This activity provides opportunities for high-school-aged campers to delve into the reality of the military challenges facing Israel. Starting with a late-night sneak-out, progressing to a campfire and a military mission, the program culminates with the Goodman Educator and shlichim sharing stories from Israel's wars.
Number of Campers:
Age of Campers:
Key milestones in Israel's fight for survival: the War of Independence, the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War
Grapple with the reality of war as experienced by Israeli staff (and, where applicable, campers)
Step 1: The Surprise
- As campers are getting ready for bed, staff rushes into the cabins and announces that they have 15 minutes to prepare for a very special late-night activity. Instruct them to wear sturdy shoes, bring flashlights, and be in the appointed place in exactly 15 minutes.
Step 2: Gadna Training
- The facilitator greets everyone and announces that the campers will undergo a brief military training exercise, a mini-Gadna activity. The shlichim lead them through an obstacle course and a late-night run around camp. During this activity, shlichim bark orders at campers and exert enough pressure so that the participants feel they are being challenged, but not so much as to intimidate or overwhelm them. (The GE should plan this with shlichim in advance, and keep careful tabs on how it is being implemented in real time). This entire exercise should last about 15 minutes. When everyone returns to the assembly point, campers gather around a campfire for another comfortable setting that is conducive to storytelling, refreshments are served.
Step 3: War Stories
- After everyone has enjoyed their snacks, the facilitator (ideally one of the shlichim) tells the group:
- "Tonight you are going to learn about the wars Israel has fought since its creation. But first, we wanted to make sure you understand a bit about what it means to be a soldier. Being a soldier means you follow orders from your commanders. It means you are prepared to work hard all the time. It means your life is on the line for a cause that means everything to you. That's what we tried to show you as we were running around camp just now, and that's what we are going to show you by sharing our stories with you now."
- At this point, another shaliach (or two) step up and address the group to share very brief reflections on what it means to serve in the IDF. They stress the idea of defending their homes and their families, and they also speak about the camaraderie among soldiers in a unit.
- Now, a series of presenters (ideally shlichim, but American staff can also participate) shares with the group a personal story about each of 4 Israeli wars (War of Independence, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, and Operation Cast Lead). The GE should have worked with each of these presenters in advance to craft a story that can be told in first person about the war. (If the presenter has a personal connection to the war, such as a grandparent, parent, or family friend who fought in the war, then this should be the basis for the story. Otherwise, it can be a fictionalized account, but should be told in first person nonetheless). Each story should take 2-4 minutes to tell, and the presenter can engage campers in Q&A before handing the floor to the next presenter.
Step 4: Wrap-up
- After all 4 presenters have shared their "personal" war stories and campers have had ample opportunities to ask questions, the facilitator tells the group:
- All of you have spent the past hour hearing stories about the people who have fought in Israel's wars. Here in America, we tend to think of war as something for history class, the movies, or video games. But in Israel, war is a very real part of every person’s reality. Not because there’s a war going on every day in every part of the country, but because the possibility of war is always very real, and it touches the lives of every Israeli. You've heard how it’s touched the lives of some of our friends, our shlichim, and you've heard stories from the past 70+ years that sum up highlights of some of the most important wars that Israel has fought.
- Time permitting, the facilitator can invite shlichim to share more of their own personal reflections and ecnourage campers to ask more personal questions.
- To wrap up the activity, the facilitator stresses that the IDF is a people's army supported by near-universal conscription and asks the campers to think about a couple of questions that few Israelis ever think twice about:
- What is worth fighting for?
- What, if anything, is worth dying for?
- At the conclusion, staff bring campers back to their cabins and to bed. Campers sleep in late tomorrow.
There is a lot of material in this activity, and it my be too much to do in the middle of the night.
- Break the activity into two separate parts that can be started at night and completed the following day.
- Do the entire activity as an evening program.
- Forgo the campfire discussions focused on past wars, and instead ask the shlichim to discuss their personal experiences in the army.