Most of our children are finished with camp and vacationing around the country with their families. Not so the children of olim chadashim (new immigrants)!
In Efrat and other communities, there is Olim Camp, a special program with bi-lingual counselors and loads of children just like them - olim from all over America. There are activities and tiyulim (trips) and loads of things planned to help the children get to know their new hometown, make friends and learn to appreciate Israel.
I popped by Efrat's Olim Camp and saw backpacked kids on their way out to a little jaunt out in the park near Efrat's Community Center. They were gathering together in the hallway, and instead of just standing there, they were chanting those camp songs that most of us know from our old American camp days. Then later, I popped into the gym to see four of our newest residents - from Atlanta, Georgia and Flatbush, New York - engaged in a basketball game of "2 on 2". Three of these youngest live on the Zayit and another lives in Gefen. I asked them how they like Efrat. The eldest said, "We're doing great. We are living in a very special place. (Our Biblical Patriarch) Abraham lived here." That was a terrific answer, and it made me realize that indeed this young chap knew just what he was doing when he made Aliyah.
Another one of the youngsters was the grandson of one of our town's family doctors, Dr. Efraim Ben Zev, and he said that he even knows a little Hebrew. Lucky kid, he's ahead of the game.
The boys told me that because they're going to spend the next six months learning Hebrew, they won't have to do homework. What a deal!! They were very excited.
When I visited with a group of younger children and asked them how they were faring, most of them said, "Fine," and sounded happy. One little girl said, "Very bad. I don't know anyone here and I want to go home to my friends." I almost started crying, but one of the Olim Camp counselors told me that there's still another week of camp, and that because there are seven children in every age group, they will make friends that they can play with past camp, when school starts.
Good luck to all the Olim Campers. You're going to love it here. Israel is absolutely the most fabulous country in the world when you get to know it. May you make many friends and do well in school. We need you and we're glad you're here.
Here's a short short clip of Olim Camp, as the kids were on their way out the door: