Final week of Aardvark’s Spring Semester
The last week of our semester has come to an end. It was a great week, full of activities, laughter, moving apartments, hiking, tears of joy, and what not.
Here are the highlights of the final week of Aardvark’s Spring Semester:
Sunday started off with an in-depth Masa conversation about engaging in conversation about Israel. The session gave practical tools for an effective dialogue when speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was later that day when the end started to feel a bit more real when each of the Madrichim ran a goodbye activity with the apartments they had been leading throughout the semester.
“I can’t believe we have already been in Israel for five whole months. Boy, has this time flown! We started the semester apprehensive and excited about what this year would bring and now that our first leg is over, we can’t wait to dive straight into the Summer Semester. So what did we do in our final week to mark the end of an amazing Semester? We kick started the week with an incredible talk from Ariel Halevi, a staff member of MASA, about the ‘Seven Principles of Effective Israel Related Dialogue’. Ariel guided us through different techniques we can use when interacting with people who are either anti-Semitic, humanitarian – believe the Palestinian people are being mistreated by the Israeli army and not Hamas, people who believe Israel’s government is not democratic and undereducated people. His main idea being that we mostly remember the emotion of a particular argument rather than the argument itself, so to try to finish a discussion about Israel on a positive note. This means the person is more likely to hear your point of view and remember the conversation. I found this talk really interesting and educational and I am now able to use ‘Role Reversal’ or ‘The Palestinian Perspective’ to educate other people on the true and complex situation of Israel.” Ashleigh Harris
“Goodbyes are always bittersweet. Gil, our Madrich, called us all to Charles Clore Park by the beach at sunset time. When we arrived, there were snacks and a picnic blanket. Gil had created little blank booklets with each person’s name, which we passed around the circle. In the end, we each had a collection of messages from all of our friends sharing their favorite memories and love for us. The sweet sunset, bitter sea – salt wind, sad music, and great friends was fit for the tone. While that was the ‘last’ apartment meeting, we met Wednesday night for a goodbye chat where Gil spoke about his experience and connection to us and gave us a really cute gift. He had purchased children’s books for all of us and translated them. The moral of the story was to take advantage of opportunity when it comes, a lesson we have learned here which we should remember for the rest of our lives. I think that final meetings bring closure and the ability to reflect on what has been an eye-opening year.” – Ben Newman
“These last few weeks of Aardvark have been saddening, but also heartwarming. As we closed in on the last week, I reflected a lot on my experience here and the growth I have sustained through this semester. It’s been such a transformative process. This has easily been the most amazing four months. I’ve made lifelong friendships from all over the world, while taking in everything Israel has to offer. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was flying into Ben Gurion to begin an adventure of a lifetime. Time flies when you’re having fun! Saying my goodbyes and departing from the warmth of my amazing madrich, Daniel Shriki, has to have been the hardest. His constant care, attention, reliance, sagacious character, empathetic attitude and unconditional love was the sole reason the transition into my new home was so comfortable; It was so easy. I will miss the relationships I have built with this country and the people Aardvark introduced me to very dearly, but how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Gal Levin
“Saying goodbye to our Madricha Avia was just as I thought it would be – emotional. Since the beginning, the ending of the program was dreaded as it meant saying goodbye to the amazing staff and all the friends we had made. Avia was both a friend and Madricha so saying goodbye to her was like losing a close friend. While it’s upsetting to know she won’t be with us next semester, she’s going to be living a 2 minute walk away so we’ll be going out for dinner a lot!!!” – Sarah Sharwood
“Arad was my madrich for my second semester on aardvark, and I can’t even begin to say how much credit he deserves for getting us out of this semester alive. It’s been a crazy experience throughout. From having to get used to a new city and new internships, to having to wear masks and stay at home, to being uprooted and taken back to Tel Aviv, Arad was always there to make everything less serious and put a smile on our faces. One of my favorite memories of Arad as my madrich was when he had us come to the beach for our apartment meeting and taught us acrobalance. He truly has made this semester happier and I appreciate all that he’s done for us and me. I know that I haven’t always been the easiest student, but he always saw the best in me, and I will always remember that! We love you Arad!” – Eliana Okin
Monday started with a conversation in the Moadon regarding the Summer Semester. It was great seeing everyone back together in the Aardvark building and seeing how excited everyone is for the upcoming summer. We continued the day with a Masa session, electives by the Madrichim, and a very active outdoors session of everyone’s favorite – laser tag.
