Camp lets Diaspora teens bond with Israelis their own age

Overall, the girls who participated had life-changing experiences.

Diaspora youngsters enjoy a Birthright Israel trip to the Jewish state. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Diaspora youngsters enjoy a Birthright Israel trip to the Jewish state.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
What do touring the Knesset, visiting Yad Vashem, jeeping, white-water rafting, and enjoying beautiful sunsets in the Golan Heights every evening all have in common? They were all part of the incredible Camp Dror Leadership Program that I was lucky enough to experience. This past July, more than 25 teenagers from across the globe embarked on a two-and-a-half week leadership journey that took us from the hills of the Golan Heights to the halls of the Israeli Knesset – all while packing Torah, chessed (kindness), and love of the State and Land of Israel into each and every day.
A main focus of the program is to prepare the Jewish youth of today to be the future leaders of Am Yisrael in Israel. Girls from both inside and outside of Israel learned to love and value their country and homeland in a deeper way.
This was certainly true for Carmel Jehuda, who is from Kochav Yair in central Israel. “I live in Israel, but camp is where I truly learned about the amazing places here and how to love them and strive to populate the north and develop the area,” she said.
Camp Dror is a project of OU Israel, a branch of the Orthodox Union catering to Anglos now living in Israel. The camp was founded in 1995 to give an American-style sleep-away experience to Israeli kids. In 2016, the leadership program began.
Ronit Wolfson has attended Camp Dror for three years. This was her first year in the Leadership Program. “I had an unbelievable time in Camp Dror and I learned how to be a leader – through kindness, understanding and love for every person,” she relates.
The program is open to Jewish teens worldwide, and many are excited to experience Israel and connect and bond with Israelis their own age.
“I met a variety of truly fabulous girls from all over the world and together we had an experience that I gained a lot from,” said Adina Weiss of Ma’aleh Adumim.
American campers got to experience firsthand what real life in Israel is like and how it is a busy, bustling country to live in – not just a vacation spot. For instance, we took the light rail in Jerusalem to get to the Light Festival in the Old City, went to the Tachana Merkazit (Central Bus Station) to get lunch in the food court with plenty of kosher options, and we visited an old age home in Tiberias and spoke to the residents about their lives and how they got to Israel. 
Camp Dror was Racheli Berger’s first time in Israel. She lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, but after her summer experience, she’s ready to come back. “Camp Dror is a place that helped me realize how amazing Israel is and how badly I want to pursue a leadership position in Israel,” she reports.
Members of the OU Israel Leadership team took an active role in the camp programs. For example, Chaim Pelzner, OU Israel director of programs, ran a public-speaking workshop where we learned how to give a speech in front of a group and engage an audience. We received constructive feedback on our techniques. The personal attention and support afforded to every individual really boosted our confidence in our newfound skills. 
Sara Berelowitz, comptroller and head of Human Resources at OU Israel, ran a useful course about personal finance and financial literacy. Mrs. Berelowitz taught us how to manage money in a safe and smart manner.
One of the most memorable highlights was having dinner with the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, Mr. Allen Fagin and the executive director of OU Israel, Rabbi Avi Berman. While dining on fantastic food prepared by the wonderful kitchen staff, we chatted about the numerous programs the OU runs. We had the opportunity to tell Fagin how happy we were that he decided to use one of his days in Israel to come visit us all the way up in the Golan.
We were also privileged to hear a fascinating lecture from Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Uri Ariel. He spoke to us about being a leader in Israel and what it’s like to be a member of Knesset.
Ayelet Goldberg, a participant from Efrat really appreciated the workshops. “Every day, we had another interesting speaker that taught me valuable skills that I will cherish for life,” she said.
Overall, the girls who participated had life-changing experiences.
Temima Goldstein of Neve Daniel shared that “Camp Dror is a place where you can really overcome your shyness and make new, long-lasting friendships with people who support your life decisions and will be there for you.”
Lara Choueke of Sao Paulo remembered, “I learned that to be a good leader you need to remember where you came from and always, no matter what, respect everyone around you.” She adds, “I really enjoyed going to the Knesset and Yad Vashem. I learned a lot about my country and my history in those places!”
Shoshana Ezagui of Jerusalem summarized the takeaways of the program. “Leadership is not about a title or a designation, it’s about bringing people together and creating a community that is one step closer to making the world a better place. I learned how to hear other people’s opinions and look deeper into ordinary things, how powerful words are and how important expressing yourself is. The youth of today are the future; we can all be leaders in our own way – in our homes with our siblings, our friends, anything and everyone.”
You can learn more about Camp Dror and the Camp Dror Leadership Program at: