During my growing up years, summers were spent at sleep-away camp in Three Rivers, Michigan. A slow paced city with a population count below ten thousand, back then it was characterized by corn fields and its neighboring city Battle Creek – home of Kellogg’s world headquarters.
For us pre-pubescents the annual Kellogg’s factory tour was a summer highlight: the heavenly smell of toasting Corn Flakes accompanied us as we walked alongside massive vats filled with the stuff of our breakfast dreams and gazed in awe at assembly machinery putting together the variety 6-pack giveaways we were allotted at tour’s end.
At the time we camp-goers were being spoon fed kibbutz ideals: Socialism, Cultural Judaism, Progressive Labor Zionism and Social Justice. The camp was Tavor and it was a branch of the international youth group Habonim (now Habonim Dror).
I loved it. Not only was it a month away from parents in a liberal environment that promoted free thought, the power of protest and the importance of being informed but it was also a place where the socialist ideals of egalitarianism and a non-spoiled work ethic were refreshing.
We campers tended the goats and chickens, cleaned the lake and swimming pool, weeded and pruned the vegetable gardens, picked corn from the fields and rotated dining room set up and break-down duties. Part of the share-mentality included handing over any sweets we’d brought along in our trunks because, as the reasoning went, how fair is it for one person to enjoy chocolate if others can’t indulge as well?
Camp Tavor and Habonim had a tremendous influence on my ideas and opinions and are probably key reasons for my current choice of dwelling venue.
So as I re-acclimate to Holy Land Central (HLC) after a few months’ break, I find my thoughts returning to Tavor.
During the final days of one summer session, we campers were grief-filled over the impending return home. It meant separation from bunk mates and soul mates, a return to the quiet of non-communal dining room clatter and dreaded parental rules.
Jody Gillette, a senior counselor and incidentally, now an HLC resident like myself, sat a group of about 100 of us down for a de-briefing that went something like this:
Look guys, I know you don’t want to go home. I know it sucks. And I know that when you get home you basically want to say: Mom, Dad… Fuck off. I want to go back to Camp. (swearing was okay at Tavor) But don’t do it. Because if you do, they’ll never let you come back. Just try to shut the fuck up and have a good time.
And so, heeding Jody’s advice, I am now trying to do the same: STFU&HAGT…ain’t easy…nope it sure isn’t.