If you spent any time at the Valley of the Sun JCC this summer, you probably noticed facts about Israel posted on the walls and an Israeli culture room as a part of the camp’s activities. Leading the Israeli cultural activities was Hadar Hamu, who was thrilled to share her heritage with all the excited kids attending Shemesh Camp.
As an Israeli herself, Hamu was able to offer all the campers a firsthand perspective of Israeli culture.
Hamu was born in Israel and lived there until she moved to the States as a child with her family. But when she was old enough she returned to her country of origin to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. After her time in the army, she returned to the U.S. and now works to help teach more about Israel.
At 24, Hamu is the director of the Shevet Shemesh, the Israel Scouts of Arizona. Shevet Shemesh is the newest chapter of Tzofim Tzabar, a program run by Friends of the Israel Scouts (the largest youth movement in Israel). Tzofim Tzabar is designed to connect North American Hebrew-speaking children.
Hamu develops several programs and events for Shevet Shemesh.
Where in Israel are you from?
I am originally from the southern part of Israel. I was born and raised in Beer Sheva until the age of 10.
How long have you been in Arizona?
I originally moved from Israel to California in 2005. After spending a few years in Los Angeles, my family and I moved to Arizona in 2007. Shortly after graduating Hamilton High School in Chandler, I returned to Israel to enlist in the IDF. I returned to Arizona after completing my ser vice and have lived here since.
What was your role in the IDF?
I enlisted in the IDF as a lone soldier back in December 2013. My role in the IDF was a combat medic. After completing basic training and combat medic course, I was stationed in the Gaza Division, approximately 6 kilometers from the border. I truly enjoyed every part of my service; I learned a lot, made lifelong friendships and unforgettable memories.
What is Shevet Shemesh?
Shevet Shemesh is the local Israeli scouts chapter of Phoenix Arizona. It is a wonderful youth movement composed of over 90 local scout members rang- ing from third graders to high school students. Our chapter members typically gather every Sunday and participate in activities involving scouting skills, Jewish Israeli identity, local community events, Jewish holidays, leadership abilities and other counselor skills and so much more.
I have worked as the director of Shevet Shemesh since summer of 2016. This upcoming year will be my fourth year directing the sunniest chapter in the U.S.
What do you do at Shevet Shemesh?
As director, I have gotten the opportunity to work closely with an incredibly inspirational individual, Sigal Urman, who is our chapter Chairman and founder. Through the years together we’ve organized influential chapter events like our annual chapter camping trip to Prescott, Israel’s Memorial Day ceremony, Holocaust remembrance ceremony, Good Deeds Day and more.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being that I myself am a sort of hybrid of Israeli and American identities, I see the positive impact that the youth movement has had, and continues to have, on the local Israeli and Jewish American kids since the chapter was established four-and-a-half years ago. Seeing them work together every week to lead this community is the most rewarding part of my job, alongside working with incred- ible individuals, board members and the families of the community, of course. I absolutely love my job. Shevet Shemesh is like my second family. During my time as director, I have had the chance to acquire lifelong skills, made lasting memories with wonderful kids and their families. For all that I am incredibly grateful.
Tell me about working at the Valley of the Sun JCC’s camp.
This summer, I worked as the Israeli culture specialist. Throughout the week, I see various groups of campers, ranging from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. Some of my camp responsibilities as the Israeli culture specialist included conducting activities related to Israel and Judaism. Basically, I try and bring a bit of Israel to Shemesh Camp. I love seeing the campers learn something new about Israel and its culture or participate in activities pertaining to Judaism and Israeli society.
What did the kids ask you about Israel?
Kids are incredibly curious, which is why I love working with them so much. The number one topic that is typically brought up is the mandatory IDF service. I think that they find it fascinating that military service is mandatory in Israel and so naturally they have a lot of questions regarding that topic.
What do you hope the kids learned about Israel?
If there is one thing I hope to educate about it is that Israel is a beautiful country with incredible people and Jewish identity. It is so rich in culture, history, food and tradition. I hope that they aspire to travel there one day and experience the beauty firsthand.
Just for fun, what’s a meal you could eat every day?
I absolutely love paninis. I can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. JN