I’ve named this blog because it was the begining of an experience, and the end of camps, and in a way the end of my time with Musalaha. This whole summer has been leading up to this month of camps, and now its finished. Its also the last words of a beautiful song we sung in Hebrew at camp.
On Saturday I lugged my luggage and bag of camp shirts up my ridiculously steep driveway in 30 degree heat. By the time I got to the bus I was drenched in sweet. Such a nice feeling… Saturday and Sunday counsellors and helpers hung out and went through the program for the week. At one point someone put on a Hillsong CD, which made me feel a little homesick. I met all the local leaders, many of whom having been doing this for years, they are a lot of fun. Monday we had campers arrive and we met our cabins.
I had a room of amazing girls, both campers and councelors, and now my Arabic is almost good enough to understand simple statements when said slowly, and almost have a conversation. I am back to being frustrated though when the Israeli girls talk to me, as I understood almost nothing of what they said(WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL MY LESSONS?). We had 5 Palestinian girls, 2 Israeli girls, 1 Eritrean girl and one Sudanese girl. Within 10 minutes of getting to our room, Anastasia, a Jewish girl, told one of the Palestinian girls (through a counsellor) that she wanted to be friends but couldn’t speak Arabic or much English. The Palestinian girl said that she wanted to be friends also but can’t speak Hebrew and little English. So they started talking, through one of the girls here who is multi-lingual(I AM SO JEALOUS!), but she soon got bored so they were left alone. From the time they arrived, around 4, to bedtime, around 10 the two were inseparable. By the end of camp they were showing off that they could count in each others languages. It was amazing to witness, it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t an idea from an adult or a leader, it was simply one girl wanting to be friends with another. I couldn’t get over it, it was Musalaha in action. As camp went on, kids got to know each other more and we saw friendships forming, inspiring.
Every morning we had Bible Studies which included songs, a Bible Quiz and a Bible Story/teaching. It gave me goose bumps to hear everything translated into the different languages, the Bible stories were all in Hebrew and Arabic(I didn’t mind that it wasn’t in English, I helped write them so I tried to follow along with my extremely limited Arabic). After that, we had Track Time where the kids could choose what workshop they wanted to do, art, map reading, filming, first aid, scrapbooking and Noura and I did the sweets. In the afternoon we went swimming, played water games and had a session on bullying and had team competitions. Because this camp was held in Petah Tikva in Israel we didn’t really have water restrictions(and I could wear shorts!), so there were many a waterfight between both campers and counsellors. In the evenings we had different things like bouncy castles, cabin challenges and a talent show(ours was pretty good!).
I’m just going to take a second to brag about our cabin. The camp had a few dramas with kids getting homesick or getting into fights, I can proudly say that our cabin was drama free. My worry when I saw that we only had two Israeli girls is that they would be excluded and be left on their own most of the time. This wasn’t the case, with almost no encouragement from the counsellors the girls all made efforts to have everyone included and enjoying themselves. The girls who spoke both languages fluently gladly translated for them and explained what was going on
I am in love with all of our girls, they are so beautiful, so funny and so loving. Two of the girls I quickly made a connection with were the two African girls, are Lulia and Fufu. They are hilarious, cheeky and incredibly beautiful, their skin next to mine is so dark. They were always quick to sit on my lap and give me hugs. On Monday I was talking to Naka, Fufu’s sister and a helper in our room and she told me that next week they are going back to Sudan, they have been served deportation papers. We were briefed about this on Saturday, warned that there is a small possibility that the Police may come but they were not to leave. News, and world stories have become real. They have faces, and names. They are people I love. Tuesday night once all the campers were in bed Naka came to talk to me, she was having a bit of a hard time. Her family has been here for six years and fled because of persecution. They have strived hard to make a life here, they speak fluent colloquial Arabic and Hebrew, they have friends and schools here. They work here. Their life is here, and now they are being told that they are not wanted. Naka and I sat for 45 minutes as she cried and knew that someone was there for her. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what its like to be in that situation. This morning during Bible Study after singing all our songs in Hebrew and Arabic(Ohev Bananot[I like Bananas, I know that Mangos are sweet..] and Ya Yasu’ Yasu’) we sung How Great is Our God. I love this song and I was really getting into it, right as the chorus started I open my eyes to see that I am being embraced by Fufu (not unusual). I couldn’t hold it together at that point. How can I truthfully sing How Great Is Our God when I have 7 year old in my arms who is being kicked out of the only country she knows? They are two ideas that I can’t marry right now. Shadia was leading worship and saw me crying, I was supposed to be on stage straight after for a game, but Shadia took over for me and let me sit with the girls.
Thursday night the counsellors stayed up most of the night talking, playing music and playing ridiculously competitive games of spoons(I leaped across the table a few times). At 4am, as per camp tradition, we launched our attack. Armed with permanent markers and face paint, faces, legs and arms became our canvas. No one was exempt, campers, helpers and the foolish counsellors who’d fallen asleep. Friday morning came, we packed up, played some games, danced a little and said our goodbyes. I’m not great at goodbyes at the best of times, saying goodbye to people I know I may never see again is hard. Knowing that I don’t have to leave the country yet made it easier. Saying goodbye to Naka and Fufu was heartbreaking, God be with them. Amazing how in a week strangers can become close friends.
This month has been amazing. I have laughed, I have cried, I have met so many people, I have been stretched and I have learnt so much. July 2012 will go down as a month that has changed my life. Does it have to end?