In his book, “Why I Am a Zionist,” Gil Troy attempts to reframe Zionism to be relevant in a 21st century world that includes a sovereign, strong, and vibrant State of Israel. Troy contends that Jews and Zionists have a sacred obligation—to support Israel in modeling the best of Jewish values on the world stage.
A few nights ago, I sat in the Chader Ochel (Dining Hall) as listened as our Rosh Mishlachat (head of the Israeli staff delegation) speaks to our camp community about the current situation in Israel. We listened somberly as he said, “it’s not so quiet right now in Israel as we would like it to be.” Every member of the community was wearing a red shirt, a symbolic show of support for Israelis who today are constantly listening for the “Code Red” siren warning them to take seek shelter from an incoming rocket attack. Afterward, campers gathered by unit to discuss what it means for our camp community to be connected to Israel. As another symbol of this connection, over 500 letters will be taken to the Kunkletown Post Office tomorrow, each containing words of love and support from a Harlam camper, addressed to children and soliders in Israel.
There is no denying that Israel is struggling right now, struggling to find quiet with her neighbors, to uphold its obligation to model Jewish values, to find legitimacy on the world stage that other nations enjoy. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen the faces of Camp Harlam’s shlichim (Israeli staff members), I’ve read Facebook posts from members of our community who are currently in Israel, and I’ve seen the way our staff struggle to balance their responsibilities to camp and campers with their own complex feelings about the situation in Israel.
The complexity we face when talking about Israel both frightens and thrills me. It frightens me because the multi-faceted conflict seems an insurmountable obstacle to peace. It thrills me because I recognize that the complexity is rooted in a sense of connection and love for each other, for our traditions, and for the values we hold as a community.
Tonight after dinner, in lieu of a traditional song session, we sang one song, repeating the same lines over and over again to various melodies. Am Yisrael Chai—the People of Israel Live. I proudly join Camp Harlam in standing with Israel today, the symbol of our ancient connection to each other and our collective aspiration to do tikkun olam—to make the world a better place.
Od yavo shalom aleinu, v’al kulam—Bring peace to us, and to everyone.