The students were quite divided during the weekend before Passover. Many of us found ourselves with family, friends, and in some cases at the home of strangers. Although a few students began the weekend with some doubts about being thrown in a new environment with people they’d never met, I can confidently say that the majority of us had a pleasant weekend, and started or strengthened friendships that we were happy we were given the chance to create. A great deal of us entered our Yam L’Yam adventure with a great deal of worrying and uncertainty. However, in the end through those five days of shared moments, challenges, and activities, we created a bond unique to anything we’ve experienced so far this semester.
As we stepped onto the bus ride that would lead us to start Yam L’Yam, everyone was excited and buzzing with stories from Pesach, and thoughts of a trip to come. After a couple hours of chatting and rest, both buses reconvened at a water path, where the entire Heller High group was divided into two separate groups that each possessed their own individual guide. Personally, I found this composition of new groups a refreshing change from our usual Adama and Shmayim* setting, and I think for many it gave us the chance to interact with, and form stronger relationships with people who we hadn’t engaged with previously. Each group then set out for the beginning of Yam L’Yam, where everyone’s little efforts to keep primarily dry became short-lived after some water games with our guides. Needless to say, everyone that trudged back up on shore ended up much more soaked than expected!
After a fresh change of clothes, our bus brought us to our campsite where we would end up staying for two nights due to some rain difficulties. We were also divided into smaller sub-groups, where we would cook breakfast and lunch, and on one day complete a team navigation hike together! I found these group activities to be a fun bonding experience, as they offered the opportunity to both eat and have conversations with individuals that we otherwise might not have. It was also fun to challenge ourselves and step up for different leadership positions within the group, whether that was trying to cook a meal, chop some vegetables, or spy on other groups for food ideas. When we arrived at our camp sites, I think many of us were surprised to find set tents, ice-cream, and even bathrooms, (and porta-potties). Over the course of the next few days, we embarked on multiple hikes down our first mountain, to a water pool, and through so much breathtaking scenery. Our Saturday night also ended with a wonderfully planned Havdalah, that ended in rap presentations from different people, Israeli dancing, and an all-inclusive song sesh. Although our hikes from the trip were occasionally separated by bus rides, there was still an overriding sense of fun and accomplishment as each day passed! After visiting a water well on our second day, we hiked back up a mountain which I think many of us would agree was the most challenging physical work of the trip. Although the walk was about 20-30 minute steep uphill, many of us completed the hike bubbling with energy and a perception of personal pride and achievement. I also found the amount of encouragement I heard being shouted from person to person, no matter their place on the hill, to be amazing.
Some of my favorite memories of the trip were formed as our day came to a close, and a fire started at night that was surrounded by marshmallows, stories, and the laughter of our group. Although many of us still had access to our phones, we chose the presence of one another instead of our phones after a long exhausting day. It was in those moments that were filled with the noise from talking and music, that I think many of us felt the strength of community we had established over the course of the past two and a half months.
As our final day on Yam L’Yam approached, we changed our pace from hiking to biking. Although many of us started peddling with doubts and skepticism about our biking abilities covered up by humor, the overall ride was about an hour and a half pleasant journey with beautiful nofs (views)! Most of the ride was on the paved paths of village streets with some downhills and some uphills where we had to stop and walk up. However as we approached the Mediterranean Sea there was a sense of completion and we spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off with ice cream, tanning, and washing off the grime of the past few days with fun (and safe!) fights in the cool water by the beach for a few hours.
Although some of us may have been ‘more in our zone’ than others beginning the trip, we all took huge steps out of our comfort zones; whether gaining the confidence to try new activities, or interacting with students we hadn’t connected with thus far. Inevitably, we all grew together as a community as we shared such an unforgettable experience.
Jessie Horowitz is a junior from Toronto, Ontario and also a camper at Camp George.
*Adama and Shmayim are the names of the two groups that the students were split up into at the beginning of the semester.