BARSS CORNER, N.S.— The eyes of Avraham (Avi) Lev-Louis and his wife Batia were opened wide and their jaws were dropping in amazement as they toured Camp Kadimah last month.
Israel’s consul for Montreal and Eastern Canada, Avi Lev-Louis, second
from right, is pictured with, from left, Camp Kadimah director Joanna
Wexler of Halifax, wife Batia Lev-Louis, and associate camp director
Jared Goldlust. [Joel Jacobson photo]
“Magnificent.” “Wow” “Everyone is so happy” – these were only a few of the remarks from the Israel’s consul for Montreal and Eastern Canada and his wife, who were making their first official visit to Atlantic Canada since he assumed his role last September.
Guided by camp director Joanna Wexler, assistant director Jared Goldlust and camp committee co-chair Michael Pink, they spent several hours July 16 watching campers enjoy their activities. Avi also spoke for about 20 minutes, in Hebrew, to 31 Israeli kids currently attending Kadimah, and he briefly addressed the entire camp during lunch in the mess hall.
Avi has a a strong understanding of Canada and Canadian Jewish camping, having spent many of his formative years in Montreal before returning to Israel at age 27 to do army service and join the foreign diplomatic corps. He has spent consular time in Dublin and Prague, plus Ottawa and Toronto, before accepting his most recent posting.
He and Batia were awed by the artwork of current and former campers on a mural near the outdoor sport field, a project funded by the New York-based Foundation for Jewish Camps. Later, Avi photographed a mural of a large map of Israel, created by the camp’s CITs in 2007, and joked, “Israel seems larger here.”
Casually dressed in a short-sleeved dress shirt and jeans, Avi was excited about the integration of Israeli programming and the emphasis on the links between Israel and the Diaspora.
While speaking with the Israeli campers, he sensed their excitement at being in Canada. Each camper introduced himself or herself and said where they lived in Israel.
Avi stressed that Israel isn’t a “war country” but one of culture and education and peace, and he spoke to them with pride about the wonderful inventions and health advances that have come out of Israel.
Speaking to the entire camp, he noted that his role as consul is to identify shared values between Israel and Canada. “The favourite part of the job is the cultural aspect, but my job is also to explain Israel’s political position. I’m very proud to speak of Israel’s accomplishments in the world that have helped society as a whole.”
He mentioned the millions of people integrated into Israeli society from places such as Russia, Ethiopia and, many years ago, from Europe after the Holocaust. He also noted that times are challenging for Israel, with the constant threat of terrorism and the anti-Semitism that just won’t go away.
“I hope you will be inspired to help Israel so there will be peace and prosperity, there and in the entire world,” he told the campers.
In appreciation for the lunch he and Batia enjoyed, Avi presented camp cook Anne Joudrey with The Book of Jewish Food by Janna Gur.
While in Halifax, Avi and Batia attended the Halifax Jazz Festival, thoroughly enjoying a Thursday-evening concert by Israeli guitar-tuba trio Boom Pam.
“The Halifax community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, was very welcoming to Boom Pam. There were no demonstrations, just appreciation of great talent,” he said.
He also addressed the congregation of Shaar Shalom Synagogue at Shabbat services Saturday morning July 17.
“This is my first trip to Nova Scotia and the smaller communities. [The consular office] doesn’t get to the Maritimes often enough, and we should be here more. It’s important, but there is a lot of work in the Montreal office, too,” he said.