A few weekends ago we had our monthly OTZMA education seminar, although this time it was a bit different then in the past. On Thursday we arrived at a hotel on a kibbutz on the outskirts of Jerusalem where we stayed for the remainder of the weekend. We first met in a room and were told what the Shabbat Mifgash (Mifgash means meeting in Hebrew) would entail. We were spending the weekend with our “Israeli counterparts.” They were all Israelis our age, and are participating in the Avi Chai program where they learn to be Israeli and Jewish leaders in summer camps in the states. Each Israeli has already spent one summer at a U.S. camp and thus, they had a good basis of what Americans are like. Spending six months in Israel we all have a pretty good idea of what Israelis are like as well. Even still, throughout the weekend we were given the opportunity to participate in activities and discussions that in any normal circumstance, wouldn’t necessarily be brought up between an Israeli and an American in their young twenties.
We first started by having one OTZMAnikim lay down on a piece of paper and another OTZMAnikim drew them. I drew Whitney. After drawing and realizing we all look similar, we wrote five characteristics of Americans and five of Israelis We then went around the room and shared what we had come up with. After a little more discussion we went and had dinner, and then finally, we met our new friends.
Our first activity was an ice breakers game where we had to imagine the floor was the world. In the center was Israel. From there, we then had to stand in the area where we were from. Of course at this point we were all split between the United States and Israel. The next question, however, brought some of us together when asked where we imagined ourselves in a year, and then ten years from now. After that we went in the past and stood where our grandparents were from, great-grandparents, and then great-great-grandparents. For the most part we all ended up in the same area — Europe. It was interesting to see that we are very similar, and being Jewish, we have similar roots from not too many generations back. However, some of our ancestors chose to go to North Amerca, and others chose to go to Israel. There were exceptions of course. Like an OTZMAnik, Arielle, whose family came over to America on the Mayflower! Even still, we realized that even though we are very different, we are at the same time, very similar.
After that we discussed Judaism — what’s religious to us, what’s cultural to us, and how this all compares to each other between living in the States and living in Israel. In the U.S. if a Jewish family has Shabbat dinner every Friday night then they are considered pretty religious. However, if in Israel a family has Shabbat dinner every Friday night they are considered secular. That is because here, Shabbat dinner is simply a part of the culture.
After that we talked some more and then headed to bed. We woke up the next morning and went to the woods for some campy bonding games. A few were tricky, a few thinking, and a few just figuring out who should lead in a group of leaders. All in all it was fun and I came to the conclusion that the Real World/Road Rules challenges on MTV would be a lot more entertaining if the teams were one country in the world verse another.
After the games we came back to the Kibbutz and had some free time before we got ready for Shabbat. We had the option of going to the alternative, Reform, or Conservative Friday night service. I opted to go to the Conservative Service. We wre told it’d be nice to go to a service you aren’t used to going to. But for me, I just feel that the Conservative Service is where I feel best. Afterwards we had a tasty dinner and then we played a little game of speed dating. It was fast, a little awkward, and taught me that even if I am single in my 40’s, speed dating is not an ideal way to find love.
We hung out afterwards and I played the Israeli game, Tacky. Pronounced Tocky, although I like to pronounce it Tacky in an American’s tacky accent. It was fun, a lot like UNO.
The next morning we woke up and had activities and discussions to participate in throughout the day. I won’t delve into all of them, but I do want to write a little about my favorite one. It was called “Beseder/Lo Beseder” which means “Ok/Not Ok” in Hebrew. Our Madreechs would say a topic, ranging from the death penalty to Lady Gaga, and everyone in the room had to say if to them it was Beseder or Lo Beseder. It was great to hear everyones perspectives on these topics. I especially liked listening to how the Israelis felt towards the West Bank settlements, Gilad Shalit, and if someone from the U.S. should sit as a member of the Israeli Knesset.
Overall Shabbat Mifgash was a great way for us to meet Israelis our age. For a weekend I was slightly dreading (due to the fact that I had just left Ariel and her mom on a Tel-Aviv beach to go), I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. Like all experiences in Israel, this was another great one.