“On Monday we had our first meeting as a whole group in the Moadon (office) since the beginning of coronavirus about three months ago. We were then back online for an amusing and interesting talk about how the coronavirus is affecting politics in the Middle East. Following this, we had elective activities of meditation (incredibly relaxing), theatre and sculpture making. However, the highlight of the day was the laser tag in the evening. But this was no ordinary laser tag, OH, NO! This was laser tag on steroids!! What does this mean you may ask? Well, both in accordance with the remaining social distancing coronavirus restrictions and to elevate laser tag to the next level, this activity was outside!! I know, laser tag outside, in a park- how cool!! But wait, there’s more… We fashioned army style hats attached to sensors on our backs and front as well as – get this- a LIFE SIZE ARMY GUN. CRAZY!! (Although unfortunately it was not loaded and made of plastic). We were split into two teams and had to shoot the sensors on either the head (30 points), stomach (20 points) or back (10 points) of a ‘soldier’. The team with the most points won. We then did an army style training task where one team hid a life size doll (injured soldier) and the other team had to first find the doll then send in their medic to rescue the doll. If the medic was shot four times the game was over, or if the other team did not find the doll in 10 minutes the game was over. Suffice to say, neither team found the doll, however we all had loads of fun.” – Ashleigh Harris
“On Monday afternoon, I joined the group taking part in the improvisation workshop led by Arad in the moadon. We started off with a warm up which involved us walking around and Arad calling out numbers between one and ten. The higher the number, the faster we had to walk. Then we were told to shake hands and greet anyone with whom we made eye contact and then to show no emotion unless we touched another person’s hand. The buildup of the first activity was really smooth and helped bring energy into the group.
Our next game was one in which two chairs were placed facing everyone and one person would go and sit. The idea was that they are on a bus and someone else would have to come sit next to them to try to make them uncomfortable enough to leave their seat. The scenarios that came up were so creative and so much fun to watch. I think we all needed the silliness and laughter that the bus game brought us.
Our final game needed three people to create a situation. It would continue for a short amount of time until they were told to freeze. Then, anyone else could go up and choose a person with whom they would swap places and, with the tableaux still in place, start a new scene based on the way everyone was standing.
I really loved having a space to be silly and inventive along with everyone else. I left the activity feeling energised and happy. I believe that this activity proves that laughter is truly the best pick-me-up, even if you don’t think you need it.” – Erela Jankelowitz
Tuesday was another classic Tiyul Tuesday – this time all the way up to the north of the country – Har Eytan. This water hike was perfect for this hot Tuesday.
“For Tiyul Tuesday this week we adventured to the North of Israel (right next to the Kineret), on one of the hottest days ever! The drive was about 2 hours, and when we arrived we were all so ready for the water hike. It was so nice to walk through the cool water; it definitely made the heat bearable. As we got to the end of the hike, there was a news crew there and we made it on the nightly news channel! I would say that it was one of the best tiyulim of the semester, we definitely need to do it again.” – Isaac Shapiro
Wednesday was an extra special day. The morning started on the Tel Aviv beach with a paddle boarding activity everyone loved. As you can see in the pictures – it was super fun and refreshing. After the activity, everyone had time to clean up and prepare for moving apartments. In the evening, we all had an end-of-semester barbecue on the rooftop. As part of the evening, we ran the Mench ceremony – highlighting a few students who stood out for being a Mench – someone that is putting this extra effort into making the community a better, more inclusive and enjoyable one. Wednesday evening was moving and beautiful. It was great to sit back and see the progress every student has gone through from day one – and all the way to this day.
