Sunday, July 13, 2008

Herzl Camp

We arrived at camp during lunch. Herzl, like many camps, does not go on standard time rather than daylight savings time. As I understand it, the purpose of this is to get the kids to bed earlier (they do not want the extra hour of daylight). This can be confusing, though especially when one’s cell phone (roaming) is ones main form of timekeeping, and cannot be set to the “proper” time. We saw Jonathan (my brother), and there was a good deal of hugging all around. Additionally, my parents know about 1/3 of the people at camp, so there were frequent greetings throughout the day.

Once we had gotten settled in, we showered and dressed for Shabbat. On Friday night, it is the tradition of the camp to wear white, which ranges from buttoned-down collared shirts to sleeveless tee shits to sports jerseys. The program (age group) in charge of Shabbat that week gathers in an open space near the chadar (dining hall) at 6:45 for what is known as caravan. The group walks around camp, hand in hand, singing, along the main path, and are joined by each group they pass. They arrive at the central field around the flagpole and the line circles back on itself, forming a huge ring. The lower the flags and sing the national anthems of Canada, the US, and Israel, and then sing a string of other (parody) songs, each prepared by a different program.

After that was a boisterous Kabbalat Shabbat. Since the sky was threatening the service was held indoors. Afterward was dinner, which was the standard fare: matzoh ball soup, chicken, potatoes, and salad. After dinner, there was a song session which, according to my brother, lasted twice as long as it usually lasts. As it turned out, during dinner a huge storm had hit camp, downing a number of trees including one that fell onto a bunk, and taking out power to much of the camp. This caused quite a stir, though there was no serious damage to the cabin (though the girls did sleep elsewhere that night), and most of the campers slept in bunks without power.

Saturday saw morning services in an outdoor sanctuary overlooking the lake (it had dried by then), and was an abbridged but spirited service. Shabbat was fairly quiet, though there was a large Ultimate game between the two oldest groups of campers. At dinner, there was a play called 12 Gates which happens every week, and is a very popular tradition. Afterward was a wonderfully choreographed havdallah put on by my brother's program. They sang "Lo Yisa Goy" and walked in circles carrying candles while dressed in all black or all white. It was very cool.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk into a musical? Not a play or a movie, but some sort of real-life situation where everyone broke into song/dance. The closest thing I’ve ever come to that happened when I walked into breakfast on Sunday morning. There was music playing, and about 70% of the people in the large dining hall were on their feet, doing a huge, ecstatic dance along to some very upbeat music. The dance was nothing brilliant, and the dancers far from perfect, but it was more than compensated for by the fact that, expecting to go in and eat, I instead found hundreds of people dancing. Moreover, it seemed completely natural to all involved: those dancing, those eating, and those doing both. What was even more spectacular was about twenty minutes later the whole thing happened again, and it was no less amazing, even when I was (somewhat) expecting it. This seems like a strange diversion from my usual themes, but the very heart of travel writing is the report of the spectacular and hidden. Later my brother told me that the Ozos (essentially councilors in training, the position is highly coveted and a huge amount of work; the word presumably derives from the Hebrew ozair, meaning [to] help) choose a song and do a dance to it, which everyone learns over the course of the summer. This may be the case, but the extent to which I am impressed has not been deminished.

No comments: