Disengagement news from Camp Tawonga

(This is a little something from the Camp Tawonga PR machine that I run in SF. It’s a little “Jewish Pressy” for even my tastes, but I thought it was a fun story about teens you might enjoy, or at least enjoy ridiculing me over. In any case, it’s all part of my brit Jewschool to post more often from SF. – Sarah)
The Israeli Knesset just voted 92 to 25 in favor of disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Bitter arguments were waged between MK’s from dovish and hawkish parties after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the boisterous assembly here in Groveland, California.
Is the Israeli government on vacation in the Sierras?
No, these MK’s are Camp Tawonga campers, 9th and 10th grade teens from the San Francisco Bay Area. They gathered tonight to act out the historic 2004 vote to withdraw security forces and support from the settlements in Gaza, relinquishing control of the territory containing 1.5 million Arabs and 8,500 Jewish settlers to the Palestinian Authority.
Like many of their non-Jewish peers back home, Tawonga campers don’t necessarily keep close tabs on dealings between Labor and Likud. They know that Israeli society has been embroiled in debate with the Palestinians for decades, and naturally, many of them have opinions they’ve inherited from CNN, NPR…or their feisty San Francisco parents.
Campers broke into cabin groups for a crash course in Israeli government, and took on the roles of 10 parties, from Labor to Likud, from Shas to Ale Yarok (“Green Leaf”).
They discussed the history of Israel, the sources of the settler movement, dovish and hawkish views of the Palestinian question, and the importance of security in the State of Israel. Five Israeli shlichim (messengers) circulated among the groups answering questions from an Israeli perspective.
Before the program began (after a tasty enchilada dinner) Camp Director Deborah Newbrun was eagerly anticipating tonight’s experiment with parliamentary politics at camp. She says Tawonga is stepping out onto the edge.
“No other camps out there are doing this,” Newbrun said. “Jewish summer camps all over the country do Israel education through informal activities like Israel Day parties, like Maccabee games, like teaching Hebrew words for this and that, but no one has taken on something intellectual like this lately.”
Campers supporting disengagement cheered on speakers they supported, and anti-disengagement forces wore orange headbands in protest. One unruly camper was busted trying to sneak a pinecone “grenade” into the Knesset meeting. An enraged settler (played outrageously against her own leftist Berkeley roots by Associate Director Ann Gonski) was thrown out of the Knesset for provoking the MK’s, and counselors dressed as Shin Bet officers tried to keep the disruptions at bay with mandatory bag searches and a phalanx around the Prime Minister.
“It’s so much easier to articulate intolerance than to carefully frame the reasons for peace and justice. It takes a lot more thought,” said Gonski, watching with concern as the more hawkish campers harassed the doves at the podium.
She was pleased at the defenses presented and, ultimately, heartened by the closing statements and the final vote.
“Those kids were on the hot seat, having to present thoughtful and articulate positions, and they did just that,” she said.

27 thoughts on “Disengagement news from Camp Tawonga

  1. I think that is a terrific activity, but I don’t think that the camp director really knows for a fact that no other camps are doing that. We did stuff like that (role playing as knesset members from a variety of parties {including Arab parties} and having to argue their platforms) all the time when I was at Habonim Dror machanot.

  2. What the campers vote for is directly attributable to the feelings of the staff.
    This camp is obviously very leftist and irreligious.
    The proof: “She was pleased at the defenses presented and heartened by the closing statements and the final vote.”
    …pleased with the final vote.
    One thing I can tell you Sarah- the idea of removing the arabs was not mentioned – you feed them only what you want them to beleive to elicit responses you like.

  3. ” An enraged settler (played outrageously against her own leftist Berkeley roots by Associate Director Ann Gonski) was thrown out of the Knesset for provoking the MK’s, and counselors dressed as Shin Bet officers tried to keep the disruptions at bay with mandatory bag searches and a phalanx around the Prime Minister.”… Oh yea, I am sure she did a great job of conveying the evil of those trouble making settlers to the campers. Such a load of Bullsh-t. Was I supposed to be impressed by your little charade. It reaks of pro disengagement propaganda. Next time you have your mock vote, please invite me to play the role of maniacal leftist who stands hand in hand with Palestinians as they throw rocks at soldiers…

  4. ah, here we go. well, at least it comes from both sides.
    campers played both sides. we had extremists from both sides of the spectrum as well as moderates. we had freaking ale yarok. give me a freaking break.
    me and my boss ann agree to disagree every day about israel. she’s a rabid lefty. i’m not. when i quote ann, i quote ann. i don’t use her as a puppet for my own opinions or those of camp tawonga. get over it.

  5. is there an email addy for jewschool? I’d like to send something of interest but can’t find any email link.

  6. I am teaching modern Israel at my Sunday School and will do something like this for the students. Since I have an orange ribbon on my car, I doubt I will be as left-biased as Camp Tawonga, but I will hardly suggest, as Joe Schmo does, that Arab expulsion is a serious discussion point.

  7. cc – Are you actually serious??? Scroll up!
    Got a link or a story to submit?
    Need some help with the site?
    Interested in making a contribution to our project?

    E-mail Jewschool’s editor here.

  8. i repeat: we’re not left biased. the campers voted to disengage. so did israel, by a big majority. describing this as a left wing position is ridiculous. it’s the israeli mainstream, and yes, sure, the left, that is behind the disengagement.

  9. Shep – No kidding? I went to Mosh until last year, and I was thinking how this would be a pretty normal activity for Pish.

  10. sarah,
    no big majority of Israel voted to ‘disengage’, or rather kick Jews off their land. Two polls out today show below 50%, and even the leftist uncredible Yediot published a survey showing that a massive majority of kids under 18 are against retreating from Gaza.
    If the shabak doesn’t succeed in pulling off finally damaging the settler image this week or next, then the plan will not be carried out. Too much of the country already knows it’s a lie, and you certanly can’t fool kids, well Israeli kids at least.

  11. Sorry but I beg to differ. Israel is a republic administered through a proportional representation parliamentary system.
    67 Knesset members voted in favor of the disengagement bill, 45 voted against, and 7 Knesset members abstained.
    That’s a majority of the Knesset. My point stands. How the public feels is hotly contended, you are correct. But the story is about a mock Knesset, not about a mock Israeli society.

  12. Sarah, hi, I’m Josh, the senior editor of JVibe magzine for Jewish teens. Any chance I can talk to you about running this piece on our site? Hit me back!

  13. I think it’s fair to ask questions about the extent to which camps like this indoctrinate Jewish youth. After all, isn’t that the first part of the standard Counterpunch template for token-Jews-who-think-ri ght?
    (You know the o ne. I grew up, the evil Zionists indoctrinated me, then I realized that the Zionism is about evil White non-Middle-Eastern interlopers in an alien land, so now I am struggling for the charming oriental forces of Good and against the hegemonic forces of Zion. Or something like that.)

  14. thank god for Zionist camps… that whole press release smaks of something we’d do up here at camp shomria.
    mmm… socialist zionism.
    Actually, the zionist youth movements in toronto sponsor a mock knesset every year and force the kids to take an opposite position to the one their youth movements pushes.
    the lefties have a great time taking on the right wing agenda… but for some reason the right wing guys don’t seem to get into it… where’s the sense of humour guys!

  15. Yisrael:
    …but I will hardly suggest, as Joe Schmo does, that Arab expulsion is a serious discussion point.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    But 10,000 Jews are being exiled from their homes. Is that OK, not even worth debating, morally acceptable if the majority of Israelis agree to it?
    What if the majority of Israelis agree to “forced repatriation” of the 70-80 percent of Palestinians who hold Egyptian, Jordanian, or Syrian citizenship?
    Most of these people are only present in the West Bank/Gaza for not more than 3 generations – the most popular last name in Gaza is “Al Masri” which means ‘the Egyptian’.
    Some Jewish residents of Gaza have personal connections going back just as far – to the original Kfar Darom founded in the 1940s.
    Why is one group’s presence on the land sacrosant, never to be debated no matter what debased violence they pour upon the Jews – while the Jews’ presence is always “not for real”?
    Is it because we Jews are too prosperous, too 1st world – not brown enough or poor enough or to pass through the leftist filters of race/class/gender victimhood?

