From Israel to IsraelisPosted on May 31st, 2019
This week on the blog, Program Director Ryan Hance talks about the connection between GFC and Israel.
Four days before I arrived at camp, I arrived in America after an amazing Birthright experience. I left Israel and 52 new friends I had only met ten days earlier. I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by spending lengthy amounts of time with large groups of people. Luckily, all of my life, camp has been preparing me for exactly that. Over the ten days I was in Israel, I spent a minimum of 16 hours each day exploring new cities, hiking, rafting, meditating, conversating, and of course, eating. At the end of our long days, we would gather and attempt to make the most of our time with these new friends before waking up the next day and exhausting ourselves all over again.
Towards the end of the trip, I was on the phone with my best friend, and I was telling him all about the trip and how exhausted I was. After taking in all the information I had just given him, he paused. He then responded, “I’ve heard this story before.” I asked him how. How could he have heard this story from me before? This was not only my first time in Israel, but my first time out of the country. He asked, “Isn’t this camp?”
Of course it was. How had I not seen it before? I was in the Promised Land with an absurd amount of unique people that I shared a wonderful history with even though our story had just begun. There are plenty of us who travel from all around the US to come to camp – our other promised land – to be with a culture of similarity so that we can thrive together all summer.
These thoughts regained clarity a few days later. After travelling for 36 hours, from Israel to Spain to New York to Dallas, I was finally home. I only had 24 hours to recover before I drove to DFW airport to be a part of something special that my family has been doing for many, many years. At DFW, I met six Mishlachat (our delegation of Israeli staff members) that I would get to host for the next couple of days.
The amount of time I was about to spend with another new group of friends via Israel reminded me of a paradigm shift I was offered just last week when I was in Israel. The program most Americans refer to as Birthright is called Taglit in Israel. The direct translation of Taglit to English is discovery. That is a very important distinction. It is not our ‘right’ to go to Israel on a free trip. It is our opportunity to discover Israel on a trip that is payed for by tens of thousands of others who want us to understand the roots of our history.
Similarly, for the Mishlachat, camp is not a free trip to the U.S. payed for by the GFC community, it is Taglit. It is an opportunity to discover what Judaism is like in America and more specifically, in the heart of Texas and in the hearts of their campers. It is an opportunity to discover American culture with a unique group of people that they share a wonderful history with. It is an opportunity to discover themselves and build new relationships with others. It is an opportunity to discover what it means to be a Jewish role model.
After picking up my new Israeli family from the airport just a day after arriving from their home, it became abundantly clear to me that an exciting opportunity is among us as a community. We get to be the front lines of this group’s Taglit. They will be discovering us, each other, and our culture through a lens that we provide. I can’t think of anything more excitingly Greene Family Camp than that.