Volume 31 Issue 29 16 Sep 2022 20 Elul 5782

Machane Ayekah

Alice Milner – Year 10

Sari Laishevsky -Year 10

Six days of pure perfection. The description for such may not generally apply when asking to recount a week spent with all 80 kids in your Year, but alas, in the eyes of Alice Milner and Sari Laishevsky, this fits almost perfectly. Flashback eight days, we were not nearly in the same mindset. Rather, we found ourselves heavily doubting the ability for our Year to gain the same connection previous years had acquired and raved about. In short, we were not hopeful. And in fact, we (Alice and Sari) weren’t really friends. We were friendly, sure, but until we were put in the same family group, did we create a bond beyond an awkward wave in the halls as Alice mistook Sari for her twin. Now, Alice can confidently say she can tell the difference between Meika and Sari Laishevksy. 

The fateful day of 31 August 2022 arrived and an unimaginable amount of luggage arrived with it. We arrived in the mo’adon (the main hall) and shortly after, were split into family groups. The Year consisted of five family groups, in which most pe’ulot took place. Most pe’ulot revolved around exploring our Jewish identity through the discovery of our personal values, connection to Judaism and its traditions.

We also had discussions based around personal identity and the ways we can improve cultures in our Year group. It began with our madrichim creating discussion topics, with each allocated a room that we could come and go from. Some of these included, ‘Mr Bloom teaches you, can you teach Mr Bloom?’ or ‘Why take a Gap year?’. After these discussions we were encouraged to create our own topics. In fact, Alice ran a conversation called, ‘Clique and Connect’ where the group uncovered some underlying issues surrounding our Year’s interactions. We really enjoyed these conversations because it was such an awesome opportunity to talk with our peers in a more open, deeper environment. 

Our night times were always filled with energy and fun, usually the product of a half hour’s worth of RUACH! We danced and sang with each other during those songs, jumping, squatting, lying on the floor and shouting with each other. It was a sweaty, disgusting, stinky room but nonetheless the scent of our spirit lived onto the next night. Our nights also included some very fun activities, such as Cafe D, where we split into groups outside our mishpachot (families) and had prompted conversations with each other over pretzels (of which we fought over). Our conversations would get deeper as the next course of snacks arrived. 

Friday preparations for Shabbat included practising the songs, decorating the shabbos table and cheder ochel (dining room) and writing notes for each other. We were each assigned a person to write a letter to, and this far into the camp we had quite a lot to say to one another, even to people we barely knew. After shabbat preparations had finished and shabbat was yet to arrive, we went to the mo’adon, all dressed up in our Shabbat best for a lovely prayer service. After the service, we escorted each other towards the cheder ochel, where our Shabbat dinner commenced. After everyone had finished eating, our letters began to arrive, and a few tears were shed.

And then, Mr Bloom– JUST A SMALL TOWN GIRL – tried to spe – I’M AT A PAYPHONE TRYING TO CALL HOME – ak to us but kept being interrup – I’M JUST A POOR BOY NOBODY LOVES ME – ted by our singin – OH BABY GIVE ME ONE MORE CHANCE – g which probably went on for longer than it should h – HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE – ave. Finally, after quite some time, we kept quiet. 

Huge thanks to Romy McCorquodale and Willow Gelin for leading the Saturday Shabbat Torah service. Not only was it a lovely program but it was an amazing experience watching two powerful female voices claim the Jewish stage.

By the final night, the Year had fallen in love with one another, literally. Sari and Alice, the new friends, sat together surrounded by the people we spend everyday with at school. We sang songs underneath a warm blanket, heated by the sparks of the bonfire we circled around, beneath a radiant starry sky. It was honestly a brilliantly unforgettable experience. 

The six days of pure perfection (a now accurate description in our eyes) was unfortunately coming to an end. Our final pe’ulah included the entire Year, eyes closed seated in the mo’adon. We were all assigned different coloured beads and as our colour was called, we opened our eyes and responded to the prompts provided by Mr Bloom, tapping the person on the shoulder that we felt it applied to. Some prompts included,‘someone you feel comfortable with’, ’someone you’re glad you got to know’, ‘someone who always brings the ruach’, etc. The pe’ulah was a gorgeous way to close Ayekah camp. This was such an incredible bonding experience and such a beautifully, emotional time. 

Ayekah has been an unforgettable experience that has changed the way we view ourselves and one another, both connecting us through our similarities and differences. We can confidently say that we have fallen in love with each other and cannot wait to continue the bonds we have created on Chavayah.