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Emissaries serve Israel here in K.C. while friends serve on the front lines

Barney Goodman Campers gathered around Israeli shlichim (emissaries) Sapir Davidov (top row, second from left) and Noy Tiram (top row, second from right). Now that camp is over, they will travel a little before returning to Israel.

Almost every summer the Jewish Community Center’s Barney Goodman Camp hosts Israeli shlichim (emissaries) who teach the children about Israel through a variety of summer camp activities. This year, for the

second year in a row, three shlichim worked at the camp. But this time while these Israelis were having fun in the sun, many of their friends were at war.

Noy Tiram, a 22-year-old male, specialized in sports and games while working at Barney Goodman this summer. Because an extra male chaperone was sometimes needed in other JCC camps, he got to meet children of all ages and took some field trips he really enjoyed, including getting a chance to experience Verruct, the world’s tallest water slide at Schlitterbahn Water Park and accompany a group on a field trip to St. Louis. 

Tiram completed his three-year mandatory army service earlier this year. His infantry unit that specializes in special operations, has already been called up during Operation Protective Edge.

Sapir Davidov, a 21-year-old female, also completed her army service during the past year. As of last week her reserve unit, however, had not been called to duty. Davidov served as a music specialist at camp. The third shlichah, Shachar Yedhuda, was unavailable for the interview last week. The three started their jobs here as Israeli culture specialists on May 27. 

Tiram and Davidov enjoyed their time with the campers and in the Kansas City area.

“At first it was pretty hard because it is a different language,” Tiram said. “After a few days we started understanding everything and it was fun to work with the kids and do activities with them.”

But it was hard for them to be in the middle of the United States during this time of crisis in Israel.

“You check what’s happening in Israel about every 20 minutes,” said Tiram. “A lot of our friends are in the army still and in the reserves, so it’s not so fun.”

Like many young people, they keep in touch with their family and friends through Facebook and kept a watchful eye on the news.

“You can see the news online from Israel, so we’re doing that all the time,” Davidov said. Tiram said his favorite Israeli news is on Ynet; Davidov is partial to the Makor network. 

“Last week we weren’t able to do all the things we had been doing, like being happy and sing with the kids,” added Davidov, who lives in Kiryat Ata near Haifa. 

She said they explained to the children what the situation was in Israel in terms they could understand, telling them their friends and families were having a hard time. Then they asked them to help.

“We asked them to draw pictures and write letters. On Friday we took a picture of the whole camp together and we sent it all to the Jewish Agency that brought us here,” she continued. Tiram said he was involved with a similar project at Congregation BIAV, where people gathered to show their support for Israel.

Davidov said the “Jewish community here is amazing.”

She especially pointed to the two community events she attended this summer directly related to Israel — the memorial service following the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the three teenage boys and then last week’s rally in support of Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

“It’s amazing to see that the Jewish community here is very involved in what is going on in Israel,” she said. “It’s nice to see that even if we’re not home, people do care.”

“The host families are amazing,” added Tiram, who stayed with the Rissien family a lot this summer.

In a game of Jewish geography, Davidov learned when she got here that she actually has cousins here in town, who she stayed with most of the summer — Roman and Julie Kadosh. She also praised her other host family Maayan and Rabbi Yitzchak Jaffe.

Neither Tiram nor Davidov will be in the States for much longer. They explained they are given short visas to do their work and then are expected back in Israel. This was the first time any of the three shlichim had ever served their country as emissaries and the first time any of the three had been to America.

“It’s hard to get a visa from Israel,” Davidov said.

“That’s because they think there’s a chance we’ll come here and make some money and want to stay in America,” Tiram explained.

“They don’t want it to happen, so when you are 21 to 26, it’s very hard to get a visa from Israel to the United States,” Davidov continued.

These young Israelis were here volunteering their time this summer through the Jewish Agency for Israel. It’s a long process to get chosen.

“You need to sign up in October and after that they interview you on the phone and if you pass that, they invited you to a whole day of tests,” Tiram said.

Davidov said during these tests the prospective emissaries are evaluated to see if they are good instructors, work well with children and can represent Israel well. They also evaluate the candidates on how they do in their chosen fields, such as sports, music and arts and crafts. 

“It’s a really long day. If you pass that day there are more forms to fill in and after that you have a face-to-face interview with the head of the JCC camp directors. After that you have an interview with the local JCC camp director on Skype,” she explained.

Davidov plans to study for her college entrance exams when she returns to Israel next month. Davidov hopes to attend The Technion and study to become a cardiac surgeon.

Tiram, who is from Oranit, a small town he said is about 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, isn’t sure what he wants to study, or where, in the future.