by Sziszi Szilagyi, 2016-2017 Kitchen Staff and 2018 Lifeguard from Hungary
Before camp I didn’t really know much about the Jewish religion. I saw people with kippahs on their heads, but I wasn’t really interested in why they wore them or what Shabbat really meant. I remember when I was in high school my best friend and her family used to go to Israel twice a year for holiday. One time they even asked me to go with them, but I said no because I just didn’t understand why they were always going there and why she was so excited about it.
Last year before my interview with Amy, the staff at Camp Leaders told me that there is a Jewish camp who is interested in hiring staff and asked how I felt about it. I thought that would be great-I could learn about other cultures too. They sent me the camp’s website, and I remember that night I was up until 5am without even realizing it because I was just continuously searching about this religion and the people. It was so different and unusual for me. I even searched how could a person became Jewish. I also found out that one of my friends worked at URJ Camp Eisner in Massachusetts. Knowing this had a really big impact on me. I saw her pictures, her camp, her job, and the different kind of people. So I became really excited about the summer, because her camp seemed like so much fun.
First when I arrived at Coleman I was a little bit scared that I was going to make some mistakes like saying something that I wasn’t supposed to say. I thought that everybody there was Jewish and everyone could speak Hebrew. I made friends with some American counselors and I didn’t want to ask them about Judaism because I thought that they would judge me, however I was curious about a lot of things and I had so much questions. I also spoke with some people from Israel. That was the point when I started to be curious about Israel and wanted to know more about it. I wanted to learn and ask about the army and their school system also. I searched for some pictures. The first thing that came to my mind was why I was so stupid when my friend asked me to go with them? I had the opportunity to go and I missed it.
This summer, my 2nd on staff, I think I was the one who first told my friends I wanted to go to Israel. Erika, another staff member, and I were talking about holidays and that we wanted to go to visit a lot of places. I said that now after this two summers I am really curious about what Israel looks like, and I saw the expression on Erika’s face. She said that she always wanted to go to Israel and I said we can go. She was so so happy and she didn’t even believe that I was talking seriously. Two days later we bought our flight- it happened really fast because both of us wanted to visit there for so long. After that we told others that we are going, and Sandy and Luca bought tickets too.
Our plane arrived in Tel Aviv, and from there we took a bus to Haifa. On the first day Yakov (another Coleman staff member) met us and took us to a good place to eat. After that we were so exhausted so we just went to sleep, but the next day we visited to Akko or Acre, the old city. It was so beautiful. Yakov was with us, and he answered our questions because we had a lot. That night we slept at Yakov’s house- he lives in a small town near to the border that’s different from Haifa or Akko. Yakov told us some stories about what happened a few years ago when some people fled from Lebanon to Israel. His town was attacked by rockets, even the street where Yakov’s house is; the glass of his door was broken because of it. He also told other shocking stories. For me it was hard to believed that there are people like this and it was hard to imagine that the people there are prepared for another attack.
After that we went to Tel Aviv and it was different than Haifa, I think mostly because of the tourists. But I liked it more than Haifa; I liked the whole city and the beach there and the old city, Yaffa- it was so nice. That was the best part of the vacation for me. On Sunday we visited Jerusalem were there are the most “religious” people. It was also another kind of experience. The market was so amazing with the little streets. And the food, the different kind of desserts, and the all-time favorite falafel with hummus.
During our journey we met people from camp who actually live there (in Tel Aviv we met Or and in Jerusalem we met Bar) and they took us to some good places and told us stories about the city. This is one of the reasons why I like camp so much- I have friends all over the world who can take me around the city, tell stories about it, and show me good places to eat or go.
During that one week we learned so much more about the people who live there, and we also started to learn the Hebrew language. We started with the numbers and the easy expressions like thank you and you’re welcome.
For me the most surprising thing about the country and the religion is still the army- that everyone has to serve there- however I already knew about it. It was just so weird to see young people, even younger than me, wearing the uniform and holding guns. It’s hard to accept that in Israel they have to serve and have to be prepared. It is really sad for me.
All in all this travel had a big impact on me and I counted it one of my best travels. I learned so much from it. And the camp gave me this chance to go there. So thank you Camp Coleman!