“I know someone in Tel Aviv!” – 
Building connections to Israel at Camp Shelanu

Israel, Camp Shelanu, Voice4Israel
Photo from Yom Israel - a day dedicated to the state of Israel

Building Connections to Israel at Camp Shelanu 

by Madeline Seltman 

Connection to Israel 

At Camp Shelanu, our connection to Israel reaches over 400 diverse children. Some of our campers have parents from Israel or have been to Israel. Some have learned about Israel in day school or Hebrew school. About half of them are not Jewish and come with no experience about Israel, meaning we are building allies from a variety of faiths. Their age ranges from 5 to 13, they come from many backgrounds, and from across the Triangle. Over 15% have special needs, and our inclusion program is a signature part of what we do. And we believe that wherever campers are coming from, they can walk away feeling like Israel matters to them.

Israel Is Relevant and Meaningful 

At camp, it’s not about any particular beliefs about Israel, it’s really about feeling that Israel is relevant and meaningful and part of everyday life. It’s knowing the difference between American musical chairs and Israeli musical chairs (Israeli-style the chairs are in a line instead of a circle, FYI). It’s knowing that Israeli is not just a desert full of sheep herders and camels. It’s having that Israeli Eurovision song stuck in your head for weeks on end. Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself at this Voice4Israel post – Israeli Songs of the Summer at Camp Shelanu.

Shlichot: The Heart of Our Connection to Israel

A huge part of how we do this is with our shlichim program to bring Israeli camp staff each summer. This year we had four shlichot, the most we’ve ever hosted at Camp Shelanu. Maya, Shelly, Noga, and Tzlil spent three months here, living with local families, being part of our community, and teaching campers about Israel through drama, art, dance, games, Hebrew, and every day conversation. They are the heart of our connection to Israel and the relationships they build with campers is long lasting and impactful.

Feeling Connected to Israel 

To me, the beautiful thing about what campers leave with is not the Hebrew word for “nature” or the fascinating Israeli inventions.  It reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” When campers leave camp and they see something about Israel online or hear something on the radio, they won’t feel like it’s some foreign country halfway across the world. They’ll say, “Wait, I know someone in Tel Aviv,” and they will feel connected.  

Madeline Seltman, Voice4Israel, Camp Shelanu

Madeline Seltman is from Pittsburgh, PA and has been in the triangle for 9 years. She started at the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill in 2009 as a social work intern, was the director of Camp Shelanu for 6 years, and now serves as the Director of Engagement. She is also a parent of two Lerner students. You can see more about Camp Shelanu at the Levin JCC.

Israeli Shabbat Dinner

Shabbat Dinner, Voice4Israel

Raleigh Shabbat Dinner

A few months ago we relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Raleigh. As we landed with only a few friends, we decided to take it on ourselves to be a part of the local Jewish and Israeli community. Back in the Bay Area, we participated in a few rotating Shabbat Dinners that were sponsored by OneTable, an organization that helps to facilitate these meals. We decided to host our own unique Shabbat dinner, and as Israelis, it was a no-brainer that we should have an Israeli theme.

Shabbat Successs

For our first dinner, we had about 15 people, many of whom never knew each other before coming. We had a great meal (serving Shakshuka with Labane and Mujaddra) and played an amazingly fun and funny game that I have been running for years- Telephonary (if that makes you curious then you should definitely come!). It was so successful, that we decided to host these Shabbat dinners on a monthly basis. Yesterday we had our second Israeli Shabbat Dinner and 30 people showed up!! Again, we had a blast with tons of food, yummy desserts, great conversation and new friendships that were initiated (some people who are doing their Ph.D. in one of the universities in the Triangle and never knew about each other).


Shabbat Dinner, Voice4Israel

Open Invitation 

So here is an open invitation, as we are planning to do it again next month, look out for that invite on Facebook or Meetup before all the available seats are filled up. The dinner is free and all are welcome.

Email here for more information: 


Editor’s note: This dinner is a private event and not an official Voice4Israel event.

On the way to this event listen to some Israeli songs of the summer from Camp Shelanu. 

