Rethinking the Nature of Camp

When I first learned of the Leadership Seminar in Israel offered to the Leadership Team at Tel Yehudah, I was very excited, and for good reason. It’s only the second day of our journey, and I am beat. We have had two informative days to bond as staff and to grow as Jewish educators. Today was extremely valuable for me personally as Rosh Teva (Director of Nature/Outdoor Programming). While I have an extensive background in Jewish education, the insights that were gleaned today were different from any others that I have come across in my past.  We visited sites that are directly involved with nature inIsrael.

In trying to bring Israel and nature into the Teva program, I felt very fortunate to have the chance to visit Neot Kedumim, the Biblical nature reserve. We were taken on an extensive tour of the facilities that incorporate the Shivat HaMinim, or seven species of fruits in the Land of Israel. The site was created over 40 years ago by Noga HaReuveni, the renowned ecologist and botanist. While HaReuveni passed away almost three years ago, his legacy lives on in his reserve. Embodied in this reserve is the essence of the New Jewish spirit, renewing hope by reforesting the land. The reserve was once a barren stretch of land but is now bounding with beauty, a perfect metaphor for the rejuvenation of the Land of Israel over the past 100+ years.

We were also fortunate to visit Hava V’Adam, an organic farm located on the outskirts of Modi’in, which also hosts an international volunteer program called Eco-Israel that was founded by a Young Judaea and Tel Yehudah alumna, Naomi Katz. The main goal of the farm is outreach and education, rather than business and production. They host a variety of workshops for traveling groups on site, as well as workshops at schools in the area. Our group was able to explore, learn about and view the different projects around the farm, including benches and structures made from mostly recycled materials. We were also introduced to other plants native to Israel, including zaatar, hadas (myrtle), lavender, and sage. The ideas of sustainability and low-impact living practiced everyday at Hava V’Adam are messages that we will surely incorporate this summer at camp.

Today was one dedicated to Teva programming and experience. I am very happy that we took the time to visit these beautiful sites. Our visits to these wonderful places have already inspired the Leadership Team this summer to make camp more sustainable and forward-thinking. It is my sincere hope that Tel Yehudah becomes an example of positive practice for the rest of the Jewish Camping world.

-Rafi Schraer, 2011 Rosh Teva

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