We speak Hebrew a lot at machaneh; in fact, when making announcements and using the intercom, we exclusively use Hebrew. Chanichimot who arrive at machaneh knowing little to no Hebrew return home with a new albeit very specific knowledge of Hebrew. Your child may speak of camp, substituting words“bathroom” and “tent” for sherutim and ohel. Chanichimot know basic words that are often called over the intercom, like “achshav” which means now, and “dakot” which means minutes. Instead of hearing “breakfast is in ten minutes” at 8:35 in the morning, chanichimot hear “Aruchat boker b’od eser dakot”. At this point it’s also safe to say they also probably know the Hebrew word from “Intercom”. This is all to say, your children hear and understand a surprising amount of Hebrew while at machaneh, and this is not inadvertent.
Yesterday was Yom English, or English Day – a day of speaking solely English. While it began just as basic translations, such as calling “madrichimot” counselors or saying “morning gathering” instead “hitkansut boker”, the day quickly spiraled into an awkward attempt at forcing a translation on to our basic activities. You may have noticed while reading the glossary post that some of the translations sound awkward or cumbersome, especially if you have experienced these structures at machaneh already. For example, sadnaot is the time in the day where each age group splits off and does traditional camp activities, like tubing, ropes course, dancing, etc. However, sadnaot literally translates to “workshops”. The same goes for chugim, which translates to “interest groups” which sounds far too formal for what they actually are. The kids had a lot of fun learning the exact meanings of these words, and they even learned the actual translations of their age group titles, which can be found on the glossary post.
In addition to the times of day and the names of places, a majority of the songs we sing here are in Hebrew. The songs that we sing each morning and each evening are both in Hebrew. The lullaby we sing in a big circle after the tochnit erev (evening activity) is in Hebrew. Before each meal we sing a Hebrew Poem by the secular Poet Chaim Nachman Bialik blessing the workers that helped create the food on our table, and optionally after the meal the Birkat Hamazon, which many chanichimot have started to sing of their own accord. We translated that for them as well and sang it in English. This isn’t even counting all of the Hebrew cheers we do during meals or the Shabbat shira songs that we sing exclusively on Shabbat. It was silly for the kids to read the translations of the songs that we sing so often, fumble through the tune with a wildly different number of syllables, and often learn some new meaning behind the traditions that underpin a normal day of Jewish activity and culture at Machaneh.
This sudden shift in routine elucidated the sheer amount of Hebrew we use at machaneh. From each building having a Hebrew name, and in the case of our tents and cabins, the name of a Kibbutz, to translating words we’ve never thought to translate, like “brerot” or “sadnaot”and even each-others names, the chanichimot definitely added to their vocabulary today. But more so than that, they also learned of the importance of having the Hebrew language and the ownership they can enact over it. Here at Mosh, we have transformed the Hebrew language to be more inclusive, using the gender neutral suffix “-imot”instead of the gendered “im” or “ot”, as well as the suffix “ol”, derived from the word for all which is “kol”. It is important for chanichimot to feel this sense of ownership over the Hebrew language, as its fluidity relies heavily on their participation in it.
From all of us here at builders of the freedom camp colony, have a great day.