Putting Israel on the Map!


Rabbi Marc Israel, who has helped run our ropes/adventure staff for several years, has blogged all summer-long about his experiences at Ramah on his personal Ohr Kodesh blog.  Check our Marc's blog to read tons of great stories about kayitz 2010 at Ramah (and to see lots of great pics)!

Here's one of my favorite blogs, about a special end-of-summer project that he and his staff undertook.


Or more accurately, putting the map of Israel on the Wall.


One of the fantastic aspects of camp is that it allows us to integrate education into everyday aspects of life, commonly referred to as "teachable moments." Judaism is not only taught during the Judaics perek, but anytime a camper asks a counselor a question. Tefillah (prayer) occurs on a daily scheduled basis and at meals, but also when we see a rainbow. Hebrew is heard throughout the camp, during swimming, playing baseball and around the campfire. Yesterday, we took a significant step to increasing our ability to include Israel education at camp, and especially for the Ropes/Adventure Course.

My co-rosh Ropes leader, Tzeira Creditor, grew up in the US and made aliyah a few years ago. When talking in the Spring about how we would integrate Jewish education and Ropes, she asked if it would be possible to paint the map of Israel on one of the climbing walls. Believing this was a great idea, I brought it to the camp administration who liked the concept but worried about the logistics (i.e. would it look nice or would it mess up the climbing wall?). Working together, we developed a plan to make it happen.  After Shabbat this past Saturday night, we found the image of the map of Israel on the internet and projected it onto the wall.  Using belay ropes and sidewalk chalk, we outlined an accurate-to-scale map onto the wall.  Realizing how difficult it would then be to do the same thing with paint (without spilling), we called Sunday morning to arrange for a "cherry-picker" truck to be delivered that afternoon.  Soon, painters tape replaced the chalk, the interior of the state was painted a sandy color, blue waters were added, a black border, and finally city names (using stencils we made) were added that evening (when we could project the map again to ensure accuracy). On Monday morning, a member of the Art staff added the words "Eretz Yisrael" and we did a few final touch-ups and our map was completed.

What impact do we anticipate having the map of Israel on the climbing wall will have?  Minimally, as climbers make their way up, we will now be able to tell them to "reach up towards Jerusalem," "stretch out to get to Haifa" and finally "get up to Har Hermon."  In doing such, they will not only learn more city names, but also get a sense of the basic geography of Israel.  But it has the potential to do much more. In looking at the map, you will see that it is labelled with city names and names of rivers and mountains, but not regional names. Sderot (where many rocket attacks from Gaza have occurred) is on the map, but the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew, is not. The West Bank, whose status is still in flux, is not labelled, but the city of Hebron (one of the four holy cities in Judaism) is.  In making such decisions, we attempted to navigate the tricky politics that creating a map entails. Our hope is that the map, with both what is and is not included, allows for such conversations to take place when appropriate, but does not force such conversations when they are not.  Our hope is that it will not only be an integral part of the climbing tower curriculum, but that it will be used by the educational and programming staff of the camp as a whole to continue to teach about Israel.  It also makes a beautiful view and statement as one enters camp about the centrality that Israel plays in our lives.

Rabbi Marc Israel