Reflections from my trip to Israel

We are re-sharing this blog post written by Rabbi Ilana Mills, Director of URJ Camp Kalsman, who recently traveled on FJC’s (Federation for Jewish Camp) Camp Professionals Israel Mission.

By: Rabbi Ilana Mills, Camp Kalsman Director

When I stand with a wedding couple under the chuppah, I talk about circles – the circle they are creating around each other as a holy relationship; the circle of family and friends who create their village of support; the infinite circles of their wedding bands.

These circles are a powerful reminder of partnership and how it will evolve through the cycles of life, something that is unbreakable.

Last week, I spent four intense days traveling in Israel and everywhere I looked I saw circles: broken circles. Circles of families that are broken by violence; circles of friends with gaping holes where loved ones are still being held hostage; circles of children incomplete without school, without friends, without routine.

It was clear that the impact of October 7th and the on-going war has ripple effects beyond measure. The pain and destruction were unfathomable until I witnessed it and I acknowledge that I only saw a tiny sliver of the pain felt by millions of Israeli and Palestinians. It reminded me of the poem by Yehudah Amichai titled “The Diameter of the Bomb”:

The Diameter of the Bomb
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God
and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.

After two days of seeing only broken circles, I noticed one circle that was beginning to regrow. Every time our group of Jewish educators, Rabbis and camp professionals got together, we automatically created a circle so we could look at each other. In those circles we talked about really hard things and we looked each other in the eyes while we shared vulnerable and sometimes drastically different views. When we circled up, we created something whole.

I couldn’t help but think about camp and how often we use circles for conversations and team building. Our leadership team plans to use circles intentionally this summer to create a community that can have difficult conversations, grounded in love and mutual respect, even when we disagree.

My trip to Israel was the most challenging trip I have experienced and yet I found a deep sense of hope thinking of our campers learning how to circle up for community, even after seeing so much pain and destruction.

When I returned home, I wrapped my family in hugs, wanting never to let go, as the memories of everyone I met and the thousands who can’t do the same flooded me with sadness.

This Shabbat, I am thinking of the circles I can be in to help move this world into a world I want to see. A world where people can sit together with those who are different and learn from each other’s human experience. A world that is more whole and holy than it feels today. I believe we can create such a world if we do it together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ilana and the Camp Kalsman Team

p.s. I had the joyful pleasure of meeting up with some of our former shlichim (Ofry, Gilad, Shir and Inbal).


The Hope “HaTikvah” is Freedom

The Hope “HaTikvah” is Freedom

By: Ariel Fogelman, Director of Yallah! Israel For three thousand years the story of Passover has been a story of hope. In the book of Exodus chapter 12, all the details of the holiday are given. The people of Israel are still slaves and cannot celebrate anything in...

read more
Notes from Rabbi Erin Mason

Notes from Rabbi Erin Mason

We are re-sharing this blog post written by Rabbi Erin Mason, Director of URJ Greene Family Camp, who recently traveled on FJC’s (Federation for Jewish Camp) Camp Professionals Israel Mission.   In mid-February, I participated in a mission with the Foundation for...

read more
Three Months I Will Never Forget

Three Months I Will Never Forget

By: Alyssa Kruman, Summer 2023 Madricha, Camp Harlam Bus 15 Summer 2023 was three months that I will never forget. There was nothing more rewarding than being by the side of Jewish teens experiencing the most special place for the first time. Each day brought new...

read more
Two Simple Words

Two Simple Words

By Erica Barish, former Assistant Director of Yallah! Israel                                                                                                     ***We are resharing this blog from the past, written by former Assistant Director Erica Barish. Emphasizing...

read more