Monday, August 11, 2008

Here In Machane

So I decided I want to write about Bnei Akiva and Camp Moshava. Although I no longer do Bnei Akiva, Moshava has been a huge part of my childhood and really helped shape who I am today. It gave me an incredible foundation in my love for Israel and my passion for Jewish unity. I know a lot of people just write it off as a Zionist cult (hey, even us Moshavaniks do), and in a lot of ways, it really is, but there is so much more to it than that. I'm not saying Moshava is for everyone. But it is different from any other camp and in a really, truly beautiful way. I think this is going to take a lot more than just one post, but we shall see how it goes. I suppose I'll begin with my first summer there.

When I was in fourth grade, my best friend (we'll call her Dot) asked me if I wanted to go to sleepaway camp with her. Now, I was one of those kids who was very happy to run around in the dirt barefoot, climb trees, crawl under bushes, and generally be one with nature. I had always wanted to go hiking, I had always wanted to go on a campout, and I loved the idea of going to a sleepaway camp. So, of course, I immediately said yes.

I had no idea which sleepaway camp we were going to. I had barely heard of any. I didn't know the difference between all those 'M' camps, as everyone likes to call them. Mesorah, Morasha, Moshava? What were they? They all blurred together for me into one entity: camp. So when I found out we were going to Moshava, it meant absolutely nothing to me. Bnei Akiva I for sure had never heard of.

I was nervous, of course. It would be my first extended period away from home and that was scary. But I would be with Dot and I was too excited to spend energy on being homesick. The bus stop for camp was at Central, in Queens (I actually had no idea that it was Central until years later when I applied there for high school and ended up going to the Moshava bus stop for my interview). The way it worked for the Long Island kids was there were two buses from Queens - one direct to camp and one that stopped in Monsey along the way. Dot and I were always, without fail, on the Monsey bus. The consequences of being on the Monsey bus were high. The trip was longer, of course, and at least one or two of the Monsey kids were always missing so we'd have to wait ages until we could actually leave and go to camp. And that meant we got to camp late. Getting to camp late meant one, crucial thing: last pick for beds. Dot and I hadn't understood this our first year, of course, but it was something we quickly learned.

Pulling into camp (finally) was intimidating. There was a long dirt road which climbed a steep hill and then landed us right in the middle of a big, grassy field (which I later learned was called the Main Migrash). Surrounding the bus were a lot of big, older people in brightly colored shirts holding brightly colored signs with Hebrew letters on them whose significance I did not understand. Everyone was screaming and shouting and cheering and singing in one, big cacophonous uproar. And me, as a little nine-year-old first-timer, well...I was pretty terrified. Getting off the bus that first time was like plunging into a multi-colored neon monster.

I stuck close to Dot as we were quickly swept up by one section of the monster holding a sign with a big letter Hey on it. "What are your names?" asked a very smiley man. I froze, the question suddenly extremely complicated. I seem to have left my entire identity back at the bus stop in Queens. Finally, I managed a very frightened, "E-Erachet."

"Dot," said Dot.

We were told we were now in Eidah Hey and belonged to bunk G-12.

We quickly learned a few things about this strange new place called Moshava. We were not part of divisions. We were part of Eidot. The Eidot did not exactly go in alphabetical order, either. They went Eidah Hey (going into fourth and fifth), Eidah Aleph (going into sixth), Eidah Bet (going into seventh), Eidah Gimmel (going into eighth), and Eidah Daled (going into ninth). Machal was going into tenth, but we didn't learn about Machal until later.

And we were not campers. We were chanichot (the boys were chanichim). We had madrichot and lived in tzrifim (bunks). We ate at the chadar ochel, not the dining room. No one ever called it the dining room. We had peulot, not activities, and they were called things like melechet yad and nagarut (rather than arts and crafts or woodworking). If we didn't feel well, we went to the Marp, which was a nickname for the Mirpa'ah (infirmary? never!). We swam in the breicha (pool). There was girls' migrash and boys' migrash - and main migrash, of course. No such thing as "field" or "campus." We had shekem, not canteen. And, on top of it all, there was the Rosh Eidah (not division head) and the Rosh Moshava. If you needed the Rosh Mosh or the director of camp for anything - or even your Rosh Eidah - you went to the RML. It took us more than one summer to learn what RML stood for (Rosh Mosh Lishka [office] - and actually, for a while that first summer a bunch of us really thought it was "aramel," and we had no clue what "aramel" was supposed to mean).

Announcements went like this, "Hakshivu na, hakshivu na, kol hamachane - Erachet, na lageshet la RML." I never understood why "kol hamachane" had to pay attention when they wanted one person to come to the RML, but there you have it.

And that was my first introduction to the world of Moshava, Hebrish, and, well, Zionism.

And that's all I have the energy to write about today. Besides, this post is long enough as it is. I hope it was enjoyable enough for people to want to read more (don't worry, I'll get to the real B"A and Zionism stuff later, I just want this to be a true representation of my experience at Mosh, not just the bare bones of what Bnei Akiva is all about).

Thanks for reading!


SuperRaizy said...

I never went to Moshava, but my older sisters and brother did. I remember going there on visiting day, and seeing a huge pile of sandbags in the middle of a field. I asked my sister what the sandbags were for, and she said "In case the Arabs attack." I said, "What are you talking about? We're in Pennsylvania!" She lowered her voice and said, "I realize that, but I don't think that the people who run the camp do!"
And I remember hearing those "hakshivu na" announcements too!

RaggedyMom said...

Best. Times. Ever. So many camp stories, so little time! It's great reminiscing vicariously through you!

the apple said...

I know a lot of people just write it off as a Zionist cult

::whistles innocently::