Telephone interview conducted by Michael Schwartz in Vancouver with Michael Livni in Israel.
MS: What do you remember? What are the most memorable parts of that experience?
ML: Well for me the social part, like my first girlfriend that I ever had I had, you know, at Camp Miriam, and what’s her name? I only know her pre-married name, Marianovich in Vancouver too. And I was 16, she was 14, it was all very…and you know we’d walk to the Point in our white shirts and when a couple, a new couple sort of got together like, then everybody would sing ‘Zug Hadash bi Mahanin,’ a new couple in our hameh, I didn’t even know what it meant at that time, but actually in terms of memories I have the hefartid the two main memories would be, you know, the personal relationships, that was my first girlfriend, and the fact that…Two other things, the fact that really the names of the trees and things like that…I knew and the others didn’t, they didn’t know that kind of stuff. The third thing was that we were not terribly disciplined and with one of the madrichot [camp counselors] who is now in Kibbutz Maayan Zvi, Eva Hirsch, is her name now, one day we decided to not be very nice to the director, this guy Moshe Laufman, and we came in on Shabbat in the morning to wake him up and poured some water on him, a pail of water on him and really I was almost sent home for that so I certainly remember that. It was only two weeks because I think the CCF were still using the camp for part of the summer so they were only renting it out for a short period of time.
MS: How many years were you there?
ML: Well, I wasn’t there many years, I wasn’t really at Camp Miriam again until 1957 but my involvement was at a different level entirely, it was at the…what shall we say…the administrative level, I wasn’t there because frankly I had to work in the summers, I couldn’t just be a camper and I was going through university during those years and I had to work every summer. But for example when the whole question came that we could no longer rent that camp and we had to buy it then I and another guy my age, Alan Gelfond, he’s in Detroit now, we went looking for new campsites and we travelled around Howe Sound and we tried to find new campsites and then we realized, I realized actually, that there was no possibility of getting this whole thing together if we didn’t organize the parents, because the Labour Zionist movement really was pretty theoretical…I mean there were people who were sort of together as Labour Zionists but what we needed was a chartered society incorporated under the laws of British Columbia that could actually buy a camp. So in other words my sort of role at that time…I was 21, 22 in 1954, ‘55 and I was already starting in medical school…my role was to organize the adults and to organize the Habonim Zionist society so that there was a society where it was a legal body where people could buy a camp. And actually that was the, I suppose that was my central contribution to Camp Miriam, to probably be the central person in creating a situation where it could be bought and where I was the administrator, and I was the secretary and I had to take the minutes, and I had to do the dealings with the chartered accountants to get the…you know a chartered society has to hand in an annual statement to the government and I had to do all that, that was really my function in terms of the camp—I wasn’t at the camp proper during those years, I couldn’t be, I had to work in the summer.
DB: I went to HaTzofim, it’s like Scouts here since I think I was in Grade 2, something like that. And we had camps every summer, we had camps during the holiday of Hanukah, we had camps during the holiday of Passover, whenever it was a big holiday from school like more than three, four days we used to go to hike, to help in kibbutzim. At that time, you know, we were, in Israel they developed agriculture something very important for the country and they didn’t have enough helping hands. And we used to go to kibbutzim in the summer sometimes for a month, for six weeks, to help them to pick up the apples, or the grapes, or the peaches, or the plums, or whatever, or the potatoes, or it’s, it was part of growing up in Israel and it was so much spirit around it. Because at night we used to have the bonfire and sit and sing and somebody used to play the accordion or the guitar. Those were really wonderful days.
ID: And were these the years that you went to Camp Hatikvah? Were you one of the first campers at Camp Hatikvah or…
MD: This was, I’m just trying to remember the year, this would be probably about the same time, yes, would be about the same time, and this was a totally new experience for me because this was the first time that I was to be exposed to anything that had any kind of Zionist or religious overtones. And it was a, sponsored by the Zionist Organization. And the camp was located at Crescent Beach. And we went there by train and I remember getting off…Camp Hatikvah, this was the first Camp Hatikvah…
ID: Was it the Zionist Organization or the Council, National Council of Jewish
MD: Oh, maybe it was the Council, could have been. But it was Zionisitically oriented, same with the songs and the whole concept was.
ID: And who was the camp director, do you remember who it was?
MD: One year Morrie Rothstein was camp director. This may have been the second year I went. I think there was another, there was a husband and wife, the first year I went there there was a husband and wife from Israel who were camp directors...they shared the directing of the camp. And I thought it very strange because this was the first time that I was ever learned to sing in Hebrew. And I remember I really wanted to go home…the first few days because I felt so strange.
ID: Why did you feel strange?
MD: Because I, there were a lot of other children who were there who I guess knew the Hebrew songs, there was another, Young Judaea, who was existing, coexisting with AZA, not very strong, coexisted with AZA. So I actually this was the first exposure to a lot of other children, other people that ordinarily wouldn’t have associated with.
MD: But as it turned, we arrived in the camp, there was a whole, there was a pile of straw or hay and some, and we had to stuff some sheets, and that was our mattresses. And things were very, very primitive.
ID: Did you sleep in tents?
MD: We didn’t sleep in tents but they were wooden huts with outdoor plumbing. But after the second day it turned out to be a beautiful experience.