  16. Must agree with Shep, Esh, and TomC. Definitely did this at Machaneh Bonim, Naaleh, and Galil (Habonim-Dror grad here…)

  17. Finally Ben-David.
    What’s wrong with you Josh?! Are you still so stubborn that even when they are forcibly removing Jews from their homes you still don’t understand?
    It is Yesha people like you – unfortunately most- who this this down upon us when you supported the banning of Kahane. Now when it comes around you complain.

  18. Be careful where you tread and who you focus on. The ‘silent majority’ is not leftist.
    I didn’t see you at the inaugural hachnasat sefer torah of the Tapuach Synagogue, or did I miss you in the crowd?
    why do you think if I attach a signature to my post saying, ‘no arabs, no miluim’ that our problems will be solved. Can’t you see that the Arabs aren’t the problem at all? The main problem is that we aren’t united under god and the torah he gave us. When that happens, the Arabs will leave on their own – who the hell wants to live next to Jews? Licking the Arabs out does not solve any long term problems.

  19. As one of the campers who participated in this activity (I’m the girl on the right of the kid with the fro), I’d like to say that it was an incredibly engaging activity and one that the campers participated in without bias from the staff. My group represented the United Arab List party, and I actually got into some interesting discussions with representatives from anti-disengagement parties. We voted on our own personal beliefs, which may be left wing. But the beliefs were our own, and as someone who voted to disengage, I still found it extremely interesting to hear the viewpoints that were not the same as my own.
    I’m sure other camps have done similar, if not the same, activity in the past. Tawonga tried it for the first time and found it was successful. I’m glad they did, and I really feel like the credit is not what is important. I’m glad that myself, and other Jewish teens, got to experience this activity. Why argue over who did it first?

  20. We’re not arguing who did it first, we’re contesting the claim that “No other camps out there are doing this”.

  21. Gabi,
    People over time take on the beleifs of those they are near if those people sound reasonable. If you would be amongst other people for a while you would probably have different opinions.
    All I am saying is that if you look at the initial post it said that the leader was ‘pleased with the results of the election’- in other words I can tell that the staff’s opinion is leftist and for removing Jewish families from their homes- otehrwise why is she ‘pleased’. I understand now why the campers in general also feel that. Because if that is what the leaders believe the campers hear it in general and I’m sure the families of those campers probably are similar – since they send their kids to a camp with leaders who have those opinions.
    Therefore Gabi, I am just saying that in another camp with kids from different families and with different leaders the result would be different.
    I agree with you. The jews are the problem. The arabs are like dust to be brushed off. But you Josh are a Jew and not as big a problem as some but a problem nevertheless.
    We need to do many things kicking out the arabs only one of them.

  22. “She was pleased at the defenses presented and, ultimately, heartened by the closing statements and the final vote.”
    I’m glad you are able to read correctly, Joe. She was please at the defenses. She was heartened by the closing statements and final vote. Not to argue semantics, but heartened and pleased are not the same thing. So Deborah was glad the campers were able to defend their positions and platforms, whether it agreed with their personal beliefs or not. She was encouraged by the closing statements made by campers and the final vote. This could mean that she’s glad another generation will grow up thinking exactly the way their parents did, or she could be glad that we, as teenagers, were able to make a decision without it being a school requirement, or without our parents forcing us too.
    I’m sure you see the difference now.

  23. yash, gabi. people on the web often get very excited about little world choices that may or may not prove some awful conspiracy theory. the bottom line is that i wrote an article and i chose certain words. i’m responsible for those words, and they certainly do not hold the key to whether or not a camp full of 400 people all think like robots – right, left or otherwise.
    i’m glad you got a lot out of the activity. i am at camp again now, and really excited to repeat the activity with session 4 campers – which include 25 israelis from all over israel, and all over the political and religious spectrums. in fact, tomorrow is yom israel and we will be hearing from lots of campers and shlichim about the disengagement, the army, kibbutz life, where the best beach is, bamba, boombamela, and all other sorts of important topics.

  24. great articles on disengagement; jam-packed with thought-provoking ideas on raising Jewish spirit and awareness in mainstream Israeli society.
    at last, your average Joe Israeli can have a real chance to feel proud of his biblical heritage, and not a loser-occupier!

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