The Ramah Hike in Israel - Shabbat May 23, 2015

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Israel. As you know, I've been to Israel many times and I always look for ways to get to Israel! When my daughter asked if I wanted to join her on this trip, how could I say no?!

Camp Ramah - the national camping movement of Conservative Judaism - runs a hike and bike ride in Israel every 2 years to raise awareness and funds for its Tikvah program. Camp Ramah in New England is one of 9 camps in North America which provides a summer program for children with special needs. The children are integrated into the camp program and are provided with extra counselors and facilities so that they can have a Ramah experience. Tikvah began 45 years ago at Ramah New England and I'm proud to say that my wife and all four of my children have worked in the program.

Six years ago national ramah had the idea to run a bike ride in Israel in which participants had to commit to raising a certain amount of money in order to ride. 4 years ago they added a hiking trip and just 2 weeks ago my daughter and I along with 30 other people from American and Canada spent over a week hiking trails in northern Israel.

Though I usually connect to Israel through visiting historical sites and walking the streets of Jerusalem (our 3,000 year old capital), this trip afforded me the possibility to connect in a different way. Hiking trails in which we passed historical sites - flour mills from Ottoman times, Mameluke fortresses from the early middle ages and even a prehistoric cave dwelling - reinforced the mitzvah of walking the land.

But even more than the spiritual Zionist connection was the experience we had to understand what an inclusive community Camp Ramah is. One of the several parent-child participants on the hike was a blind man from Boulder, CO and his 20 year old college daughter. He trained for several months by walking trails near his home so that he and his daughter could participate in this trip. The hikes were challenging - 8 miles every day over sometimes rocky terrain, up and down hills - and yet his daughter was able to guide him slowly over the paths. What was even more amazing was that another young man, not related to this man, on his own decided to help this man an be an extra pair of arms and legs for him. It was amazing to watch this team in action and how we all formed a community around them. That's what Ramah is all about and that's what it means to be Jewish.

Thank you to Shaare Tefila for allowing me to go and for supporting my fundraising efforts. And thank you Camp Ramah!