Blogging the War: “Survivor Day” – Camping in Israel is No Reality Show

by Brian on August 14, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Sunday, August 13, 2006. The link is here.

Parenting is never easy…even more so when you’re dealing with comforting your child during a missile attack.

It was supposed to be the
highlight of camp: “Survivor Day.” Inspired by the TV show of the same
name, the campers arose at 5 a.m. and prepared for a full day of
managing outdoors on their wits. There were a variety of water
challenges planned – a critical concession given the 90-degree plus
heat – ranging from jumping on and off rafts to wet and wild tug of
wars.Everything was going swimmingly, so to speak, until – in
the middle of all the fun – four long-range Hezbollah missiles from
Lebanon landed about a kilometer from where the campers were frolicking
in the local water hole, giving Survivor Day an unexpected and entirely
unwanted twist.

For the past 12 days, our 12-year-old daughter,
Merav, has been having the time of her life at her first overnight
camping experience. The setting was Kibbutz Shluchot just south of Bet
Shean in the northern Jordan Valley. “Everyday there’s something
different,” Merav told us one night by phone. “You never know what to

The ever-changing activities included swimming, arts
and crafts, badminton, inline skating, nature hikes, a “Color War,”
tiyulim to nearby attractions (such as the impressive Bet Shean
archeological dig with its ancient Roman amphitheater), a stroll
through the kibbutz carrot factory, more swimming, basketball, Shabbat
“walks” with a camper of the opposite sex, and, did I say swimming yet?

The kibbutz, Merav said was beautiful; the campers all received
their own bicycles and they rode everywhere, from their bunks to the
synagogue and then to the dining hall. Even the meals were pretty
tasty, high praise from my newly vegetarian daughter.

Disrupted Routine

Day was set in a man-made swimming hole about a 15-minute walk from the
kibbutz itself. After its early start in the wee hours of the morning,
the action-packed day wasn’t scheduled to conclude until near sunset.
Then, at approximately 11 a.m. Hezbollah fired five long-range,
Khaibar-1 missiles from deep inside Lebanon.

Unlike the
shorter range Katyushas, which fall on beleaguered closer-to-the-border
communities like Kyriat Shemona, Karmiel and Safed, the long-range
missiles can travel 100 km or more and pack a much more powerful

The Khaibars landed in the Mount Gilboa forests
between Bet Shean and Afula. As soon as I heard the news (since the war
started over a month ago, I have been obsessively monitoring the
Internet, checking in no less than once every five minutes), I pulled
out a map. Whereas the previous round of missiles fired into the Bet
Shean area sailed mostly over the town and nearby Kibbutz Shluchot –
setting off alarms, but touching ground a good deal away near the West
Bank city of Jenin – this time, they were daringly close to a camp full
of kids outdoors, who not coincidentally, were also miles from the
nearest bomb shelter.

The phone soon rang. It was Merav. She was
clearly in tears; I could feel her shoulders heaving up and down in the
tremble of her voice. “They’re canceling camp,” she said. “We’re coming
home tonight. They said it’s not safe here anymore.”

I didn’t
know exactly how to respond. It’s hard enough parenting a teenage
daughter in ordinary times and Merav’s emotions are already volatile; I
never know if she’s going to take a comment in stride or launch into a
sequence of ceremonial door slamming.

Taking Stock

I try to comfort her, ask her how she was feeling and if she was
scared? Or should I act all nonchalant and normal and say what a shame
it was that camp was ending early, letting her initiate any heavy-duty

I looked for clues in Merav’s words.

today was supposed to be the best day of camp, too,” she said. I sensed
less shaking now and more of a pout. That seemed to call for a
laid-back direction.

“That’s such a bummer,” I said, picking my words carefully. “I know you were really looking forward to it.”

“But I’m scared, Abba.”

“You are?” I said, confused now by the rapid change of course. “Well, what was it like?”

heard this whistling sound, it was more like a ‘whoosh,’ then we
thought we saw a light in the sky – I’m not sure – it was almost like a
shooting star in the middle of the day – and then there were these big
‘booms’ and we saw all this smoke going up from the other side of the
mountain. We had to duck under these picnic tables for, like 15
minutes, and we were all wet and it was muddy.”

“That must have been awful,” I intoned caringly. “No wonder you were scared!”

“And now you’re going to have a big load of clothes to wash!” Merav barked, a sprig of sarcasm back in her voice.

parenting instinct was being ping-ponged all over the table. I needed
to pick a strategy: casual or concern. But Merav had decided for me.

“I have to go now,” Merav interrupted my game of mental table tennis. “We need to pack. We’re coming home tonight. Bye.”

A few minutes later, Devorah, one of the camp co-directors, was on the line giving us pick up instructions for the bus.

“Did the home front command tell you to cancel camp?” I wondered out loud.

but one of the missiles landed in Nir David,” Devorah said, referring
to the next village over, a scant two kilometers from Shluchot. “We
don’t need to wait until it lands in our own garden. We wanted to be
prudent,” she said.

And that’s how it ended. The weeks-long
debate chronicled in these posts about whether to send our child to
camp closer to the front lines, whether it was irresponsible not to
take her out when the first missiles landed; the whole discussion was
now moot. Camp was closing.

Later that night, Merav was home.
After a five-hour bus ride, she looked less frightened than exhausted
as she made her way around the campers and their parents, handing out
hugs like chocolates at a bar mitzvah boy’s Torah reading.

thanked Kenny, the other co-director, who joked that “usually at the
annual camp convention, the big conversation is what to do on a rainy
day. I think I can top that this year.”

Which got me thinking:
maybe we can make a little hay out of the hell we’ve been going
through, too. I’m half thinking of calling up CBS and pitching them on
an idea for an upcoming season of that veteran reality show “Survivor.”
Forget the Australian Outback, Thailand or Panama. Just send the next
crop of contestants to camp at Kibbutz Shluchot and tell them to
prepare for “Survivor Day.”

That should be enough to test the mettle of even the most TV-hardened competitor. We’ll provide the missiles, free of charge.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous August 14, 2006 at 11:55 pm

Have you thought about whether or not your daughter would like her personal conversations with her parents posted on the internet?
How is she supposed to trust you and come to you for help with problems if she has to worry if it is going to become public information.

2 Anonymous August 16, 2006 at 10:25 pm

If you call CBS with the idea it would probably morph into “a day with Lebanese 'civilians'”

3 Anonymous August 17, 2006 at 5:15 am

You better think about where you can move to away from the Middle East.
G_d has forsaken your people. In every other war Israel has been in since 1948 G_d has blessed your people with miracles to help you win, but not this war.
I believe it's because of the tolerance that has been seen in your nation for homosexuality, BSDM, and other immoral behavior.
Chronicles 24:20
New International Version (NIV)
20 Then the Spirit of G_d came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what G_d says: 'Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.'

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