This year, something I have been doing with my time in Israel is participating in a seminar that is about brining my Israel experiences to camp this summer. During B'yachad seminars, we discuss topics both directly and indirectly relevant to camp; things directly related to camp in that we do an activity about brining Israel to camp and things indirectly related to camp in that we discuss subjects about Israel (with the mindset of being in Israel for the year) that will impact our relationship to Israel and how we relate to campers and shlichim, the staff that comes from Israel. Until now, the seminars were just Nativers from different camps. This weekend, however, our seminar included the Israeli staff.
The seminar began in Ma'ale HaHamisha on Thursday night. We were supposed to leave Yeruham at 2:30, but the bus didn't pick us up until almost 3:30, and then we had to pick up the Kibbutzniks on the way up. We arrived at around dinnertime, though, which was good because we were hungry and Ma'ale HaHamisha food has a good reputation for being delicious. Shortly after I arrived, I saw the mishlachat from Ramah Darom that were participating in the weekend – Hanan, David, Hagar, Mor, Hila, and Hannah – Yossi, my co from last summer, arrived on Friday. Having felt bad that I hadn't seen too much mishlachat this year, I was glad to see them and spend some time with them. Of course, no surprises, the Ramah Darom mishlachat was the loudest and most-spirited delegation at the shabbaton. So on Thursday night, we just did some icebreakers and talked about family origins around the world. The latter program, while dealing with a common topic, was conducted creatively and I liked it. If the meeting room was a globe, we started by standing where we were at the moment, then where we are this year, then branching out to where we were born, where parents were born, and then where grandparents were born. People had interesting stories about how they got where. We then discussed in smaller groups if we agree with the decisions our ancestors made. My answer was yes – but I feel compelled to continue the decision-making in terms of the destiny of my descendents.
On Friday, our main activity was visiting the Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem. The museum changes exhibits every now and then, so people who have seen it in the past would have seen a different exhibit than we saw. While the theme of the exhibit was about home and homelessness, and while we were supposed to concentrate on our personal relationships to "home," most of the art seemed to be dealing with political issues in a very leftist fashion. In many ways, the art portrayed the victim/refugee as being right and the powerful ones as being oppressive – it didn't put Israel and sometimes America in a very favorable light. Many people felt that the biases were excessive in the museum. Then after that we drove to Nordia for Shabbat – not such a great youth hostel but that's the only one they could find – and we didn't do too much from there.
To bring in Shabbat, there were two davening options: Masorti and Alternative. I was on the committee for the Masorti – we just did an activity related to Shabbat objects and how we relate to them and then David gave a d'var Torah on the parasha. We had a nice service. Following that was a festive Shabbat dinner with lots of camp ruach and such. As usual, I will comment on the food, and it was fantastic. We had some icebreakers after that weren't so great and then I just hung out with people and learned a Torah reading for Shabbat morning.
Tefillot were not originally on the schedule for Shabbat morning. People complained about that a bit (it's very annoying actually), and things were in the works to get a davening together. We ended up joining another group there. The basic highlight of that was young Sephardim boys (I'm guessing 9th graders) breaking out into random song in between each aliyah of the Torah reading… it was one of those amusing "what the hell are they doing?" moments. While we were davening, the text sessions about Shabbat started, and we showed up midway through. We had excerpts from Heschel and Bialik in front of us, and while the main goal was to comment on the texts themselves, we spent a lot of time talking about the influence of American texts on Israelis and vice versa. Following that was Kiddush, and then a game called "B'seder or Lo b'seder "(lit. "ok or not ok"). A subject was thrown out, and everyone would go around the circle saying "b'sder" or "lo b'seder," and after a few rounds, we would discuss the different issues. The topics of course started light, like cell phones, but hot button issues came up – Arab Prime Minister, Goldstone Report, Gay Marriage, Abortion… and Harry Potter. We had lunch, mincha, and that basically took up most of free time. The program afterwards had to do with Israel-Diaspora relationships, and then summation of the seminar.
While it's not on the schedule for the future, many people expressed interest in having more sessions with the mishlachat in the future. It was worth having these discussions with Israeli points-of-view. The seminar definitely gave me a lot to think about, as well as the people there.