Don’t Retweet Anti-Semites: An Open Letter to Durham City Council Member Jillian Johnson

Voice4Israel, Durham City Council
Dr. Adam Goldstein, Family Physician, Voice4Israel Board Member

Dear Ms. Johnson,

I saw last week that you chose to retweet a derogatory statement by Jeremy Corbyn against Israel. I suspect you may share his views about Israel in many ways, although I am not sure you are aware of how most mainstream Jewish organizations and leaders across the World view his longstanding and consistent demonization of Israel. His track record of attacks against Israel, in language and actions, bears the hallmark of modern anti-Semitism as it applies to Israel: demonization, delegitimization, and applying double standards. A recent article that succinctly documents these concerns over many years can be found here


Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson retweets a perpetuation of the myth that Israel indiscriminately targets civilians.

Israel, Voice4Israel, V4I

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

A recent book I have read is one that you may find of interest. It is from Yossi Klein Halevi, one of the most preeminent, progressive writers today about the Palestinian/Israel narratives.

In his just published book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Mr. Halevi has worked for years to co-Direct, with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke, the Muslim Leadership Initiative, that teaches young Muslim American leaders about Judaism and Israel in Israel. He eloquently describes in his book how one of the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East is an inability to hear a side of the narrative different from our own. He says that “One reason that the well-intentioned efforts of diplomats have failed so far is that they tend to ignore the deep religious commitments on both sides. For peace to succeed in the Middle East, it must speak in some way to both of our hearts.” I highly recommend this short book to you that can access here

Demonizing Israel 

A bottom line is that if you continue to listen to and promote only one narrative, whether it be the in the Durham Council’s statement on terrorism and police singling out and demonizing Israel, or giving credence to those with decades long track records of fostering hostility against Israel, and promote both narratives in ways that alienate substantial members of your own community who have a different narrative that is equally valid, you will never get to the place you hope of an enduring peace in the Middle East.


Adam Goldstein, MD

Adam Goldstein, MD, is a family physician and researcher, who has served in leadership capacities for multiple Jewish organizations in North Carolina, across the U.S. and in Israel. His research on addiction has been cited nationally and internationally, appearing in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on CNN and multiple other media platforms.

I Love Israel with Limor Schwartz

Linor Schwartz, Voice4Israel
Limor Schwartz, MSW, LCSW. Director of Clinical & Social Services, Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Service

This is the eigth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Limor Schwartz!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

My family still lives in Israel, so we visit annually. My favorite moments are when I can walk with my kids around my childhood neighborhood, my old school, and my favorite beaches and see their excitement when they realize how different life is in Israel than the US.

Best food you had in Israel?

That is such a tough question as with the years, Israel grew up to be a real foodie nation! What I miss the most is a big “toast” from Abulafia in Jaffa- a large sesame bagel full of cheese and a variety of toppings (like olives, egg, corn, etc) and then smashed and toasted. Mmmm….

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

This may be surprising or unknown to some, but my favorite place to visit is the Palmach Negev Brigade Memorial in Be’er Sheva. I went to college at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and quickly found this beautiful site while exploring Be’er Sheva. It sits high on a hill and overlooks Be’er Sheva and the desert and is just beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

Definitely the Mediterranean. I grew up in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv and woke up every morning to the view of the beautiful ocean. I have memories of skipping school and running to the ocean with my friends, or having a wonderful Israeli breakfast on the beach with my family.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Tel Aviv for sure. It’s bustling, and happy and so colorful, and there’s always something to do and see. I love sitting in a restaurant, eating amazing food and people watch on Allenby or Shenkin street.

Limor Schwartz grew up in Israel, and moved to the USA after her service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). She has been part of the Raleigh-Cary community for 16 years, and has worked in the Jewish community for much of it. Schwartz is currently working as the Director of Clinical and Social Services at Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Services. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, 2 children and 2 cats.

Explaining Anti-Semitism and Discrimination to the Durham City Council: An Open Letter

Israel, Mark Anthony Middleton, Voice4Israel
Amy Rosenthal with Josh Ravitch

Explaining Anti-Semitism and Discrimination to the Durham City Council

Voice4Israel board member Amy Rosenthal sent this letter to Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton to share her concerns about the discriminatory nature of the Council’s decision to single out Israel.

