Back to Summer Camp

by Brian on December 8, 2009

in A Parent in Israel

Our kids have been attending a Bnei Akiva-style summer camp for the last several years. Kayitz b’Kibbutz is based at Kibbutz Shluchot in the Jordan Valley, a few kilometers south of Beit Shean.

The camp doesn’t have visiting days during its sessions, so we’ve been forced to use our imaginations to picture what our kids are enjoying. So we were delighted when the camp directors organized a “family weekend” at Shluchot.

In order to provide us with the most authentic camp experience, we were housed in the bunks our kids slept in and we ate kibbutz food in the dining room. We even had to bus our trays and clear the table just like our kids (no five star guest houses for us).

On the opening day of the weekend, we took a hike to the “Madua,” a tree-shaded pool where the camp holds its “survivor day” competition. We parents got a taste of this teenage version of reality TV in what directors Kenny Goldman and Dvorah Liss cryptically called “adult games.”

With a name like that, I was expecting something a tad risqué. Instead, we were motioned towards a pile of wood sticks which we were expected to hold in the air in couples so that one member of our group could walk across without falling (which was unfortunately her fate when she got to me – I apparently failed stick holding in high school).

After several more group bonding games, we were served what must be every kid’s favorite camp meal: pigs in a blanket (or as it’s known in Hebrew: Moses in the Ark, so as not to offend impressionable pig-phobic kosher ears).

Visiting was a blast, but it burst the bubble of how I envisioned the look and feel of the place. I had my own overnight Jewish summer camp years in mind. At “El Rancho Navarro” (yes, that’s it was called), our bunks were dark; the cabins made of natural wood in keeping with the lush setting in northern California.

But Kayitz b’Kibuttz is, as its name implies, set on a kibbutz and the kids sleep in the former childrens’ houses – brightly lit stucco buildings with modern bathrooms and, dare I say it, air conditioning!

Ditto the dining hall which I had pictured with its long picnic bench like tables and high arched roof. White Keter chairs and plastic tablecloths were not part of my memories.

Fortunately, the final campfire was sufficiently reminiscent of my pre-teen adventures. Shmores, games and stories told by always-energetic Kenny (ours were imparted by the jovial “Uncle Irv,” our camp director) brought me back 40 years.

Many years ago, when my wife Jody and I lived in California prior to making aliyah, we took a road trip that traveled past my old camp. We made a left off the main highway and began the 15-minute drive up the hill, but were spooked by the forbidding signs reading “Private property” and “Trespassers will be prosecuted.”

Probably just as well. My nostalgic stomping grounds had been converted to a luxurious retreat center. And, according to the center’s website, the dining hall now had central air too.

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This article was first published on the Israelity blog.

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