New opportunity for teen campers to practice Hebrew, connect to Israel

A new summer camp option for teens will take them to Israel for a Hebrew immersion experience.

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NFTY in Israel teens making their way back down Mount Shlomo in the Negev.

For campers at the Chalutzim program of the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), who spend seven weeks of their summer in Oconomowoc, Wisc. studying Hebrew and fostering a connection to Israel, the question often comes at the end of the session: What comes next?

Until recently, OSRUI has recommended students visit Israel on an unaffiliated trip. But in the summer of 2019, OSRUI will host the first North American teen Hebrew immersion trip to Israel--called Chalutzim Ba'aretz--designed to build on existing knowledge of Israel and Hebrew and to foster a relationship between the participants and the Jewish homeland

"OSRUI has a long tradition and history of commitment to the Hebrew language," said OSRUI Director Solly Kane. "We believe that Hebrew is the key to understanding Jewish past and Jewish history, but more than that, it is the key to engaging with Israel and being a part [of] what Israel is today and will be in the future. When our campers learn Hebrew, it strengthens their connection to Israel and their heritage," which is a major goal of the new program.

"This summer we will listen, speak, and write as much Hebrew as is possible," declares the four-week itinerary featuring traditional attractions from recreational trips--climbing Masada, praying at the Kotel (Western Wall), sleeping in a Bedouin tent, and floating in the Dead Sea--as well as opportunities to form personal connections with Israelis and get an intimate look at daily life for Jews, Arabs, Bedoiuns, and others who call Israel home.

To Kane, this program is a natural progression from Chalutzim in Wisconsin, where incoming 10th graders who have passed a Hebrew competency test spend their summer speaking only in Hebrew. "This new program is a chance to continue that commitment to Hebrew learning and immersion, and take the Hebrew learned at camp and bring it to Israel," as well as making friends with newcomers to OSRUI programs and Israeli teens who join the trip along the way.

While "experiencing Israel in Hebrew, building connections with Israelis, and seeing sites in Israel while learning Hebrew," Kane said, the campers will get a chance to put a face to the country they have studied for years, and form a deep connection that will last even when they return home. 

To learn more about Chalutzim Ba'aretz, visit .

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