Camp Moshava Alevy

When it comes to Jewish education, there are no magic potions. No one course, program, or trip that can guarantee our children’s future Jewish identity. But if there were such a thing, it would definitely be hands-on. It would help them understand their own importance in the broader context of Jewish history and geography. And ideally? It would get their hands dirty outdoors, away from phones and computers, forging friendships that last a lifetime.
So that’s exactly the program Israeli nonprofit HaShomer HaChadash created this summer at Camp Moshava Alevy for about 150 boys and girls from California and beyond.
“First we learn about the agriculture of Israel,” says counselor Sabrina Benzakein, 18. “Then, we take what we learned and apply it directly to the land in front of us… We meet people who we would have never crossed paths with otherwise, which really taught me that I am part of something bigger. They’ve also shown me that hard work gives the most amazing results.”
Working hand in hand with the staff of the camp which is part of the worldwide Bnei Akiva youth movement, HaShomer HaChadash brought its experience running educational farms in Israel to help American campers deepen their connection to the Land of Israel and learn Jewish values through agriculture.
According to Sganit Rosh Moshava (assistant camp director) Aliza Zeff, “Until now, our campers have learned about Israel and have had daily Torah learning. But this summer, they are blessed with also learning about modern issues facing Israeli society, as well as making real and deep connections with the land and people of Israel.”
The program created by HaShomer HaChadash, which campers and staff call Hava (Hebrew for “farm”), harnessed multiple intelligences to introduce campers to a diverse range of agricultural activities: planting and raising crops, animal care, soil construction, permaculture, carpentry (building raised beds), and building mud structures.
Fourteen-year-old Hannah Katyal of Palo Alto loved her Hava experiences. “I made cement and helped make a bench. I also planted a few plants and made raised beds. I was really cool to be able to work with my hands.” She was excited to be learning more about Israel. “Working the land gives you a special connection with the land of Israel. Also, agriculture is an important part of Israel’s culture.”
For Chana Horowitz,age 14, from LA, “Hava is special because it teaches us how to work together and to set your mind on a project .We got to work hard on a project and it felt great when we finished it. I learned that it was difficult but not impossible.”
HaShomer HaChadash was established as a grassroots movement connecting the people of Israel with its land and heritage while strengthening values of mutual responsibility, civil courage and love of the land.
In Israel, the organization aids farmers in safeguarding agricultural land, introduces Israeli students from social and geographic peripheries to the importance of farming with respect to the country’s past, present, and future, and promotes study and discussion of Jewish values. All activities center around three key values: love of the land, mutual responsibility, and civil courage.
According to Zeff, “Moshava Alevy is proud to be the first camp working in conjunction with HaShomer HaChadash and looks forward to growing and strengthening this partnership over the coming years.”
HaShomer HaChadash is currently working on expanding its partnerships with the goal of getting the program up and running at another 10 camps by 2020. And that’s great news for the many kids across America who can’t wait to get down and dirty on the farm next summer.


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