BB Camp's Israeli staffers worry about families
By Paul Haist
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Eyal Meir is a 21-year-old former IDF infantry medic and Tel Aviv resident who concluded his initial three years and three months of military service last March. Now, Meir might be called back to active duty to help in Israel's fight with Hezbollah.
But Meir won't be heading north toward Lebanon just now.
He is one of 15 Israelis working this summer at B'nai B'rith Camp on the Oregon Coast.
Camp counselors put in long, hard days, but life at B'nai B'rith Camp is a far cry from the reality of living in Israel right now.
"Everyone in Israel is in danger. It's hard to be here. Here we're off the hook," said Meir.
Off the hook for now, but he'll return to Israel on Sept. 1, along with most of his Israeli colleagues at BB Camp.
Natali Amit said she'll go home on Aug. 16. The 20-year-old Tel Aviv resident is a senior counselor at BB Camp.
Amit said the Israeli staff at the camp are close knit and share what they learn about events in Israel.
"The Israel staff here knows people who have been injured. One knows one who died last night," she said, referring to the July 20 killing of four IDF soldiers.
Ortal Nir Zvi phones home every other day and text-messages home in between.
"I think it's hard for us because we're so far away. We don't know exactly what's going on," said the 21-year-old woman from Hadera.
"My brother is in the military up north. I'm worried," she said.
Her family thinks she should stay where she is for now, but she disagrees.
"I want to go home," said Nir Zvi.
Assaf Farhadian is a 20-year-old reserve sergeant with an IDF artillery unit. The unit was recently called up and posted north to the Lebanese border to "shoot back," he said.
He said it bothers him that he can't be with his unit right now.
"It makes me proud (that his unit is on the front), but it's kind of a bummer that I'm here," he said.
Like the other Israelis, he phones and e-mails his family frequently. He lives in Holon near Tel Aviv.
While the Israelis are busy throughout each day and have little opportunity to share with each other then, they do get together in the evenings, according to Meir.
"All the Israelis get together to talk and call home," he said. "We Israelis like to stick together. We're like brothers and sisters, you know."
He said they all know what it is like to be close to violence and have no problem imagining what their families and friends are experiencing.
"Everybody here has been close, or heard about someone who was killed; it's an everyday routine," said Meir.
Meir said the BB Camp staff have been very helpful.
His only complaint was with American television news, which he said was not very helpful.
"It's hard to know what's going on on U.S. TV news," he said. He and his fellow Israelis here rely mostly on the Internet for the latest news from Israel.