BARSS CORNER, N.S. — The black RCMP-driven SUV rolled into the Camp Kadimah parking lot and out stepped a man relaxed after a busy day and a half meeting politicians and community folk in Prince Edward Island and Halifax.
As he looked around the 68-year-old camp on the shores of Lake William in Barss Corner, Joel Lion, Israel’s consul general to Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, smiled.
He was recalling happy days spent at Camp Akiva in France, where he enjoyed his childhood. At Kadimah, he saw excited campers and staff trooping to the dining hall where they would soon scarf down falafel pitas.
In a brief address to more than 250 listeners, Lion said, “While I’m glad to see you here on Israel Day. Every day is Israel Day for me.”
Israel Day was a special camp day of festivities, emphasizing more Israeli programming than usual, including a swim where campers were asked to imagine a Tel Aviv beach, and an Israeli carnival with games and goodies.
“You should be proud to be part of the Jewish nation,” Lion said. “We are not there to make wars but to achieve peace with our neighbours, with all nations.”
He noted that in 1948, when the State of Israel was born, there was one big river (the Jordan) and two lakes, one of which, he said, “was dead, the Dead Sea, and another on life support. We didn’t have lots to begin with, but in 65 years, we went from nothing to become one of the 33 most prosperous nations in the world.”
He talked briefly about Israel’s accomplishments in medicine and technology and stressed that “the best way to tell others about us is to talk of our achievements.”
He later met with several campers and staff from Israel who were attending the camp under the auspices of the Atlantic Jewish Council and private donations. He participated in Israel Day before reluctantly drawing away.
The day before, Lion met with Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee and University of Prince Edward Island president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz. Lion was also “elected” to the P.E.I. Jewish community at a social event.
The morning of his camp visit, he met Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly. “We have strong relations with Nova Scotia,” Lion said, recalling a meeting with Premier Darrel Dexter last fall prior to a successful Nova Scotia trade mission to Israel, headed by Dexter.