This week please enjoy a D’var Torah from Rosh Shoafim 2013, Adina Allen.  Adina is a junior at Washington University in St. Louis where she is majoring in Political Science and Public Health.  A veteran of many summers at Ramah as a camper and counselor, Adina is also an alumna of Nativ: The College Leadership Training Program in Israel, a project of the Department of Youth Activities of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

In her D’var Torah, Adina makes an allusion to a famous quotation about the founding of the State of Israel by Chaim Weizmann which was expanded into a haunting poem by one of Israel’s great national poets, Natan Alterman.  The quotation and poem can be found here.

Yom Ha’atzmaut
by Adina Allen

Every Friday afternoon at 1:30, I can be reassured of one thing. I’m about to hear the speakers blast “Eli” so clearly and I know that Kikar dancing will soon begin. In a few minutes, shiurim, sports and amanut projects will end, and the grassy Kikar area that we all love will be filled with ruach and community. For the next 45 minutes, camp is filled with dancers of all ages, staff and families alike, engaged in Israeli dancing. It is the time of the week that I look forward to the most, a time where we all gather together, watch Shoafimers sell Shabbat-O-Grams and prepare as a camp community to welcome Shabbat. (Click here to see a video of “Eli” from Kikar dancing in 2012.)

Early next week, we will observe Yom Hazikaron and celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. In a 48-hour period, we see a country transitioning from commemorating those who have fallen defending Israel to celebrating independence. The juxtaposition of these two days is one that has always struck me. It serves as a reminder that the State of Israel was not something that was given to us on a silver platter. We first honor those who have defended our country, before celebrating the beauty that the state of Israel has become. We look to the past, to the specific individuals who helped create our community.

While on the Nativ program after graduating high school, I was privileged to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel. I expected the day to be filled with BBQs and the streets filled with people wearing blue and white. While I was correct about the BBQs, this is not what continues to stand out to me years later. The energy and enthusiasm that I experience weekly at camp preparing for Shabbat was mirrored and intensified that night celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in downtown Yerushalayim near the city hall. My group of friends, together with thousands of Israelis, danced for hours to common Israeli folk dances celebrating independence. Fireworks lit up the night. While it might not have been “Eli” blasting on the speakers, I felt the same sense of solidarity with the dance moves that I do weekly at camp.

Being a Jewish American summer camp, we strive to bring Israeli culture, politics and history to the campers. As madrichim, many of us have had the privilege of spending a summer in Israel and returning to Conover excited to share our experiences with our chanichim. Through weekly Kikar dancing, we connect with an essential element of celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel and bring it to America. This experience bridges the passionate depth of the Israel experience with our weekly camp experience and forges a strong connection.