The Kefiada experience is unlike any other
that I’ve ever had. I had even spent two weeks in Israel before and I thought I
had seen it all. Though I found my past Jewish involvement demanding and gratifying,
none of my past experiences could have prepared me for the month I spent
working as a camp counselor at Kefiada, an English-speaking summer camp in
Kiryat Gat, part of JUF’s Partnership Together region of Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir.
At Kefiada, I wasn’t just a tourist but I
became a regular; taking taxis and running to catch trains became first nature.
I wasn’t just a visitor but I felt like more of a local, becoming fully
immersed in Israeli culture. This is one of the pieces that makes this program
so special; you aren’t just sightseeing, but you’re living as the people do—in
their homes, with their families, experiencing Shabbat as Israelis do, and eating
their delicious food even when you are far too full.
The connections that I made with my host
family, the campers, my Israeli and American co-counselors, and the other
people I worked with are unmatched. While the campers could be wild and
intimidating and camp could get crazy, the experience was nothing short of
remarkable. If you had a suggestion or a problem, your voice was really heard
and each individual was able to put their mark on how the camp days played out.
I can recall discussing with the other American counselors one day, how much of
a hidden gem the program is. Even now I can’t believe that I was given the
opportunity to come to Israel essentially for free. Thank you JUF for this
supplies for an art project at JUF’s Kefiada.
At the end of the summer I don’t think that
there was a single camper that did not want to one day visit JUF’s Partnership city
– Chicago. The connections that we make, some, seemingly small, even with one
other individual are so powerful in the overall picture of connecting us to
each other and to Israel. I was able to further strengthen the concept that all
people everywhere really are the same. We all like to laugh, try new things,
smile, and especially eat.
I will look back on this summer and remember
all of the adventures we had: touring the Lachish region on ATVs, experiencing Lila Levan (White Night) in Tel Aviv,
trying pizza with tuna and corn (that is just how they do it in Israel), visiting
Jerusalem, and our last night all together cooking heavenly Poyke on a beach in
Nitzanim before the Americans split off for a last group visit to the North. I
will remember the welcome I received from my host family, as well as the other
host families (usually in the form of spicy shakshuka and burekas), I will
remember all my crazy campers and of course I will remember all of the
wonderful friends I made in a little place in the center of the world called
For more information on this opportunity for
college students from Chicago who have already been to Israel and would like to
go back, visit www.juf.org/p2g/volunteer or to request an application, email Partnership@juf.org.