At the end of August 2022, with the blessing of the Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky), an international Orthodox camp was held in Galilee.
It must be said that for many years, REM Priest Fr. Roman Gultyaev and his wife Olga have been organizing similar camps. But until now, we could only afford a camp for 2-3 days. For many years we dreamed of a real camp for a week or two, as they do in Russia, America or Europe. And thanks to the support of benefactors, our dream came true.
The camp was attended by children and teenagers from 10 to 18 years old. Our camp was opened in the biblical town of Magdala, a beautiful place associated with the life of the Savior, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, where Father Roman told the children about the apostles and myrrh-bearing women.
In the evening of August 25, we arrived at the camp, which was located in a picturesque place, the kibbutz – Inbar, which translates as Amber. The children were accommodated in cozy, clean rooms with air conditioning, we also had an assembly hall and a dining room at our disposal.
We are convinced that a Christian camp is unthinkable without cultivating the habit of work, mutual assistance and discipline. Therefore, on the morning of the second day, we assigned responsibilities and worked out the rules by which we would live. All children were divided into teams and took part in helping in the kitchen and cleaning the territory.
The second important part of life in nature is the ability to navigate the terrain and read a map. In the morning, Father Roman gave the children a master class in orienteering. We walked with a map in the vicinity of the kibbutz, learned to calculate the distance, to correlate our position with what is shown on the map.
In the evening, everyone went on a real hike along the Kziv stream. It is in Galilee, where the Lord and his disciples walked from one village to another, through the surrounding nature, that one can feel the presence of the Lord. First, we got to the ruins of the Crusader castle of Montfort, which was once the stronghold of the Teutonic Order in the Holy Land. Indeed, the view from this place to the mountain valley was breathtaking. We went down to the stream and walked along it until sunset. Then an adventure awaited us: the sun began to set, the hike ended at dusk. Father Roman and counselor Sergei, a professional military man, taught us how to navigate in the dark by the stars, how to use a flashlight correctly, how to behave in a group so as not to get lost, what to fear in the dark and what not to do. It was very touching that all the grown-up youth, without any extra requests, took the younger ones under their guardianship. All children helped each other if someone scraped his leg or stumbled on a stone.
The third day was the most intense spiritually. We needed to prepare for the Liturgy. In the morning Father Roman talked to the children about the Ten Commandments. Children always respond to an honest conversation, and the questions were serious: how ready are we to accept the Lord and let him into our lives, what are our idols and where is the Lord in our life, is it easy or difficult to live with the Lord? It was evident how even those children who were in our company for the first time made discoveries for themselves, wondered, thought, argued.
The preparation for the Liturgy also included two important tasks: it was necessary to build a church in the clearing and rehearse the singing and learn the troparia. There were only four adults, and therefore the main work fell on the children. It is amazing how, with God’s help, everything worked out, the children concentrated, the elders took responsibility and with great diligence completed the task assigned to them.
The fourth day, August 28, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Mother of God, began with an early liturgy. This climactic event demanded maximum concentration from everyone, also because the weather challenged us, the temperature that day was 44 degrees (111F.)! But everyone woke up, got together, and everyone, without exception, participated in the Liturgy.
After a lot of stress, rest is required. Lent is over, and you can relax a little and have some fun. We went on a kayak trip! The children rafted on boats, competed, swam in cold water, and after that a surprise awaited everyone – we went to eat shawarma!!! The meal ended with a spontaneous arm-wrestling competition. Soon a crowd of spectators gathered around us! Who are these young guys, cheerful, noisy, friendly? Russians? Christians? Can’t be! And the children were really full of energy!
In the evening, returning to the camp, we made a fire and, of course, we all sang songs together with the guitar. It was surprising that all of us, who came from different countries (some from Germany, some recently from Russia, some were born and raised in Israel), all of us: both adults and children, sang the same songs!
Day 5: Our camp was coming to an end. On the last day, Father Roman gathered us to talk about the Sermon on the Mount. It was very interesting. And, of course, we all felt that we did not have enough time, that we wanted to talk about important topics, ask questions, think more and more.
During the final conversation, everyone said that 5 days is so short that the time has flown by unnoticed, that there is so much more to do! And this was a good sign, which indicates that everyone was interested and good, and everyone, without exception, would like to continue even though it was sometimes difficult in the camp, and in general there was no usual entertainment (the main condition was the absence phones and other gadgets). And we saw how kids really love to play, compete, and socialize live!
At the end of the camp, Father Roman made a gift for everyone – we stopped on the way home at the beach. At sunset, we swam in the warm water of the Mediterranean Sea, sat among the picturesque ruins of an old castle, had dinner and said goodbye to the passing day and our camp. The long way home seemed short to everyone because camthe children could not talk enough, and it was not easy for everyone to part.