Journal Entry #2: Fun in the Sun
Along the way of the three weeks together, the Israeli teens from the Open Hearts Open Homes program found their footing in New Jersey. For some, the transition from living at the border of Gaza where Palestinians threaten their homes and families with kite fires and bombs can be challenging. It can take some time for the kids to relax into life in New Jersey. Sounds such as fire alarms or fireworks for the 4th of July can have these teens running to find the nearest bomb shelter, as they do at home when they hear the “Red Signal” alarm sound off.
Over time, however, they recognize that they are safe, that they can afford to take a long shower without the panic of worrying to run to a safe room and they relax into their Open Hearts Open Homes experiences.
Week One of the activities included rope climbing and animal encounters at Turtle Back Zoo, roller coaster rides (and the accompanying happy screams) at Six Flags Great Adventure, experiencing Broadway at Blue Man Group, where they even had the opportunity to meet some of the actors afterwards for a small group. For a special July 4th treat, the host families and Israeli teens were treated to pool time, lunch and a chance to learn the American sport, baseball at the JCC on the Palisades. The week closed with white water rafting on the nearby Delaware River and a community Shabbat dinner at Temple Beth Sholom in Park Ridge, complete with amazing food from Harold’s Kosher Deli, Main Event Caterers and Dessert by Diane.
To kick off Week Two, the teens had a very special opportunity to experience overnight summer camp at the beautiful Pinemere Camp in the Poconos. At Pinemere, the Israeli teens experienced sleeping in bunks, dining in the camp dining hall and taking part in all of the fabulous activities the camp has to offer – crafts, sports, ziplining, boating and much more. Week Two closed with community dinners where additional members of the OHOH community opened up their homes for a meal together with host families and their teens. The concentric circles of people who connect to Israel through touching Open Hearts Open Homes by hosting dinners or pool parties in this way continues to grow.
Week Three included more fun in the sun activities such as laser tag, a visit to the Jersey shore and more time in NYC exploring Central Park and the Museum of Natural History and a chance to see The Lion King on IMAX at the Palisades Mall – on the film’s opening day no less! Knowing the time together would soon be coming to an end, every day had a bittersweet tinge to it — fully enjoyable but with the knowledge that the conclusion was inescapable.