When I think about summertime fun, I picture things like air-conditioning, ice cold drinks, and well-appointed swimming pools.
But most Israeli kids equate summertime fun with camping out under the most primitive of conditions – including sleeping on the ground; minimal or even no access to showers; and long, dusty hikes in the blistering heat.
In other words,
the annual mud-wallowing event the annual machaneh (literally, “camp”).
Yet as much as their beloved offspring eagerly await the [dubious] pleasure of being exposed to the elements, Anglo parents are frequently unenthused about this classic Israeli rite of passage.
Their hesitation is based on the fact that the machaneh inevitably raises two burning (no pun intended) questions:
- How does one get the dirt and grass stains out of the kids’ clothes?
- What should one do about visiting day?
And so, as a public service, the Our Shiputzim Editorial Board has asked me to discuss the latter issue. (Like most parents, I’ve pretty much given up on the former…)
Visiting Day Protocol
I. To go or not to go:
On one hand, no parent wants his or her child to be that poor, pathetic camper who’s bored, miserable and lonely – while the other campers are busy having fun with their parents.
But on the other hand, since the machaneh is usually only two to seven days long (i.e. a far cry from the four to eight weeks of the typical American sleepover camp experience), visiting day (or visiting hour or two, as is generally the case) seems rather unnecessary and superfluous (to put it mildly).
Thus, for two-day machanot, YZG and I have told the kids that we won’t be coming. (If they can’t manage for one night without a visit from us, they’re obviously not yet ready to be going at all.)
However, when the machaneh is three or more days long, we take the “when in Rome” approach: We ask the kids to find out what most other parents are doing and then act accordingly.
Surprisingly, this policy has meant that we’ve attended relatively few visiting days over the years.
II. What to bring:
Three words - Snacks and treats.
At one memorable visiting day, at least 80% of the parents showed up with boxes of cold pizza, but cookies, Bisli, and Bamba are popular options as well.
III. Several important DOs and DON’Ts:
- DON’T be shocked to discover that the physical conditions are even worse than you imagined.
- DO everything you can to avoid fadichot. (This one is basically hopeless…)
- DON’T be astonished to learn that your child hasn’t washed his/her face or brushed his/her teeth in four days.
- DO expect to bring a bag of dirty, smelly laundry home with you…
Feel free to share your own visiting day stories and wisdom in the comment section.