Israel. A word that inspires hope. A word that causes tension. A place of hope. A place of tension.
Our Counselors in Training, our machonikim, had the opportunity tonight to explore what Israel means to them with the help of both Israeli mishlachat and American staff. The mishlachat set the scene—
Read the following statements. Respond to each with either b’seder (it’s okay) or lo b’seder (it’s not okay).
- Israel having an Arab Prime Minister
- Women wearing Talit at the Kotel, the Western Wall, and reading Torah
- Holding a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem
- Israeli settlements in the West Bank
Each CIT responded to the statements in turn. Some shook their heads, unsure what to answer. Some shouted their response, confident in their beliefs. Others spoke softly when their turn came, quietly dissenting. The mishlachat responded too, sometimes thinking a little longer, saying they wished they could explain their answers. What seemed obvious to one person caused anxiety for another.
As our machonikim have the opportunity to grow into fantastic counselors this summer, they also have the opportunity to develop stronger Jewish identities and a stronger connection to Israel. One of our CITs, Dalia, pointed out that now is the time for her and her peers to figure out where they stand on world issues so when they go out into the world—to different cities in the US or to cities across the world—they know what they believe and are able to advocate for the issues about which they are passionate. They were encouraged to ask questions, to challenge others, to seek truth.
Going deeper into some of the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, the entire group sat down to watch The Other Son, a film that captures the stories of Israeli and Palestinian families who find out their sons were switched at birth. Who is Jewish? Who is Muslim? Who can fight for Israel? Who belongs in the West Bank? How do we learn to understand and accept one another? What does it mean to be brothers? The film asked the questions we are often afraid to ask, those questions that are sometimes painful, challenging what we know, and are other times inspiring, reminding us of the capacity we have for loving one another.
As one of the mishlachat said to the machonikim, each individual’s opinion on Israel is his or her own, but, “If each year at camp you feel half an inch closer to Israel, than this is the best place in the world for me.”
Ask the hard questions. Look for the truth that speaks to you. What is Israel to you? Who is Israel to you? What are you afraid to ask?