Israeli Scouts entertain, educate children at JCC Camp

First Posted: 7/31/2014

A few hundred young campers heard a lesson of the war now being waged in the Middle East in a way they could handle, sprinkled throughout upbeat songs and stories during visit a from the Israeli Scouts.

It was the 12th year the Tzofim Friendship Caravan, a group of the Israel Boy and Girl Scouts, visited day campers at the JCC Camp in Lehman Township.

Before the performance, camp coordinators also honored Esther “Essy” Davidowitz, a long-time worker who built up one of camp’s most popular activities.

The 10 high school-aged envoys are spending the summer touring through the United States visiting schools and camps to instruct children about Israeli heritage and culture. Most of them have one more year of schooling before beginning their three-year mandatory stint in the Israeli military.

From the moment the lights went down, the 10 performers never stopped moving. They blended popular songs from Disney movies and pop music with traditional Jewish song and dance.

From the side of the gym where he sat, Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel in Wilkes-Barre, watched as two boys danced past him singing, pulling campers up from their seats to dance.

Many of these youths have left their families behind in Israel, Kaplan said. Parents, brothers and sisters of the performers remain in their homeland in constant fear their homes could be shelled by rockets from the Gaza Strip.

The rabbi said their display Wednesday was a symbol of a strong Israeli mindset: life goes on.

“Israel continues to exist because the young people are focused on their future,” Kaplan said.

After the performance, Yarden Rapoport — a young Jewish woman and a former Israeli Scout herself, who is spending the summer working at the camp — told campers that Wednesday was her grandmother’s 90th birthday, one she was spending in fear.

“She’s been under the sounds of the sirens and the rockets every day,” Rapoport said.

Davidowitz honored

Though only some of the older campers knew Davidowitz, they were very familiar with her legacy. They all applauded and showered the 80-year-old with gifts where she sat.

Davidowitz got one of the camp’s most popular activities, called gimp braiding, off the ground, and she and her husband, Bill, continue to buy supplies for the campers. Camp leaders say gimp braiding continues to be one of the camp’s most popular activities.

She remembered the first time the Israeli Scouts came to visit, and said the program is critical for children living in the Wyoming Valley to understand their own connection to the nation of Israel, especially now that fierce fighting, which has left more than 1,000 people dead, has gripped the nation for nearly a month.

Davidowitz said, though it may seem like the two nations are warring against each other, compared to both nations, only a few feel violent in their political activism. The common families in Israel and in Gaza simply want to live in peace, she said.

“I don’t think that feeling of humanity for humanity changes among the peoples,” Davidowitz said. “People love peace, whatever their heritage.”

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