Memories of Dor L’Dor ’13
I wanted to share a beautifully written reflection about how transformative the Dor L’Dor Leadership Program is, from someone who has had the experience of being both a participant and a staff member. I am hoping the timing of this post will re-kindle DLD’13 and fire-up DLD’14 just as the summer of DLD 2013 is fading into cherished memories, and at the same time DLD 2014 is beginning to anticipate creating their own. This was written by Amanda Zimmerman, who was DLD staff with the Cohen Camps this past summer. She gave this speech at the DLD Final Banquet, at the end of our time in Israel.
Hi all. So a few of you may know this about me, but I really love to journal. It helps me process and reflect on what’s going on in my life especially in hectic times like DLD. The other morning was the last time I wrote in my journal and after writing a few sentences I realized that it might be a more effective reflection if I shared it with all of you.
So I’m going to ask you all to teleport your mind back to Wednesday July 23,2013, aka three days ago. We had just woken up LITERALLY before the break of dawn. In the dark we walked step by step until we reached a playground of sand hills. Each one of us silently chose which peak we would claim for sunrise and marched our hiking boots to the top before plopping ourselves down in anticipation.
It was at this point that I glanced at the sky and realized that it was pretty cloudy and we probably weren’t going to get to see the sun. So I took out my journal and focused on writing instead. This is what I wrote:
“Right now I am sitting on top of a sand peak in the Negev, just like I did five years ago on DLD ’08. Everything around me is quiet besides sniffly noses, the crinkling of Alex opening his breakfast bar, Koll pushing some sand down the side of her peak, and a few kids from bus 1 who just arrived in the clearing and are calling dibs on which peak they want for themselves. The moon, the full moon, is still up, but the sky continues to get brighter, a hint of pink peaks through between the clouds.
It’s strange being in this place in the Negev, a place I’ve only been once before back in 2008, five years ago, and yet having this feeling of comfort as if I’m at home. As I look around at each little dot of white Hanes around me it feels as though I never left, as though I time traveled back to 2008 and instead if sitting here with all my campers, the little dots of white Hanes belong to the bodies of the friends that I made on my DLD trip. The DLD itinerary may stay the same throughout the years – for all I know I’m sitting on the exact same sand peak that I sat on five years ago – but for me this time was different. Five years ago I was sixteen, just like you all.
When I look back on the past five years of my life since DLD, all that I’ve accomplished and the person I’ve become, I can tell you with unwavering certainty that this trip was the first hill peak in my life. Being on DLD 2008, making new friends and pushing myself to new boundaries was the first hill peak I overcame, and look, now so have you! I had that same infinite sense of accomplishment that you all have now, or will start to have in the weeks or months after you return home. This trip and the people who inspired me on this trip became my motivators , even after the trip was over.
I have this distinct memory of my tough volleyball tryouts junior year of high school and how during them I would close my eyes and imagine myself in my IDF uniform on army day at 5am, looking down at the footprints in the sand in front of me as we did our stretcher march on the beach. And I pictured myself moving one foot after the other into the persons footsteps in front of me, ready to cry and puke all at once, but knowing that it was all a mental game and that I was the only barrier in my way.
The crazy thing about tackling your first mountain peak is that mountain peak tackling is addictive. Once you know you can reach the top of he first mountain you immediately start looking for the next one. Before you know it you’ve conquered mountains you didn’t even know existed. Life can be like a never-ending mountain, full of peaks along the way, just waiting to be conquered. Each peak a new opportunity in life, just chillin’ until you decide that you want to take advantage of it.
As some of you know, I wanted to be a DLD counselor since this night five years ago – partially thanks to my bus guide Ari, yes Mesibus, once upon a time I too was Lapa-awesome! I can’t tell you all how crazy it is that I’m actually here, that I’ve actually reached this peak that I’ve wanted to climb for so long.
I always tell my campers that I’m here for them, but now that I think about it, this saying can be taking two ways. Of course I’m here for my campers if they need to talk or need me to take care of them or entertain them, but what I really mean by “I’m here, on DLD for my campers” is that I am here for my campers to help them experience what I did.
Five years ago, people like me and the rest of the staff pushed and inspired me up the my first peak – Dor L’ Dor. They helped me find my way onto my path. So I want to leave you all with this: in case you haven’t noticed you just reached the top of your first peak . You’ve conquered 5 weeks of amazing experiences and you’re all ready for the next peak . This new peak might not be straight in front of you on your path, it might not even be in your line of view but let yourself be motivated and inspired by your experience here and you won’t have to look so long for that next peak. When you leave tonight, at 430am, or later tomorrow, start looking for your next peak whatever it may be, and conquer it.
‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.’ – Steve Jobs
Five years down the line. It seems so far away now, doesn’t it? You’ll look back on this experience like I am now and see a clear path, a series of hill peaks that you’ve conquered and you’ll realize how far this trip has taken and guided you. For now, just trust that you won’t let yourself down, that you have amazing potential to go out into the world, let yourself be inspired, and accomplish the unthinkable.
As a wise woman once said (in Hebrew): mi shelo shote bape shote bvrid – if you don’t drink through your mouth you’ll drink through your veins. Hydrate yourselves with amazing experiences, good deeds, and good people. Keep the people you’ve met on this trip close. Because while you we’re climbing this gigantic peak, they were climbing right on beside you.
Amanda Zimmerman is a senior at American University, a former Cohen Camps camper, and DLD counselor.