Beber Camp Is… “My Community in Israel” by Monica Arkin
Shalom everybody! My name is Monica Arkin and I have been part of the Beber community since 2004 when I started as an eleven-year-old camper. I have been coming back to Beber every summer since then and each summer I have made amazing connections with campers and staff from all around the world. Last spring I graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in Psychology and a minor in Hebrew and Jewish Cultural Studies. This year I am living in Israel putting what I learned in college to the test. I have two internships in Jerusalem: one at the Israel Trauma Coalition (a non-profit organization that works with psychologists and mental health workers around Israel to address PTSD in vulnerable communities) and one at Hadassah Hospital where I assist with psychology research and volunteer with patients in the psychiatric ward.
The decision to fly thousands of miles away from home after college was not an easy one. Although my family loves Israel, we have no relatives here. My parents were worried that I wouldn’t have a welcoming community in Israel, that I wouldn’t have a place to go for holidays, and that I wouldn’t have anyone to look after me if I ever needed help. However, I knew that I would have all of this and more because I have so many Israeli connections through Beber.
From the moment I arrived in September I have felt welcomed and embraced by my Israeli friends from camp and their families. I was with my camp friends’ families for the high holidays and I have had several Shabbat dinners with families of my friends as well. During my first two months in Israel I didn’t pay to do my laundry once because every time I spent a weekend with a camp friend their parents would throw my laundry in with the rest of the family’s and do it for me! I don’t think my parents or I could have anticipated the extent to which I would be welcomed into my camp friends’ families. Although I don’t have any blood relatives in Israel, my camp friends and their families have truly become like my own extended Israeli family.
The camp connections don’t just stop there—I have had a handful of unexpected run-ins with Beber alumni since I’ve been here. The most exciting incident happened two weeks ago at Hadassah Hospital. I was walking through the hall when all of the sudden a very familiar face was standing in front of me with a big smile. I immediately knew who it was, but it took both of us a few seconds of standing there in shock saying “oh my gosh, oh my gosh,” over and over again before we could truly process this crazy coincidence and embrace in a huge hug. It was my old Israeli counselor Maya! Maya was my Senior Ramot counselor in 2008 and one of my favorite counselors ever. That moment in the hallway of Hadassah was the first time I had seen her in over seven years!
We arranged to have lunch one week later at the hospital so we could catch up. It was amazing! The last time I saw Maya in 2008 she was 21-years-old and recently out of the army. Today she is completing her last year of medical school and preparing for her career as a doctor! She was equally as shocked when I filled her in on my life. The last time she saw me I was entering my sophomore year of high school. She was amazed when I told her that I was already finished with college and that I had been on staff at camp for the past five years, three of those years on the leadership team.
I’m thrilled that I work at the same hospital as my old camp counselor, and I’m so lucky that Beber has given me these connections that continue to enrich my experience here in Israel. Beber Camp really is my family in Israel!