Hello Mr Middleton,

I have reviewed again your statement from the April 16th hearing regarding police exchanges with Israel. You said “I’m troubled….that the mere mention of a nation is somehow anti-Semitic. I’ve seen that tactic before.” We who support Israel have not said you cannot criticize Israel, I have no idea where you got that notion, but you seem quite pleased to be calling us out on it anyway. All the Israel supporters I know criticize Israel, and America, and Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and Lebanon, and England, and France, etc, etc. It becomes discriminatory and anti-Semitic when you only criticize Israel, and blame that country while ignoring egregious behavior on the part of others.

"It becomes discriminatory and anti-Semitic when you only criticize Israel, and blame that country while ignoring egregious behavior on the part of others."

You said “the council did not single out Israel.” If this were true, why is that the only country mentioned? Simply because you chose the lines you wanted to select from Chief Davis’ statement, while leaving out the positive experiences she had working with Israel, does not excuse your selective wording. To say “we were just quoting Chief Davis” is a slick way of trying to get out of what you did, but we are not fooled.

You properly asked the question “what does military style mean?”, then never went on to define it. Even so, you and everyone else used the words as though they understood exactly what it means. What kind of research did you do on the matter? How do you know that Israeli police are “militarized”? Based on what data, criteria and research? Did you compare this to other countries who train with American police?

Finally, I found your last words offensive and anti-Semitic. Other groups “would love to have the time we’re spending on this…but when you got more money and you’re better organized….I guess you get our attention”. You should know that the pro-Israel community spent zero dollars on our defense. We had no money, but what we did have, and continue to have, is outrage. That is why we were there. We feel deeply wounded. That is why we will do everything possible to educate people about the wrongs that were done to the Jewish community, wrongs that you played a role in.

Thank you for your time,

Amy Rosenthal

Amy Rosental, Israel

Bio: Amy Rosenthal lived in Jerusalem from 1964-1965. Although I was young, Israel had a powerful effect on me, and I have loved the land ever since. My experience there is an important part of who I am. I am dedicated to seeing Israel thrive in the future.

I Love Israel with Carin Savel

Carin Savel, Voice4Israel
Carin Savel, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary

This is the seventh post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Carin Savel!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Hearing my cousin Leeyah yelling my name at the airport when I arrived for the first time. We look alike, talk alike and think alike. We got into her car and drove to a tiny place for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but it was like we’d seen each other yesterday. We couldn’t stop hugging and crying.

Best food you had in Israel?

Well, that’s easy– halvah. In the shuk in Jerusalem, I bought 4.5 kilos of it thinking we could eat it all before I left. We wound up giving away what we couldn’t eat– and I regretted that later!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It’s just beautiful and walking through the exhibits is peaceful. Art speaks volumes to me, and is always an indication of the soul of the city.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Dead Sea. Who doesn’t like floating while getting a free facial?

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

That’s a difficult choice, but I’ll say Tel Aviv. It’s an amazing city, full of life, music, lights and laughter. And great restaurants and people watching. Tel Aviv feels like the future and it always asks you back.

Carin Savel is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary. She grew up in New York City and has worked in the non-profit sector and government arenas for over 30 years. Carin has served on the national board of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, is a member of the JCPA Israeli-Palestinian-American Leadership Relations committee, facilitates the JCRC Kosher Pork series, and is currently a member of the JCPA Delegates Assembly. She lives in Raleigh with her new Boxer, Avi.

Israeli Songs of the Summer at Camp Shelanu

Shelly Rocca, Israel. Voice4Israel

Shelly Roccah – Dance Counselor at Camp Shelanu

Shelly Roccah is the dance instructor at Camp Shelanu. Ms. Roccah is 21 years old,  was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, and has been dancing since she was 3 years old. Ms. Roccah has practiced modern dancing and Balinese dancing, but her favorite style is Hiphop. Shelly shares, “I’m really happy that I got to teach dance at Camp Shelanu in Durham, NC.”

