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Record numbers for fun in the sun at this year’s machaneh

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In a few days’ time, Jewish youth from across South Africa will set off for various campsites on the coast, eager to escape the confines of home and ready for sun, sand, and summer vibes.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Dec 13, 2018

Hundreds of young Jews will attend Habonim, Bnei Akiva, or Netzer camp, which all promise to be bigger and better than ever before.

This is the fifth year in a row that Bnei Akiva has attracted more than 700 channichim (participants) for its Ivri Anochi machaneh. “This year is the biggest machaneh in history, with well over 800 channichim,” says Rosh Machaneh Chanan Emdin. “More than 1 100 people will be on site.”

Emdin says the camp experience has changed drastically over the years. Once entailing a two-day train ride down to Beaufort West, and then a lengthy bus trip, today, channies fly directly to George, and have an easy 20-minute bus ride to the beautiful campsite.

“Over the past five years, major renovations have been made to the campsite,” he says “It is totally unrecognisable from what it was in the past. They include a new tuckshop, new and bigger tents for channies, a state-of-the-art accommodation block for rabbis, doctors, and psychologists, a viewing deck, putt-putt course, and soccer and volleyball courts.

“The shul has been upgraded, there are two pools onsite, and an obstacle course. This was all done in order to stay ahead of the game and make sure our channies have the most incredible holiday while being inspired.”

Equally determined to inspire channichim is Habonim Shaliach Danny Adeno Abebe, who says that camp is a space in which to prepare the next generation of Jewish leaders.

“When I arrived in South Africa from Israel, I envisaged bringing Habonim into the Jewish community and creating a space for young Jews to connect and grow,” he says. “Putting aside all politics, we invite youngsters to enter a space that promotes a Jewish identity no matter how religious or irreligious they may be.”

With about 900 channichim going to camp this year, Abebe says the movement is committed to making sure that the experience is better than ever.

“Twelve of our madrichim (guides) are Israelis,” he says. “In addition, we will have 14 kids joining us from Israel this year. They are all from kibbutzim on the Gaza border, and have all had experiences of trauma that no child should have to face. We want to give them an opportunity to rest and be normal kids, enjoying an inspiring holiday with other youngsters.

“The presence of these people will make sure that our activities, whether we’re discussing Jewish identity, South Africa, Israel, or Zionism, will be an all-inclusive space of learning and gaining a better understanding of what it is to be Jewish. This is a platform for everyone, and we want every person to feel comfortable and express who they are as a Jew.”

Netzer is also adding international flavour to this year’s camp with the inclusion of American and Brazilian personalities. Says Jason Bourne, this year’s head of camp, “We are so excited to have two madrichim from our Netzer branch in Brazil join us for machaneh. We also have an amazing song leader all the way from America who will be in charge of anything musical on camp.”

The 60 Netzer campers can look forward to a vibrant and inspirational experience. Says Bourne, “During machaneh, we normally have a rabbi from the progressive Jewish community join us for Shabbat as they always bring a wonderful energy and brilliant stories and teachings.

“Things will be a little different this year, as we will be hosting the amazing Rabbi Emma Gottlieb on camp for nearly a full week. We cannot wait to see how different camp will be with an in-house rabbi to guide and teach us.”

Netzer machaneh also includes four big, special days that everyone always looks forward to. “These consist of Israel Day, South Africa Day, Tikkun Day, and of course, how could we forget the all-out, insane battle between the red and blue team in our colour wars,” Bourne says.

So, no matter which camp you choose this December, you are guaranteed to have many memorable moments.

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