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Yes, Jews do Camp

October 6, 2010 – 6:26 pm30 Comments

A scene from the Peyo campsite, as we imagine it

By Keren Tuch

I was telling a friend about a rejuvenating weekend camping I enjoyed in Australia’s beautiful nature. Although he expressed interest in coming on future camping trips, he remained a little surprised because, as he succinctly put it, Jews don’t camp.

Now I find this stereotype a little bemusing as I personally love this pastime and have a circle of (Jewish) friends who join me on these trips.  This statement was all the more ironic as it was said during the festival of succot – a festival that celebrates the vulnerability of life and temporary lodgings. I also think of Israeli culture, where all young Israelis seem to have the necessary equipment at hand to take off within half an hour’s notice to escape into nature.   I understand that there is no electricity for hair dryers in nature, which may potentially turn off stereotypical high maintenance Jews, but surely not all Jews are like that.

I fell into the world of camping through my school’s Duke of Edinburgh program.  My parents never went camping.  My mum would rather eat a ham and cheese sandwich on Yom Kippur before sleeping under canvas.   My father, on the other hand, enjoys the outdoors and enjoyed camping when I introduced him to it two years ago.  He just never learnt the knack of putting up his tent as his parents never took him camping, and then he met my mother.  My hypothesis is that when my grandfather immigrated to Australia from Poland and starting his own business from scratch, camping was not a priority so my father never learnt and perhaps this is true of his generation.  Two generations later, I am not struggling for my survival and have the luxury of escaping to nature and gazing at the stars before I go to bed.

Or perhaps camping is more of a status thing.  When you’re young and poor camping is a good idea as the expense is minimal.  But as one gets older and becomes more affluent,  after working hard for a week, why should one have to set up their tent and cook their own meals when one can pay for it?    Do wealthy Jewish people not camp as it is easier and more convenient to stay in a hotel?

However, I have noticed in more recent times that there are a core group of people in the Jewish community who are festival junkies.  (Con Fest, High and Dry, Peats Ridge etc.)  Peyo is a relatively new festival in Victoria starting on October 29 with the philosophy that everybody should contribute to the festival, whether it be by running a workshop cooking dinner or preparing chai.  I am told that a large proportion of its attendees are Jewish.

Limmud-Oz Fest is  a new retreat for the Jewish community, taking place in the NSW Central Coast from 26- 28 November, which combines Jewish learning with a range of presenters (including international presenter Steve Israel) on assorted topics  with musical entertainment by night (Alana Bruce and Monsieur Camembert).  Limmud-Oz Fest’s philosophy is that anyone can be a teacher and everyone is a student that and no one is more important than anyone else. Tenting is the main option for accommodation, although there are dorms and rooms available for those who need.

I encourage others to join me in proving my friend wrong. Happy camping!

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