Voices from the field

Letters from Camp: How Does Your Garden Grow?

By Carl Schrag

Each camp in the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History is encouraged to find the best ways to embed opportunities to learn about Israel into their environment, and to add new elements each summer. This individualized approach leads to creative, inspirational approaches to Israel education that complement, rather than compete with, local camp culture and customs.

At Camp Avoda, a highlight last summer was a focus on the map of Israel. A popular climbing wall was adorned with the map, and campers learned about the country’s geography as they completed climbing challenges. Given that Avoda adopted Israeli names for all of its sports teams, campers were seen studying the climbing wall to learn where “their” cities were located

Moving into this summer, Avoda expanded its focus to include the Land of Israel. Campers helped plant a garden with Israeli vegetables and herbs (tomatoes, cucumbers and lots more!)

While everyone is looking forward to the giant Israeli salad that will be created soon, there’s much more to the unit:  In order to teach about Israeli innovation, Avoda is setting up a drip irrigation system for the garden along with informational signs that tell the story of drip irrigation's Israeli origins. Each crop is labeled in English and Hebrew and campers share all gardening responsibilities.

“The Goodman Initiative has been a fun, innovative way for Avoda to highlight Israel and insert new elements of Israel, its mores, people, and culture into daily living,” said Avoda Director Ken Shifman. “With the 50 foot map of Israel on our Rock Wall, our oldest campers’ shwarma and falafel leadership dinner, our Israeli garden, Israeli bunk flags, and Israeli league team names, Israel has become part of the fabric of our day to day living – without the campers even realizing the education that they are a part of.”

What new approaches to engaging with Israel have you introduced into your educational setting this season? Share with us your ideas and best practices!