A long lost friend of mine from my camp days recently asked me to explain what life in Neve Daniel is like. Hmmmm...Describe your life in one email - not an easy task for anyone. So, it got me to start thinking about how I would describe life here, and how I would capture why I love living here so much.
I haven't thought about our lives in these terms too much in the past, but the realization suddenly hit me - Neve Daniel, and yishuv life in general, are like camp. I live in a camp setting - but I never have to leave my friends or go back home. I am home.
What did I love about camp growing up? Certainly, I loved the people. I enjoyed being with like-minded people who all came together to celebrate their Jewish identity in a beautiful setting. I loved waking up each morning and taking a walk in the familiar surroundings, running into people that I knew every time I turned. I loved the ritual of Friday afternoon, as everyone was busy getting ready for Shabbat, doing their hair, picking out the perfect dress, and anticipating the relaxing weekend ahead. I loved seeing the 100s of white outfits descend onto the grass, dancing and singing to welcome in Shabbat. I loved the ritual of summer life, knowing that there would be an opening day, certain weekly programs, Shabbat activities, etc.
It hit me during Yom Kippur how much my daily life is like camp. During Kol Nidre, while I was at the park with the kids (where else would I be : ) ?) I was stunned by the sea of white. It's a tradition to wear white for Yom Kippur, and everyone was arriving at shul in their flowing white outfits. It was a stunning, breathtaking display. And that's when I realized how much that moment reminded me of Friday afternoon at camp. It made me start to connect the two, and to come to a way to describe life in a yishuv in Israel.
Neve Daniel is like camp because:
I get to see my closest friends every single day of the week, and check in on how they are doing.
When I take my daily walk through the yishuv, I know everyone that I see. Every home is familiar to me, as is every car and every person. There is a deep sense of community in the familiar.
At the same time, there is a great deal of diversity. We come from many different countries, speak a slew of languages and have every profession from the solar truck driver to the neurosurgeon.
On Friday afternoons, I smell challah and chicken cooking in the ovens as I take my afternoon walk.
On Friday night, I can hear the davening from my house, and, should I get to shul, I can see everyone dressed beautifully and ready to greet the Shabbat bride together.
I spend my day off, Shabbat, enjoying time with good friends, eating delicious food and relaxing with my family.
I experience the rhythms of life here every day. The second that Yom Kippur ended last night, I could hear hammers throughout the yishuv. Everyone was moving immediately from one chag to the next, getting ready for the Sukkot holiday which starts on Friday.
I know that an entire community will come together for me, should I need it for any reason. I can enjoy wonderfully home cooked meals when I have a baby, and can offer the same to others in their time of joy and need.
Life it not always easy. What a gift to have figured out a way to live in such a comforting, warm environment. Children are told that they can enjoy camp while they are young, but that they'll have to outgrow it and learn to live in the real world as they get older.
Perhaps not, I've discovered.