By Emily Allen
Two of my favorite places are camp and Israel, so when Capital Camps and Camps Airy and Louise decided to offer a camp staff Birthright trip, I couldn’t imagine a trip more fitting for me.
Four other Capital Camp staff members and I, along with 10 Airy and Louise staff members, were able to travel to Israel together through Israel Experience. I found that despite not knowing everyone prior to the trip, camp connected us in so many ways.
With the collaboration between Birthright Israel and The Associated we were able to participate in a service project in Baltimore’s sister city, Ashkelon. After a tour of the city, our group went to an educational farm where students from the area spend a portion of their school day learning and working. The goal of the farm is to teach kids that food doesn’t just show up in the grocery store, but is instead cultivated and grown by people in the community. At the farm, they follow a specific process: planting, watering and harvesting.
When we arrived at the fame, we danced with the kindergartners, and despite the language barrier, we connected and had fun together. Next we moved to the fields where we met and worked with some of the middle school children, picking potatoes they had planted themselves.
I personally connected this experience to camp because of the school’s inclusion of special needs children in the projects on the farm. The special needs kids were able to participate in projects with the other children and it was clear to see how much joy this brought them. Meeting children in Baltimore’s sister city created a deeper connection for me with Ashkelon that I did not have previous to Birthright.
As for the trip in general, traveling with 14 other camp counselors from this area truly meant that there was never a dull moment. At any given moment you could expect a sing-a-long on the bus or a typical camp game of “sheep” or “wah” in a park. One night we had a talent show, and in typical camp-fashion, a Camp Airy staff member wrote a song about our Birthright experience to the tune of “Let It Go” and printed out copies for everyone to sing along.
Our trip was full of amazing friendships and lifelong memories. Thanks to Birthright Israel and The Associated for their collaboration creating a trip specific to our interests as camp staff members.
Learn more about Jewish campaing at The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping.
Emily is a Baltimore native who grew up at Capital Camps, and is celebrating her 11th summer at camp, second on staff.