For over six decades Camp Solomon Schechter alongside the Placid shores of Lake Joshua Stamper has been the gateway to Judaism and love of Israel for generations of young Jewish campers in the Pacific Northwest. For some Schechterites though, their blissful camp experience was jarred late last week by the raising of the Palestinian flag over the storied campgrounds.
An email sent to camp families by the Schechter administration (link here) acknowledged the incident this past Friday, describing it as one designed to “help develop empathy” and a “teachable moment”. Whatever the intent, the raising of the Palestinian flag over the camp was unexpected and disturbing for some campers, who according to the email expressed “sadness and anger” at the sight. The email sent by the camp noted that this feeling of “uncertainty” was especially true for some of the Israeli campers and staff.
Solomon Schechter administration indicated in their email that they raised the flag as a sign of “friendship and acceptance” for a group of visiting Palestinian Muslims and Christians. The Palestinian delegation, which also included some Israeli children under the auspices of Kids4Peace have joined the camp for the first five days of the new session.
Elena Alberstone told TMR that this is not the Schechter where she once sent her son. “It’s sad how much things have changed” said Alberstone, “my son – currently serving in the IDF – loved Schechter when he was young. Very Zionist, with Israeli scouts, gaga, Hebrew, Israeli food, the whole package. I would never send a child of mine there now.”
David Jacoby, a lifetime Seattleite and longtime member of the Jewish community expressed disappointment at the actions of the camp. “Solomon Shechter flying the Palestinian flag is a feel-good bromide that creates the illusion of problem-solving” said Jacoby. “It’s well intentioned, but it misses the point. Two decades of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians have failed primarily because of the Palestinian’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Jacoby’s wife, Beth concurs, adding that “the time to raise the Palestinian flag over our summer camps is when they stop burning the Israeli flag at theirs”.
The camp administration maintained in their email communication that despite their actions, they remain “unabashedly pro-Israel” and “we are celebrating Israel alongside our new friends”.
Acknowledging the strong emotional reaction some of the Shechterites expressed at the sight of the Palestinian flag fluttering over their camp, the administration announced that they would take down the Palestinian flag for Shabbat… along with the Israeli flag.
UPDATE: Sam Perlin, the Executive Director and Andy Kaplowitz, the Co-Board President of Camp Solomon Schechter have issued the following statement.
Camp Solomon Schechter regrets raising the Palestinian flag alongside the US, Canadian, and Israeli flags on Thursday and Friday mornings and it is a long standing CSS custom to lower flags for Shabbat and raise them again Sunday morning. We neglected to foresee in such actions the serious political implications and for that lapse in judgment, we are deeply sorry.
- JNS: In Raising Palestinian Flag, Camp Disrupts Safe Space for Zionism
- IsraellyCool: Thank you Camp Solomon Schechter
- Tablet: Jewish Camp Teaches Kids a Lesson
- JPost: The Problem With Flying the Palestinian Flag
- Times of Israel: Reaction to Flag Raising the Real Tragedy
- Times of Israel: When Color War is a Prelude to Holy War
- Arutz 7: Grovelling does not make our enemies like us.
- JTA: Camp Critics Holier than the Pope?
- Kids4Peace: Our Visit to Camp Solomon Schechter.
- Link to email from Solomon Schechter administration about Palestinian flag incident
- Camp Solomon Schechter response to Palestinian flag controversy.