Happy Campers

Roccah has inspired many children and their parents this summer to explore Israeli dance and music. One happy parent tells Voice4Israel,

"My children jump into the car every day at pick-up talking about Ms. Shelly and begging to listen to their new favorite Israeli song. Once I find the song on YouTube, my children proceed to dance every step Ms. Shelly has taught them from their car seats. Because of Ms. Shelly, my children are exploring more Israeli songs they find on their own. The song of our summer has been "Tudo Bom" and several remixes of it we have found all thanks to Ms. Shelly."

Israeli Songs of the Summer of Camp Shelanu

Ms. Roccah was asked to share with Voice4Israel readers five of her favorite Israeli songs that she has been using with the campers at Camp Shelanu. 

Shelly: ”Zahav”- by Static and Ben El – preformed by Israel’s most famous duo. The name of the song means gold.

Editor’s note: The Times of Israel reports that Pop duo Static & Ben El sign with major US record label.

Shelly: “Todu Nom” is another hit by Static and Ben El. This song became specially famous in Brazil, since the name of it is in Brazilian. Tudo Bom means- everything is all right.

Editor’s note: My children love this song and the Mor David Remix of it we found. 

Shelly: “Tel Aviv” by Omer Adam- preformed by Israel’s most famous singer, who won the “best singer of 2018 “ award.

Editor’s note: If you see a car on 15-501 rocking up and down with happy children in the back seat, this song is likely to be playing.

Shelly: “Golden Boy”- by Nadav Gedj – this song represented Israel in the 2015 Eurovision contest.

Editor’s note: At a recent sleepover of Camp Shelanu campers, this song was on repeat with the children working together to get their choreographed dance moves just right. 

Shelly: “Tazizo” by Eden Ben Zaken. Eden Ben Zaken was a contestant in Israel’s X Factor.

Editor’s note: This song is listed last, but is certainly not least. This song has been on repeat all summer long in the car.  

Camp Shelua is located in Durham, NC and welcomes everyone with joy. Camp Shelanu is inclusive of all faiths and backgrounds and is proud of their diverse community. For more more information about Camp Shelanu, click here

Recently, Voice4Israel featured a different style of Israeli music  – read our post on the Heavy Metal Peacemakers. 

Netta Barzilai Dazzles North Carolina

Netta Barzilai, Voice4Israel
Barzilai walking off stage to screaming applause.

Netta Barzilai, an Israeli singer who recently won the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, played to a packed house at Raleigh’s Crabtree mall today. Barzilai’s set was filled with singing, dancing, and wild applause. Fans and families sang along. The local Israeli community was well represented and watched from the back of the stage. Barzilai signed autographs and took pictures with every child who greeted her. 

Children had “Nettta” painted on their heads. A college student attending with her mother said she drove an hour to hear the Eurovision star sing her hits. A mother held a “We Love Netta” sign and fans waved Israeli flags. Netta did not dissappoint!


Lullabies and Blood-Libels: An Open Letter to the Durham City Council

Durham City Council, Israel

Voice4Israel Continues to Speak Out

Voice4Israel board member Mike Ross wrote this open letter to the Durham City Council on August 16 objecting to the Council’s demonization of Israel and the Mayor Pro Temore’s perpetuation of the myth that Israel indiscriminately targets civilians.  

Dear Mayor Schewel and Councilpersons Alston, Caballero, Freeman, Johnson, Middleton, and Reece,

I was prompted to e-mail in response to a retweet by Jillian Johnson in solidarity with UK Labor Leader Corbyn. In so doing, you seemed to want to perpetuate the distortion that Israel was indiscriminately killing civilians in Gaza.

Israel, Voice4Israel, V4I
Mayor Pro Tempore retweets Jeremy Corbyn

The vast majority of Gazans who have died were terrorist organization members, intent on mayhem, deviously hidden among civilian demonstrators. The tweet’s misrepresentation, is what the terrorists count on, and it helps ensure that they will continue their malign behavior, at the cost of more suffering, primarily of their own people. I wish you had not retweeted this, as it suggests an alignment with the goals of Hamas to destroy Israel. It encourages the belief in our community, that such desires were the true motivation for your insistence that the City Council Statement single out Israel.

