Planning Your 2020-2021 Aardvark Israel Experience
Information regarding COVID-19 and Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 30, 2020
COVID-19 is still having a significant impact on communities throughout the world. Here at Aardvark Israel we have adapted to the new reality to ensure the continuation of our programming in Israel. On August 31, 2020, we welcomed a new group of 170 students to Israel and we look forward to welcoming over 100 more students this coming winter as well. Despite the ups and downs of the virus in Israel, we want to assure you that our staff is making all the necessary plans for the next programs to begin in mid-November 2020 and in January 2021.
Since the start of the COVID outbreak, Aardvark Israel has continued to run our programs with appropriate modifications. Through adjustments to the daily schedule and full compliance with the health guidelines of the Israeli Government, we enabled our students to continue their activities in Israel in a meaningful and safe way. Throughout this period, we have been in constant contact with Masa, the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Tourism for guidance in our continued operation and to assist us in planning for the future.
As the situation in Israel fluctuates, our programming shifts as needed. At times, this means classes online combined with in-person volunteering and small group activities, while at other times we can offer nearly all our regular programming while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Throughout the pandemic, our students have been actively engaged in volunteer work with a number of organizations providing essential services such as in agriculture, grocery shopping for the elderly, delivering essential products and supplies to the poor, packing corona test kits with the Magen David Adom, and creating educational digital content.
Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see our program in action. We also recommend viewing this brief clip from i24News featuring one of our current students: https://youtu.be/mH6fn3kokJo Additionally, if you would like to speak to a current participant or the parent of a current participant, we will be happy to connect you!
Through our partnership with Masa Israel, we have the assurance of the Israeli government that our participants will continue to be offered entry permits even though tourism is currently restricted. We anticipate a smooth arrival process for all our participants regardless of their country of origin.
Since the situation is constantly evolving, we want to provide you with added peace of mind in planning for the coming semester or year:
- We are offering payment plan options in order to assist families who have been impacted financially due to COVID-19.
- We will be requiring all participants to take a COVID test in the one-week period prior to arrival in Israel and submit proof of a negative result.
- All students will conduct a health self-assessment immediately prior to travel to Israel, and a subsequent health assessment will be conducted immediately upon arrival. These assessments will include reporting the participant’s temperature and answering a brief questionnaire to screen for any possible COVID-19 symptoms or recent exposure.
- Any participant exhibiting symptoms of the virus or recently exposed prior to leaving home will be required to postpone their arrival to the program until a quarantine period has been completed.
- On the first day of the program, if a participant is exhibiting symptoms of the virus or was recently exposed, they will be immediately separated from the group and required to complete a quarantine period.
- We will continue to provide families with updates and full transparency as this situation evolves.
Although some of our usual programming will inevitably be modified during your time on Aardvark Israel, coming to Israel now is no less meaningful, valuable, or exciting than in the past. Our current students and their parents will tell you that we have navigated these challenges successfully, demonstrating sensitivity and resourcefulness, and in a way that has allowed our students to be both safe and engaged in meaningful experiences. Our proven record and experience will ensure that we are offering you a positive, meaningful, and safe program in Israel! We look forward to meeting you soon!
We will continue to update this statement and the FAQs below as needed based on the continued developments of COVID-19 in Israel. Please also feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or by phone with any questions or concerns you might have.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What preventive and protective measures have you taken to help assure that current participants remain healthy?
Students have been briefed frequently so that they understand the regulations in place and their obligation to abide by them. Participants are required to maintain physical distancing from one another (2 meters apart) with the exception of those in their own apartment, wear face masks outside of their apartments, diligently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and keep their apartments extra clean. Signs were posted in each apartment to serve as visual cues to remind them to maintain high levels of hygiene and what exactly to do if they don’t feel well. A variety of educational workshops are also being conducted to help the students understand the health, safety, economic, political, and other implications of the pandemic. Through one on one conversations with staff, students have also had the opportunity to clarify questions or concerns they have about how to stay safe during this time. Engaging the students in an educational social media campaign also has helped reinforce the message of maintaining physical distancing and proper hygiene.
How have you addressed the mental health needs of the participants who were feeling the weight of quarantine and social isolation?
We framed the quarantine as “physical distancing while socially connecting” as a way of helping students feel less isolated. We acknowledged the anxiety this situation caused, and we are addressed it head on. The staff of the program were very present and involved with the students to provide individual and group support. Engaging in group volunteer work while abiding by health guidelines also served as a way of preventing students from being alone. Additionally, clinical social workers were made available for individual sessions at no cost.
If it is necessary to hold some activities online and engage in modified programming, what types of things can we expect?
A wide variety of activities are also available even at times when large group gatherings are not possible. In addition to holding classes online, the students may students may also participate in activities such as yoga, concerts, resume building workshops, Israeli Dancing workshops, cooking classes, Hebrew activities and more. In-person activities will also be offered in small group settings within each apartment, each building, or in designated pod or capsules. Throughout the students experience, a variety of volunteer opportunities will also be available to assist with essential services (such as agriculture, deliveries to high risk populations, packing corona test kits with Magen David Adom, etc.) and some will intern through remote work setups if in-person work is not possible for periods of time.
What would happen if a student needed to be quarantined or got sick?
The students will be cared for and taken care of! If an individual participant needs to be quarantined or is sick, we have provisions for separating them from the group and providing them with the care they would need. Clear protocols are in place for each of these scenarios and we are prepared to deal with this type of situation. Students will also be briefed upon arrival so that they understand clearly what to do if they do not feel well or believe that they may have been exposed.
Does the health insurance included in the program tuition provide full coverage for COVID-19?
Yes, provided the illness is first diagnosed in Israel during the term of coverage. Coverage is provided by an Israeli company called Harel. No co-pay is required for doctor’s visits, prescription medication, lab tests, or hospitalizations. Coverage is limited to incidents and illnesses occurring in Israel (pre-existing conditions are excluded). An overview of the coverage is included in our Program Guide and the full policy is available on request.
How will you keep parents informed with any developments during the program?
Our staff sends out weekly updates to parents about the day to day activities on the program. We also send out additional updates with the relevant information that parents need to or would want to know. Since the start of coronavirus, we have emailed frequently – sometimes even daily – to ensure that everyone was informed and up to date. We also have hosted several Zoom meetings to provide information to parents. In the case of any urgent or serious situation, parents will be called immediately.
Are you still planning to run the International Trips?
We are continuing to plan for the best-case scenario, but we understand that these plans may need to change. If we are forced to cancel any international trip up to 30 days before the scheduled travel, we will offer participants the opportunity to substitute a different trip in its place or receive a full refund for the fees paid for the trip.
Will the Marva army experience and Mada ambulance program still be available? What about other add-on programs?
As of now, these programs are expected to take place as scheduled. If you are enrolled in an add-on program and it is cancelled prior to its commencement, a full refund of the add-on fees will be provided.
What would happen if I cannot travel to Israel at the start of my program due to border restrictions or the lack of flight availability?
When should I book my flight?
We recommend that you begin looking for flights now that offer flexible cancellation and date change options. Some airlines may be waiving their change or cancellation fees due to COVID-19 and offering reduced fares at this time.