From Am to Zaatar – Yom Yisrael Had it All

“I like zaatar, it’s so yummy,” “can you take a picture of me with my degel (flag),” and “it’s working, the mayim’s (water) going in”; these are just some of the many memorable quotes and moments from Yom Yisrael at Ramah Day Camp Greater DC. Our goal was to bring the joy, focus on Hebrew and love of Israel to life, throughout a day that celebrated our pride in Israel as well as personal and communal connections to her in a fun, interactive way that is uniquely Ramah.


From the moment chanichim (campers) exited the bus, they knew this day was even more special than every other one at camp so far: They were greeted with Israeli flag heart stickers, Israeli music and a drop-off area decorated in blue and white balloons and Israeli flags. The members of our exceptional mishlachat (Israeli delegation) were the key to setting the tone for the day as they ran Aseifat Boker (Morning Gathering) in Hebrew with some classic riikudei am (Israeli dancing). At the end of the day, the mishlachat also ran our Friday song session, “shira b’shishi,” (Friday songs) capping the day with the entire camp together, singing Hatikvah.


During the day, each edah (age group) got to experience Israel through four different stations. At “Yerushalayim,” chanichim put wishes in our Kotel. Just a sample of the many heartfelt sentiments: “Dear G-d, thank you for food, I also thank you for plants.” Chanichim then moved to “Shaarei Yerushalayim,” (the gates of Jerusalem) to see who could get in and out of each gate. As a team, they also needed to make sure they got enough water from the “Shiloach” (ancient Jerusalem’s reservoir system) to the city by holding sections of PVC pipe in such a way that the mayim made it through the pipes and into the bucket. This was a serious but super fun engineering challenge for us all!


The second station was “gadna,” pre-army physical fitness training. We learned to stand at “amod dom,” (attention), “amod noach” (at ease). Campers then had to make it through a tough obstacle course made out of our kachol gadol (big blue blocks). Our shlichim modelled for us a passion to serve Israel and to support one another to succeed.


Our third station took place at our medurah (fire pit). Chanichim made their own “pita b’tabun,” (an oval concave grill) and enjoyed “grinding” their own zaatar using their water bottles to pound the mix of spices. They topped their pitot with zaatar or chocolate spread (also an Israeli favorite).


Our fourth station was the decoration of a communal banner celebrating Israel at 75. Everyone also made their own flags of Israel with which they paraded back to the migrash (field) for shirah.


Blue and white face paint and mardi gras beads, as well as Bissli (a favorite Israeli snack) rounded out our day. By the end of the day, everyone at Yom Yisrael felt so much a part of our Ramah DC community, but also of the larger community of “Am Yisrael” in “Medinat Yisrael” (the people of Israel in the state of Israel). We could really feel the pride and love of Ramah for Israel on this day and every day.


Submitted by Aviva Gershman, Rosh Sha’ar and Rosh Mishlachat