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What about tech and security at machaneh?

  • CampsBneiBangle2
Technology and security are two defining issues that make Jewish youth camps different to the camps of 10 years ago.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Dec 13, 2018

These two issues are among the greatest priorities of parents and children when considering whether or not to attend camp. Parents want to know that their children will be safe while not in their care, and youngsters want to know that they will still be able to access technology. Parents also want to know that their children will not be on their devices all holiday, but will still be able to communicate with them if they need to.

Technology

The all-pervasive need for smartphones is true in any space today, and it is no different among Jewish youth at camp.

Both Habonim and Bnei Akiva do not allow channichim (campers) to bringing laptops or tablets with them to the campsite.

Although smartphones are permitted at Habonim for all ages, their use is strictly monitored and regulated. “We make sure that kids cannot use them during any of the camp activities,” says Habonim Shaliach Danny Adeno Abebe. “[These activities] are crucial to the experience, and they need to pay attention.”

He recognises, however, the need for parents to remain in touch with their children, and says that the use of smartphones is permitted at certain times. “Jewish mothers will always be Jewish mothers” he laughs. “They want to make sure that their children are safe and enjoying themselves. They need to check in with them from time to time, and this we allow.

“Kids know that we have the power to confiscate their tech from the day camp starts. We explain to them at the outset that the camp time is for them, and that they need to make the most of it. Ultimately, it’s their time, and only if they can disconnect from their tech and connect with themselves and those around them will they take anything from the machaneh experience.”

Bnei Akiva allows Grade 8 and older to bring cell phones to camp, but they are not allowed to be used at mealtimes or during any formal activities, according to Milan Levy, Rosh Logistics at Bnei Akiva.

“We understand that we can no longer exclude cell phones totally from camp, but we are aware that phone calls and messages to parents causes homesickness. Also, when children send a message to their parents that they have a sore throat, parents worry, even though we have medical experts at camp.” Because of this, the youngest three shichvot (age groups) are not allowed to have phones with them.

“We have come to a stage where we embrace rather than push away technology,” he says. “We use technology to enhance our tochniot, and even our mealtimes, by creating interactive videos or using projectors.”

Netzer adopts a more stringent approach. According to Camp Head Jason Bourne, channichim are not allowed to have their phones on camp for the duration of machaneh. “Phones are to be handed in on the first day, and will be given back to the channichim when camp ends,” he says.

Bourne believes that the camp experience can be fully utilised only if technology is absent. “Channichim are discouraged from bringing technology as we believe they need to be fully immersed in the camp experience and what is going on around them,” he says.

If children do need to get in touch with their families, there are lines of communication available to them which are regulated by the camp’s administration.

Security

Bnei Akiva has introduced a new security system this year, where each channich gets a Bnei bangle, or near-field communication wristband to wear throughout camp. When someone leaves the campsite or returns, it is noted by security personnel, says Levy.

“This is just the beginning,” says Levy. “We will be rolling this out over the next few years. There will be a live dashboard that will enable security personnel to know where everyone is at any time. This will really improve security at machaneh.”

The move is backed by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and Community Security Organisation (CSO).

Responsibility for children’s safety and security at the youth camps is a joint effort between camp leadership, the SAZF, and the CSO.

“The camp environment is fraught with potential dangers. The CSO recognises the numerous other responsibilities faced by camp leadership and therefore endeavours to shoulder most of the responsibility for all the participants’ safety and security issues, says a CSO spokesperson.

“The CSO provides security to seven different camps over the December period, 24 hours a day. Over the past 25 years, we have established policies and procedures to ensure the safety and security of all participants.

“These continue to be refined as our environment changes, but you can be rest assured that no-one knows the venues and security requirements better than the CSO. Planning for camp security starts eight months in advance, and is updated every year,” the spokesperson says.

“More than just having a procedural advantage, the CSO teams are staffed by young, well trained, and well equipped volunteers who choose to give-up almost three weeks of their holiday to protect your children.”

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