Marla’s Story

On July 31, 2002, Camp JCA Shalom lost a member of its family. Marla Bennett, a native of San Diego, was one of the American victims in the bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Marla grew up at Camp as a camper, CIT, counselor, unit head, and during summer 2001 she was the Program Director. During her time at Camp Marla touched the lives of thousands of campers and staff.

Marla loved camp. She was also very passionate about Israel and Jewish education. In Jerusalem, she was training at Hebrew University and the Pardes Institute to become a Jewish educator so that she could pass on her passion to others, particularly children. She was an incredible role model and a great friend.

In her memory we created the Marla Bennett Israel Discovery Center and Garden, an interactive hands-on learning center that teaches about the land, history, and people of Israel; the flora and fauna of modern and ancient Israel; the relationship between Judaism and the environment; environmental awareness and protection; Jewish traditions, thoughts, and values; and organic gardening and farming.

Programs We Offer in The Marla Bennett Israel Discovery Garden

7 Species: These are the seven types of fruits and grains identified in the Torah as being special products of the Land of Israel. Since Malibu, CA has such a similar climate to Israel we are able to grow all of these species in one area and are hence able to teach about them experientially in the garden.

Israel Geography: The garden was designed as a map of Israel to teach about the geography and history of the land. As you walk through you learn about cities, seas and deserts of Israel.

Holidays/Cycles/Lunar Calendar: We teach about the many cycles in Judaism. Our holidays revolve around a lunar calendar and we demonstrate the seasonality of holidays in conjunction with the lunar/Jewish calendar.

Sukkat Shalom: Sukkat Shalom is a safe space that holds high hopes for peace in the land of Israel. We believe it is critical to teach tolerance and reconciliation in order to end terrorism and create a better future for our world.

Havdallah Garden: Our Havdallah garden is a beautiful space in which we grow spices and other fragrant plants to harvest each week for the Havdalah Service that marks the separation between Shabbat and the rest of the week.