The City Council’s statement to apparently ban all types of police training only in Israel, has left our community with dismay. This decision was made after your countenance of a two hour City Council Meeting segment, largely devoted to putting Israel on trial. Many spoke to convince you that Israel is delegitimate and guilty of irredeemable crimes. Their words were of a similar nature as the tweet’s message.

I care deeply about the welfare of Palestinians, and would be over joyed to see them live in the peace, prosperity and dignity, which all people deserve. Members of the City Council, please consider whether the demonization of Israel, (to which your actions, deliberately or not, have contributed), is really helpful in finding a pathway to such a peace.

Jacob Siegel a New York based writer who has written for The New York Times, and many other publications, wrote this taken from his recent article regarding another slander of Israel, Lullabies and Blood-libels:

"to justify the unusual reproach directed at Israel among the many states of the world, evidence of unusual guilt is required. The evidence…being, not the basis for judgment, but the means of justifying a pre-ordained conclusion. In this worldview,…Israel’s guilt exists independent of any particular actions it takes. Where no crimes are on hand they must be fabricated to serve what is taken on faith as a greater truth…Great crimes—even brutality against children and cold-blooded murders—rather than shocking the conscience, provide the comforts of reassurance in a live-action morality tale."

This quote I believe can be applied to the deliberate misrepresentation of the Gaza violence, inherent in the tweet. I imagine you would not agree that these quoted words also apply to the City Council Meeting proceedings of April 16th. But please consider it from our view, as many of us were left feeling that they unfortunately do indeed apply.

I very much appreciate the opportunity to correspond with you. Thank you for your attention and consideration of my impressions.


Michael Ross

Michael Ross has been an active supporter of Israel, having served as president of the Raleigh B’nai B’rith chapter, chairman of the Raleigh/Cary JCRC and president of Voice4Israel. He is an AIPAC National Council Member and Tikvah Society Member. He lives in wedded bliss with his lovely wife Elizabeth in Raleigh. They have two children Matthew and Emily. A neuroradiologist, he has practiced with Wake Radiology for 28 years.

Heavy Metal Peacemakers

Chen Balbus, V4I, Voice4Israel
Chen Balibus

Chen Balbus of Orphaned Land Speaks with Voice4Israel

Chen Balbus, guitar player of the Israeli band Orphaned Land, answers questions for Voice4Israel about being a successful and respected musician in Israel. 

Haaretz refers to Orphaned Land as “Israel’s most successful metal band [which] has fans throughout the Arab world. For 27 years it manages to combine guitars and distortion with traditional Middle Eastern music.”

Favorite place to visit in Israel and why?

Balbus: Ancient Jaffa. I’m into ancient locations with ruins that you could pretty much get a sense of the history. Jaffa is beautiful (and not too far away from anything).

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Balbus: Jerusalem is amazing but I’d personally go for Tel Aviv, which has a much more relaxed kind of vibe unlike Jerusalem where it’s full of tourists.

"Orphaned Land are unique because they combine Middle Eastern music with metal, text from the Torah, Koran and the New Testament and in the mix of it they call for peace without touching any side of the political map. They have a huge amount of followers in the Arab world, including fans who who have tattooed the bands logo on their body - in countries where you go to jail for doing that."

-Israeli fan

Orphaned Land combines heavy metal with Middle Eastern music and text from the Torah, Koran and the New Testament. What made you decide to use this formula in your art?

Balbus: There are many around the world from any genre that would, lets say, choose a subject from their culture, vikings for example. We just pretty much took what is more related to our culture and history and combined it with our traditional music. It worked out well, I’d say 🙂

From all of your tours and shows, what was the most memorable moment for you as an Israeli and a Jew?

Balbus: Wacken festival 2016, although every show is very unique, but seeing all those country flags together in one place. That’s coexistence in the making right there. beautiful

Has the BDS movement ever tried to prevent you from performing? If yes, what have you done about it?

Balbus: Not that I know of, yet.

What are your thoughts about BDS trying to prevent artists from performing in Israel and Israeli artists performing across the globe?

Balbus: Pure waste of time, wasted on hate spread instead of spreading the good.

Why I love Israel?

Balbus: It’s my home. our home.

Editor’s Note: Readers may also enjoy our I Love Israel series.