From Wednesday, July 5 to Friday, July 14, 2017, children, youth and adults from the Hebrew speaking Catholic kehillot gathered at Deir Rafat, near Beit Shemesh for the days of the children’s summer camps.

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This year, the theme of the first summer camp, from July 5 to 9, 2017 was “Peace”. 65 children (between the ages of 5 and 13), 17 young people and 20 adults participated in the first five days of children’s camp. The theme of the second camp, from July 10 to 14, 2017 was “Respect”. 69 children, 17 young people and 20 adults participated in the second five days.

The daily routine of the camp included: morning exercises, morning prayer, breakfast, activities (religion class, art, games, theater and sport), a small group meeting, preparation for mass, singing, daily mass, lunch, an hour of rest, swimming, quiz, dinner, a film and night prayer. This year, for the first time, the children participated in a short time of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament each evening. During the second camp, a daily workshop focused on the theme of respect. A group of older children, aged 12 and 13, had their own program of activities.

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During the ten days, there were two day trips. One day was spent visiting the Holy Places in the Old City of Jerusalem. This included a meeting with two monks and visits to their monasteries, Father Marcos, a Coptic Orthodox monk, and Father Alberto, a Franciscan. The second trip was to the Tsuk Beach in Herzliyyah and the day was spent enjoying the sand and the sea.

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The children and youth who participated came from the Hebrew speaking Catholic communities: Jerusalem (40 in the first camp and 38 in the second), Haifa (7 in the first camp and 8 in the second), Jaffa (13 in the first camp and 11 in the second), Tel Aviv (6 in the second camp), Beer Sheba (2 in the first camp and 3 in the second), Tiberias (1 in the first camp and 1 in the second) and the Lebanese Maronite community (4 in the first camp and 9 in the second).There were about 15 children who participated in the camps for the first time. The youth were mostly from the youth group of the Vicariate, Desert Flower, and from the youth group at the Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center in Tel Aviv. The adults who directed the camp included 6 priests (Fathers David, Apolinary (Jaffa), Roman (Haifa), Piotr (Beer Sheba) Rafic (Jerusalem and Jos (Betharam), 7 sisters (Lioba and Sinead from Koinonia John the Baptist, Sister Lina from the Sisters of Saint Dorothea, Sister Camelia from the Sisters of Nazareth, Sister Claudia from the Ursulines, Sister Sarah from the Little Family of the Annunciation and Sister Agnes from France), 4 seminarians (Benny from the Vicariate, Daniel from Koinonia John the Baptist, Dominic from the White Fathers and Clovis from the Franciscans) and 5 lay people (Roni, Daniel, Alec, Sylvia, Laura).

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Again, we thank from the bottom of our hearts the nuns at Deir Rafat who received us with joy, patience and love. We thank especially the team in the kitchen who prepared the meals: Sisters Maria Lied and Linael and their helpers, Rab’a (Muslim) and Neta (Jewish) and volunteers Yolanda and Lubna. We also thank our benefactors who enable us to organize these camps: the organization “Church in Need”, Catholic Relief Services and the individuals who helped us with their generosity.

Finally, we thank the Lord for these days of fun that we spent together. We learnt a lot about peace and respect. Now we need to put into practice what we learnt.