Beyond the Mountain: Camp Louise in Israel

By Hannah Wilpon Last October I turned 18. In reality, your 18th birthday isn’t that big of a deal; sure you can vote and buy lottery tickets, but neither one of those things is actually THAT exciting. There was one thing, however, that I was actually looking forward to. It was Taglit-Birthright Israel. Once you turn 18, you are eligible to apply and then attend one of the many trips that TBI sponsors. These trips are for young, Jewish people, anywhere between the ages of 18 and 26. I had already been to Israel with my family; I couldn’t wait for this experience with people my own age. birthright_HW I knew that Airy and Louise send a group, but I thought that the experience would be different if I went with a group of people I didn’t know. I signed up through the Hillel at Elon University. The bus consisted of Hillel groups from Elon, Towson University in Baltimore and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Sure, I knew a couple of students going from my own university, but the majority of the people on the trip started out as strangers.   We all met in JFK International Airport in New York, boarded our flight, and after 16 hours on a plane and a short layover in Madrid, we landed in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The trip of Bus 1173 had officially begun. Soon these random people that I met in the airport became my brothers and sisters.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that some members of the trip were people that I already considered family. I was wearing the camp flannel pajamas on the bus one day, and out of nowhere someone said, “Hey, I used to go to Camp Louise.” After that I heard about four more voices, “No way, me too!”, “Wait, so did !?”, “Were you first session or second?”, “What year were you a CIT?”, “When did you stop going to camp?” It turned out that many of us had attended Camp Louise throughout the years, some of us during the same sessions and years, and others many years apart from one another. That fact didn’t matter, the bond was instantaneous. The commonality of camp made it much easier to form relationships with these women. We all had the same place we will always call home. We had all participated in the same traditions, ranging from Friday Night Folkdance to singing Homegrown on every bus trip we could remember. Many of us wore camp clothing on the trip; one night we sang every single camp that we could think of, and we even did Havdallah together, just like we had done at camp in the past.  I didn’t know all of these women at the beginning of the trip, but I know that I can go to them any time if I needed to. That is one of the most important things that camp teaches us; we are a family, we love each other unconditionally, and we are always willing to reach out a helping hand. Whether we spend our summer together in Cascade, see each other in the Student Center at our respective universities, or randomly end up exploring Israel together, the family of Camp Louise is a strong and lasting bond.

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Sde Boker, Israel
June 2014
From Left to Right: Julia Denick (CIT 2010, Circle 2013), Hannah Wilpon (CIT 2012), Alex Baker (Camper 2004-2010), Danielle Dermer (Camper), Amber Anthony (Camper 2006-2009), Kayla Reisman (CIT 2009), Sheryl Cooper (CIT 1974)
Photo Credit: Sheryl Cooper