“On Wednesday we went paddle boarding as one of the last activities of our Spring Semester. Due to a rescheduling in the program because of the extreme weather, Aardvark took us paddle boarding instead of surfing. The gorgeous weather set the scene for one of the last group activities as we all set out on the calm waves. It was such a unique bonding experience to be with everyone at Tel Aviv beach and gave us a glimpse of what the summer program will look like. Personally, I was so grateful to be able to spend this activity with the amazing people on Aardvark who all individually add to the incredible dynamic of the Aardvark family.” – Sabrina Zulman
“The evening saw the Aardvark BBQ (with pita for the bread, yum) and Mensch Ceremony. A Mensch is a person who is always there to help other people, has a positive attitude and always seeks to make the most out of every opportunity. In Hebrew, this type of person is described as a ‘Rosh Gadol’ (big head). Each Madrich (councilor) chose a few students to be named a Mensch. Congratulations to all of you who received the iconic ‘100% Mensch T- Shirts’, everyone on the program has grown and matured so much these past five months, and have all achieved things we would not have thought possible before coming on the program. After the ceremony I joined the rest of Dor’s students for a last meeting where Dor gave each of us a beautiful and intricate hand drawn drawing of each of our favourite cartoon characters (Dor had hand drawn each one) as well as a message for each of us and a photo of our group. Before the week had ended Dor also made sure to have a one on one meeting with each of us to go over our year so far. I can’t thank Dor enough for all of his help throughout this semester. Any questions I had he was always there to answer them or find out the answer, our apartment meetings were spiced up with games of Rummikub or Cards Against Humanity and I knew I could talk to him if I had a problem I needed to talk over. We then progressed to Thursday where everyone was busy finishing packing and moving into our new apartments for the Summer Semester, a true indicator that the Spring Semester had unfortunately come to an end. This semester has truly been a roller coaster experience. From the Tiyulim to Tzvat and the Negev at the beginning of the year to coronavirus hitting and the international trips being cancelled, we have been tested to our limits and become extremely good at adapting to and accepting change. Even though this year was not what we signed up for, I am sure our unique experience has become more meaningful and educational than we could ever have imagined. Thank you to all of the fantastic Aardvark staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure this program continues to run and function to an exceptionally high standard even in periods of total lockdown. We could not have asked for a better team to support us through this pandemic. Best of luck to those leaving the program, I have no doubt you will flourish in life after Aardvark. To everyone staying for the Summer Semester, I look forward to seeing what the next three months have in store.
Best wishes” – Ashleigh Harris
“This past Wednesday, our aardvark group was treated to a refreshing, fun and de- stressing activity. Being that this was our last activity as a group, we all truly embraced what this activity had in store for us. Thanks to the amazing work at GO SURF we learnt how to paddle board and spent the next hour taking in the beauty of Tel Aviv and spending time with my new friends who I now call my family. This was the perfect ending to an outstanding program.” – Greg Ber
Thursday was dedicated to cleaning, packing, moving and saying goodbye. The staff was walking around the apartments during the day, helping people pack and move to their updated apartments. It was a bittersweet day but what was really felt during that day was how close everyone has become over this year/semester. We ended this semester a new community made up of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv students, a mixture of yearlong and a semester students – but overall, people who chose to stay and be present, to grow and step outside of their comfort zone in order to learn and achieve new things.
“It’s been a wild year. I’ve been here since September, and all I can say is wow. So much has happened in such a short period of time. I’ve made lifelong friends from all over the world, and I’ve done the most amazing things. It’s hard to say bye, to the adventures and friends, but this chapter of my life is now coming to a close. I’m prepared now to go out and truly live. Those staying for the summer are going to have the time of their lives, but for me the next chapter of my life is beginning. It’s truly been a pleasure to be a part of this wonderful Aardvark family, and I can’t wait to see where everyone goes.” Talya Wittenberg
“As the semester came to an end for only some, it didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. One Aardvarkian alone adds to the dynamic in such a unique way, when they finally leave, it takes a little piece out of our family. The barbecue was an exact demonstration of that. Everyone began to realize how Aardvark was going to be different without some of our precious family, and although the hot dogs and lamb our gracious shay el cooked up we’re great comfort food, it didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to people we might never see again. Still, it does carry one positive aspect about the situation. For those staying, this is only the beginning. We’ve been blessed enough to be with each other an extra 2.5 months and If you were wise enough to stay, you’ll be opening yourself up to countless more experiences that will only shape the rest of your life is a magnificent way!” – Ben Wahba
“This semester will truly be memorable. No matter how hard we worked to keep the program running, it wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for our amazing students that really made the Corona experience a fun and educational time.” Daniel Shriki (Madrich)
“After 4 semesters on Aardvark I can say for sure that this semester I will not forget! Not only because of the global pandemic that has stopped the world (and more importantly, the trips to Naples and Italy), but I will never forget the way the students and staff faced each challenge that came our way, calmly and with complete confidence in each other. Understanding that we are all in this together and that we will go through it together. In general, this semester I came across a bunch of young energetic young people who are thirsty for new experiences and life opportunities! And I’m glad I got to end my time on this program with this bunch. I couldn’t have asked for a better end. Thanks for the cooperation and the understanding. Love, Avia” (Madricha)
Though the Spring Semester has come to an end we are all looking forward to the summer semester Tiyulim, internships and activities.
Right before I sign off I would love to thank the entire Aardvark staff who made this semester happen with lots of hard work and dedication.
Also, a very important thank you to you parents, who supported us along the way and trusted us for taking care of your children.
Shabbat Shalom and thank you for a great semester!
Etai Ben Simhon