a lot of reasons for returning to Ramah — but mostly I came back for the little moments.
I returned for the first day at camp, where I will hug the children I worked with during my year as a ShinShinit, meet innocent eyes and hear strained Hebrew with a Canadian accent.
I returned for the “good morning” exchanges with the campers, for the question “Why is your name Faran?” and for the requests of “Tell me about your kibbutz.”
I returned to make a bonfire at night, and to feel closer to the warmth emanating within the Jewish community.
I returned to hear new tunes for prayers and to have conversations with my fellow staff members about religion and feminism.
I came back to share how much I love Israel, how not everything may be rosy but everything is blue and white.
I came back for the moments when I hear campers talk about my activities even after they are over, and for the day that one person, just like that, tells me they learned something about Israel thanks to me.
I came back to talk about my military experience, to hear stories from campers, and to laugh until my stomach hurts.
I came back to learn new songs, shout spiritedly with all our might and dance until dawn.
I returned for Israel, for the community, and for myself.
I returned to grow and evolve my own Jewish identity — and to help grow and develop my campers’ — and the right to be a part of this nation.
I returned to strengthen my connections with the campers and with the staff, and to learn more about the Jewish community and life abroad.
I returned for sunsets, for sunrises, for the quiet lake.
And I came back mostly, to remind myself that despite the geographical and cultural distance — we were all together, close to Mount Sinai — and we all came out of the same desert as one Jewish People.
GET TO KNOW FARAN:
Why did you decide to be a summer camp Shlichah (Israeli emissary)?
Some people call it a mission — I call it going home. In 2017, I did a year of service as a Shinshinit (gap-year Israeli emissary) in Toronto, and after, I served as a counselor at Camp Ramah in Canada. It was a very significant year that allowed me to deepen the ties between the Jewish community abroad to Israel; learn about Judaism in all its forms and get to know a new family.
From my first day in the Israel Defense Forces, I knew that as soon as I finished my military service, I would return to my second home: to Camp Ramah in Canada.
Why do you think that Camp Shlichim are important?
I believe that every camp should have an Israeli emissary. Jewish summer camps are a kind of “Jewish incubator” and there is no Judaism without Israel. An Israeli emissary brings to life the authentic Israel, not the one from the headlines. Each Israeli brings his own story, and there is nothing like hearing stories firsthand.
In addition, we Shlichim are not exposed enough in Israel to the amazing Judaism that exists in communities globally. Emissaries return home with Jewish knowledge and understanding of customs that they did not know before.
What are you most excited about?
I am very excited to reunite with the campers I was a counselor for three years ago, to hear about their experiences and tell them about my military service.
What’s a fun fact about you?
Rumor has it that I make the best Shakshuka in Israel. Feel free to come and taste! 😉