Small Thoughts on a Major Experience

By Rebecca Posner

Israel Machane.

I had the honour to take 32 incredible chanichim on Israel Machane, alongside three other inspiring madrichim. Or were the chanichim inspiring and the madrichim incredible? Who learns from who? Who do you have fun with the most?

Michael Rainsbury was our mentor for the educational aspect, and one of his principles was to show gratitude to everyone who helped us along the way. I hope this article serves as a small offering towards my gratitude to Bnei Akiva for presenting me with so many opportunities to grow in both my religious and Zionist life, but also in my self-confidence.

Being able to have more grown-up discussion topics with the older chanichim means being able to be more yourself, but how much of yourself do you reveal? Over three intense weeks, it’s difficult to keep up a continual charade of eternal sunshine.

As a community at large, we need to improve on our willingness and openness to tell others that we appreciate them, that they have left an impact on us, because to receive these words of support can strengthen us greatly. There are two notes that I either take round with me or keep close by, so I can read them over to remind myself why at least twice a year I put myself as much out of my comfort zone as possible by putting on my hadracha shoes: one note is from a co after my first hadracha machane, and the other is from some of my chanichim after Israel Machane. You never know the impact you will leave on someone, and being told about it feels phenomenal; there’s always those chanichim who walk away as you’re trying to tell them something important, but for them to then write me how my hadracha was inspirational left me speechless (with the faith that they actually meant it). And on the other end, a chanich who you maybe had relatively too many chats with says they appreciated the time dedicated to them, that it meant something. While we try to reach some sort of connection with all our chanichim, sometimes that may not always be possible, there’s always going to be some chanichim you can relate to more than others, but BA prides itself in not looking for just one type of madrich, so they will nearly always find a mentor they feel comfortable with. Regardless, you could be surprised that the rowdy chanich plays a Debussy on the coach speakers that you once learned the first page of, or that you spend a coach journey discussing Keira Knightley’s filmography with another; that there are male chanichim willing to smash the patriarchy with you, or that others find your parents at the Kotel and start chatting with them.

On Bnei Akiva we say that we learn most when we teach, and that couldn’t be more true. We often meet people from all different walks of life (well, unless you stay very much in The Bubble), but part of being a madricha for me was actually actively listening to what the chanichim had to say, working out how teenage minds have changed in the space of five years. Some mindsets very much reminded me when I was “going through a phase”; some of these were slightly naïve comments that are very much like social media soundbytes, others were slight clues to a lack of self-confidence or esteem. I can only pray and hope that as our teenagers turn into semi-adults (does anyone ever actually become an adult?) they can grow to accept themselves for the beautiful neshama they are, and then push themselves to keep growing in all aspects of their life.

[The above adds up to 613 words so I will stop my 1am musings there, though of course there are many more. Thank you for everything Bnei Akiva.]

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