Chai on Camp Kimama

Campers from across the globe enjoy summers at Camp Kimama in Israel.

Photo by Rotem Golan

While there are countless Jewish summer camps across the world, Israel's Camp Kimama sets itself apart. At Kimama's camps, campers learn openness and acceptance in an experience joined by campers from over 40 countries, while being situated in Israel boosts each of the camps, allowing campers to enjoy the diverse landscapes and nature of the country.

“Camp is a fun and safe environment for our youth to build friendships, learn life skills and grow into engaged and mature young adults through a range of enriching activities and meaningful experiences,” says Avishay Nachon, Camp Kimama's executive director.

Camp Kimama started in 2004 with 160 campers. At present, well over 1,500 youths, ages 6 to 17, come every year to one of Kimama's three campsites — Kimama Michmoret at the Mevo'ot Yam beach village near Netanya, Kimama Galil at Kibbutz Amir on the banks of the Jordan River, and Kimama Carmel at the Kfar Galim agricultural school at the foot of the Carmel Mountain by the Mediterranean.

Kimama's specialty tracks are individually adapted for each camper to grow his or her special talents or passions. Tracks, represented at the different campsites, include sports, swimming, surfing and other water sports, dog-training, fashion, arts, media and extreme sports and wilderness. In addition, there are various campwide activities and performances, as well as overnight trips to the Golan Heights, Upper Galilee and Jerusalem, and lessons on Israel, Jewish identity and culture.

Arielle Tayar, 25, first attended Camp Kimama in 2006 as a camper. For the past five summers, the New York-based documentary-film producer has returned to staff the arts program, which includes art, theater, music and dance.

"As the head of the arts program, I designed a 24-hour musical where about 80 campers put on a production," she says. "Everyone learns the all parts of production and together put on the show. We, as staff, watch kids do really amazing things. They leave the stage feeing empowered. It's a thrilling experience for all." The performance was in both Hebrew and English, and included various arts, including song, visual arts, music and dance.

Aside from the physical camp offerings, the deeper impacts of Camp Kimama are lauded by campers, staff and parents.

Leo Gundle, 17, of London, describes Camp Kimama as a “positive atmosphere and an amazing way to spend your summer.”

“There is something for everyone, whether its art, singing, drama or sports, Kimama has it all and there are a lot of like-minded people joining you at camp," he says. "You will make a lot of new friends from all over the world, and experience people from all different backgrounds and cultures.”

Gundle says he built “a sense of confidence and teamwork” at camp because the attitude is relaxed and fun. “After every meal, we get up and sing and dance; the whole camp enjoys bursting out in the fun and amazing activities.”

Tayar explains, “Many campers completely transform at Camp Kimama," adding that this is probably linked to the international component and the community atmosphere. "As a counselor, you see kids who don't speak English or Hebrew, but only speak French or Turkish. But after only a few weeks, they can communicate with each other in a different way. At Kimama, we become a family together."

“Give us your kid for a fortnight and we'll give you back an enterprising and self-possessed individual," says Ronny Osterer, the camp’s marketing director. “At Kimama, Jewish children from over 40 different countries are exposed to multiple cultures and languages, and they develop long-lasting friendships. These international social networks broaden horizons, create a sense of belonging and become a strong source of empowerment.”

Tavar keeps going back to Kimama because of the environment: “It’s a meeting place of my friends and an environment of incredibly creative and supportive people from all over the world.”

In addition to the camps in Israel, Kimama has opened a  new program: "Kimama Road Trip." This U.S. tour camp maintains the much-loved Kimama vibe, as it welcomes campers ages 12-17 from Israel and across the world and its staff in visiting sites in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and more. Activities will include nature hikes through national parks, and day trips to amusement parks, museums, a baseball game and a chocolate factory. There also will be outdoor activities like camping and boating, as well as spending Shabbatot with an American Jewish summer camp. The three-week summer camp will be full of sightseeing, meeting new friends and educational experiences — all in Kimama style.

For more information about Camp Kimama in Israel, or for the U.S. Kimama Road Trip, visit http://www.campkimama.org/en.

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