It was a Livnot hike like many previous ones. True, it was very hot, but then – when is a hike in the Golan Heights in the summer *not* hot? We were not far from a natural waterfall and swimming pool, which means it was a perfect time for a chevruta session, and the subject was – not surprisingly – “Amazement.”
We found a shady spot under a grove of old olive trees, and we sat down in relative comfort to discuss the subject. People split up into groups of two and three, found a tree appropriate for their size…and dove head-first into the text. They read the sources out loud, spoke out for or against, and then answered the questions. Rabbi Heschel would have been proud.
We regrouped to share our thoughts and ideas. No pressure – just those who are comfortable sharing. And people shared – freely and openly. There was a wonderful discussion about the importance of amazement in our lives, yet tough questions were asked, and there were various disagreements – which is a good and healthy sign. And then we came to the last question.
“When have you been radically amazed in your life?”
There were some very interesting answers, as a number of people shared. And then one woman raised her hand to answer, and said, very simply: “Eden Village Camp.” I felt like I was blown out of the water.
Eden Village Camp, for those who are not familiar, is a truly “radically amazing” summer experience for children (and – I now know – counselors, too), in upstate New York. It teaches Judaism, spirituality, community, neighbor-loving and conscious speech, eco- sustainability, and social justice. And it’s FUN.
She described how she miraculously landed a job there, and how the camp enhanced a sense of amazement among the campers and staff. I must have been smiling from ear to ear.
She said: “Wait…do you know Eden Village Camp? Do you know the founders, Yoni and Vivian?”
I said: “They sat right here under these very trees. They were Livnoters just like yourself. They were amazed, and now they have made a camp that enhances amazement.”
She seemed astounded to hear this.
And I thought – yes, it’s true. In the United States, Eden Village Camp is the place to go to learn about and experience radical amazement. In the world, the Land of Israel is perhaps the capital of Amazementland. In Israel, it is in Tzfat that you can most easily find amazement. And in Tzfat, it is Livnot.
Amazement is not the only thing that is felt and absorbed in any of these places. But it is one of the most oft-mentioned things that people say – even years afterwards – that they took away from the Livnot experience.
But there’s a minefield…
If somebody comes to Livnot and leaves – along with other values – with a yearning for amazement, and they don’t happen to be working at Eden Village Camp, and their friends and family and workplace do not enhance a sense of amazement, then they might get stuck! How can a young American Jewish Livnot past-chevre keep their sense of amazement?
There are many answers to this question.
One of them is happening on Labor Day weekend at Camp Moshava, where Livnot U’Lehibanot is having its 35th Anniversary Retreat. It will be a weekend that will celebrate Amazement. If you’d like to recapture the taste of radical amazement that you dined on in Tzfat, I invite you to come be with us at the retreat, and get a chance to reacquaint yourself with this great barbecue sauce. It goes well with anything. But you need a booster shot now and then.
That’s why I’m going. See you there!
-Michael Even Esh