Washington

Jewish summer camp hit for flying Palestinian flag in 'teachable moment'

A popular Jewish summer camp in Washington state raised a Palestinian flag last week in what it called a “teachable moment,” angering campers, parents and other supporters of Israel.

Camp Solomon Schechter in Olympia was forced to apologize after including a Palestinian flag as part of its daily flag-raising ceremony on Thursday and Friday while hosting a group of 14 children from the Israeli organization Kids4Peace. The group included Christian and Muslim Palestinian boys and girls from Jerusalem.

The backlash came from Jews who said the Palestinian flag did not belong at a Jewish summer camp, according to reports.

"Has your camp's administration lost their mind recently with the flag incident?!??" Alex Ginzburg wrote, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The camp, affiliated with the Conservative Movement, acknowledged the controversy in an email to parents.

“For the sake of a teachable moment, we did raise the Palestinian flag as a sign of friendship and acceptance,” the email said. “It was met with uncertainty by some campers and staff, especially the Israeli’s [sic], but all understood that the message of hope for peace by flying the Israeli flag alongside helped develop empathy.”

On Sunday, the camp posted an apology on its Facebook page.

“We sincerely apologize that we upset some in our CSS and larger Jewish community by introducing the Palestinian flag into our educational program. Camp Solomon Schechter reiterates our unwavering support for the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland,” the apology said.

A mixed response greeted the apology, the Post reported.  

Camp alumnus Naomi Shaw wrote, "So proud to have attended this wonderful camp. I think that this is such a wonderful thing to introduce to the next generation," according to the paper.

Another woman, Rene Ragettli, was quoted as saying that she had thought of sending her daughter to the camp next year. "Definitely off the list now," she said.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Camp Solomon Executive Director Sam Perlin and co-board president Andy Kaplowitz also expressed regret in a statement Sunday.

“We neglected to foresee in such actions the serious political implications and for that lapse in judgment, we are deeply sorry,” they said, according to JTA.