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ICEJ supporting fun and fruitful Aliyah summer camps

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Posted on: 
17 Aug 2021
ICEJ supporting fun and fruitful Aliyah summer camps

We are well into summer, when children head off to summer camp to make new friends and fun memories. In the Jewish world, summer camps are a big thing – especially the opportunity to get outdoors and to meet other Jewish children.

Right now, there are special summertime camps being held for Jewish youths in Latvia, Belarus, Russia and other former Soviet republics. They are special because these camps also are preparing the children to immigrate to Israel. These Aliyah camps are arranged by the Jewish Agency and sponsored by the Christian Embassy, among other organizations, and they are an important step in their journey home to the Promised Land.

So far this year, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has assisted with six Aliyah summer camps that have served 324 participants in total.

One exciting development is that these JAFI summer camps have not stopped even with the coronavirus threat. There are, of course, health precautions but hundreds of Jewish children have had the chance to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine in these beautiful resorts this summer – thanks to our Christian supporters worldwide.These camps have proved to be the most effective way of introducing Jewish children to Israel and telling them about the Youth Aliyah programs available to them – such as the Naale and Sela programs which the Christian Embassy has been supporting for more than 15 years. These Youth Aliyah programs have been a huge success over the years in bringing Jewish children to Israel ahead of their parents and then helping their parents acclimate once they have arrived. Thus, it has been a great blessing for the ICEJ to support these unique and highly successful pre-Aliyah summer camps.

One camp held in Belarus was the Super Summer 5781 Festival, and it included a visit to an estate which once belonged to an influential Jewish family. At the very beginning of the festival, the participants learned about a diary that once belonged to David, one of the younger members of this family. Every day, the campers scrolled through the diary of David one page per day, discovering new aspects of the life of this Jewish family – such the chuppah (wedding canopy), bar mitzvah, Shabbat meals, and many other life events and experiences. Throughout the entire time a unique atmosphere reigned in the camp, as the children immersed themselves in the history of this Jewish family, to get better acquainted with Jewish culture and traditions and to encourage them to form their own approaches towards them.

Currently, life in Belarus is very difficult and parents want their children to have a better life in Israel. Soon, many of the children who participated in these summer camps will make Aliyah with their parents or on their own as part of a “Youth Aliyah” program designed to help young olim and students take their first steps toward a new life in Israel.

Just last Sunday, the ICEJ helped with another very special Aliyah summer camp called the “Mezuza Fest”, held at a resort on a beautiful lake in Northern Russia away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. Jewish children gathered from all over Northwest Russia for a camp that also involved their parents.

The ICEJ arranged both transportation as well as dancing classes – including the amazing and popular ‘Jerusalema Dance Challenge’, a concert of Jewish music and a virtual tour of Jewish St. Petersburg. This was all provided in collaboration with the main Jewish community in St. Petersburg as part of an innovative program to encourage Aliyah and help the children build their Jewish identity.

One of the most impressive results from these summer camps is that the children are exposed to Youth Aliyah programs, such as the Naale program, which enables students to take a year of preparation and testing in Jewish studies while they finish their last years of high school in Israel. Most children who participate are around 15-to-17 years old and 96% of them decide to make Aliyah, with 60% of their parents joining them within a year or two.

With these success rates, we urge you to please consider supporting the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts, as we continue to reach out to the younger generation of Jewish people to help them take their first steps in the journey back to their ancestral homeland in Israel.


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