This and That

Random bits of my life

Bnei Akiva Camp for ILAN

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 4, 2010

My son with Ivan

In photo above, my son, Binyamin, with Ivan, his 15-year-old ILAN camper.

This is a follow-up posting to my previous entry about the ILAN camp. ILAN is Israel’s association for disabled children and teenagers (ILAN site in English). Bnei Akiva is the world’s largest religious Zionist youth movement, with 125,000 members in 37 countries (Wikipedia article, Bnei Akiva in US and Canada).

I had thought Bnei Akiva was helping with an ILAN-run camp. It turns out that the Bnei Akiva branch in our neighbourhood, Mitzpeh Nevo, is actually organizing and running this camp. When you consider that these kids are mostly age 10 to 17 (at 18, they go into the army or National Service), it’s pretty impressive. This is the camp’s third year, and the largest so far. The first year they had 10 campers. Last year they had 13. This year they have 25, and each camper has two full-time volunteer counsellors (age 16-17). In addition, the younger children do support work, like bringing food and setting up activities.

The camp runs a full week and the campers have outings to the Tisch Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, the Superland fun fair in Rishon leZion, swimming, and other activities. They sleep in the dorms of Ulpana Tzvia, the local religious girls’ high school (each room accommodates two campers and four counsellors). My son and his friend Justin are with Ivan around the clock. The counsellors really are full-time care-givers. They change diapers, help the campers dress, eat, go to the toilet, and shower. They are in daily contact with the parents by cellphone. (As far as I can tell, they don’t have any social workers or medics with them but some of the older teenagers have cars for emergencies. My son and others have first aid training and are youth ambulance volunteers.)

The campers and counsellors spent the past Shabbat in our neighbourhood. Because Ivan was one of the more mobile campers, he stayed with us. Ivan is 15 years old has a brace on one leg and can’t use his right arm, but he can manage our stairs with crutches and has a wheelchair for outside. He is also mentally handicapped. Although he has trouble expressing himself, we managed in Hebrew. What a lovely boy! He drew pictures for us and was very polite and pleasant to be with.

The kids went to prayers and ate at the Pnei Shmuel synagogue Shabbat evening (it was renovated a few years ago so that it is fully wheelchair-accessible). In the morning they had prayers and kiddush at the Gilgal synagogue (a new building, accessible). Ivan ate lunch with us. In the afternoon Bnei Akiv held their “mifkad” (assembly) in front of the Pnei Shmuel synagogue, on the road in front of our apartment building. It was very impressive to see over 100 Bnei Akiva kids singing and clapping in a circle, with the 25 or so ILAN kids among them. Afterwards they ate seudah shlishit (“third meal” of Shabbat) in the Pnei Shmuel hall.

The Bnei Akiva kids have been raising money for months. The girls have been baking cakes and selling them. My son and his friends have been putting on their uniforms and dancing in downtown Jerusalem in all weather (mainly hot) for the past few Fridays to collect money from tourists and shoppers. All I can say is that I am very proud of my son and so impressed that these kids are doing this. Someone said to me this morning that, in Israel, Bnei Akiva kids are considered almost as adults, and they act accordingly.

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2 Responses to “Bnei Akiva Camp for ILAN”

  1. pam said

    You must be very, very proud of your son.

  2. […] Every summer the Bnei Akiva branch of Mitzpeh Nevo, Maale Adumim, organizes a camp for ILAN, Israel’s organization for severely disabled children and teenagers. The kids do an amazing job, setting up activities, organizing food, transportation, and being caregivers around the clock (link to my blog posting on the ILAN camp). […]

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