gap year in israel

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Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Shalom Parents and Students,

We are entering the weekend after a challenging week here in Israel. Though there were some stressful moments this week, there were many positive highlights as well. Below are a few paragraphs from students, talking about the past week.

Dani Starr wrote about Tuesday’s tiyul:

“For our final Tiyul Tuesday, we went up north and hiked down Mount Arbel. With everything that’s been happening this week, looking back on that tiyul feels like a breath of fresh air. With the rocket attacks and violence in Jerusalem that began the day before, going up north and enjoying each other’s company was really nice. Both communities were together, which meant we were able to see our old counselors, and it felt very full circle as the program nears its end. After hiking down the beautiful mountain, we went to a beach and swam in the Kinneret. Even though I’ve been to Israel many times before, it was actually my first time going swimming in the Kinneret, so that was pretty cool for me! Overall, spending the day up north with my friends before everything started in Tel Aviv Tuesday night was the best possible thing, and I am so grateful that we were able to have such a blissful day before the storm.”

Beach and swam in the kinneret
Beach and swam in the kinneret
Beach and swam in the kinneret
Beach and swam in the kinneret
We asked one of our students to write about her experience of being in Israel in this challenging time and this is what Abby Miller shared:
“I had just finished making dinner when I heard the sirens wailing through the streets of Tel Aviv. Leaving everything behind, my roommates and I ran to our bomb shelter with our hearts racing. We sat there, anxious and scared as we listened to the explosions of the Iron Dome intercepting rockets above our heads. And that was only the beginning of our night.  I woke up to the blaring sound of my doorbell at 3 am; another siren had gone off. We ran back to the bomb shelter. Our bodies were still asleep, but our minds were wide awake. Once again, we sat there on edge in a world filled with unknown; no one knew how long we’d be in the bomb shelter, how many rockets would fly over our heads, if a rocket would strike our city, or if we’d be okay.  My phone vibrated with red alerts every minute or every few seconds… “Rockets Attack: Tel Aviv – East” “Rockets Attack: Tel Aviv – South and Jaffa” “Rockets Attack: Holon”; it was never ending. My city—like so many others—was under attack.  
I now know what it’s like to live in fear, to live in a place that’s under attack, to live in a place where a lack of compromise puts citizens’ lives at risk, and to live in a place where our future isn’t guaranteed.”
Although challenging, despite the events of this week, we are seeing tremendous resiliancy in our students and deep reflection – thinking about the importance of the State of Israel and realizing that we can’t take it for granted.
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Ellen Murray wrote:
“Since Monday, tensions in Israel have been growing rapidly. Rocket alerts sound on phones continuously throughout the days with over 1,000 rockets fired throughout Israel in the first 48 hours of conflict. From Tuesday evening to early Wednesday morning, Gaza sent well over 100 rockets to Tel Aviv. So that night was a long adrenaline-filled dream for the Aardvark Tel Aviv students.
On Tuesday night my roommate and I walked back into our apartment after a quick trip to the store down the road. My roommate began to put away her groceries and I opened my laptop hoping to finish the last of my school assignments. Not even two minutes later we heard yelling from the staircase. “Sirens, let’s go now!” I jumped up from my seat and my roommate ran out the door without shoes yelling at me to hurry up and follow her. Once we were outside we heard the sirens. We knew what that meant, we had 90 seconds to find shelter. We ran down the stairs of our building, down the street, and down some more stairs to the shelter where many Israelis followed. The locals all seemed calm because it’s nothing new to them, but you could feel the fear emanating from our bodies. Above us, we could hear the sirens blaring as well as rockets being blown up in the sky. So we made small talk with the other people in the shelter to pass the time and ease our nerves. Finally, a while after the sirens turned off, we walked back to our apartment.
This time we were going to be ready. We left windows open to hear the sirens, we backed a go-bag to take to the shelter, and we kept our clothes on and shoes nearby. The second wave was different though. Rocket alerts on my phone were going off like crazy all over Israel. I was sitting by the window when something in the air just didn’t feel right. I stood up and put my head out of the window to better hear the world outside, then suddenly BOOM. I heard an explosion in the sky but no sirens. I turned to my phone and students were telling everyone to wake up, but still, there were no sirens. I woke up my whole building, knowing what was coming our way. Then my roommate who was in another Aardvark building called and I asked her what to do and she said: “go now!” I stared at my phone confused until I heard the siren start right after so I yelled “Oh sh**! Come on y’all, let’s go!” I told her to be safe and that I loved her, hung up the phone, and headed to the door. We ran down the stairs of our building, down the street, and down some more stairs to the shelter shouting at people on the street to follow us for safety. Again we heard the crash of rockets and the howling of the sirens while we sat in a long dirty hallway waiting for Tel Aviv to be safe again. We talked to Israelis as we all sat there half-awake waiting to lay back down in our ‘comfortable’ beds. Eventually, the sirens stopped, the wave had finished and we were able to walk back to our apartment again.
When we walked back into the apartment, my roommate and I agreed to sleep in shifts so we could be extra cautious because we didn’t think the attacks were finished for the night. My roommate laid down on the couch and tried to fall asleep while I sat in my room on social media reading about Israel’s attacks on Gaza and Gaza’s attacks on Israel. I saw people celebrating the very rockets flying over my head. I was even receiving texts about how I am a settler Jew on stolen land and how Jews kill children in Gaza maliciously. It is devastating to see but antisemitism is not a new experience for me or my peers. I decided to engage in as many productive conversations as I could because it was the only thing I could control and the only way I could feel like I was helping. At one point I called my Arab friend from back home to talk to her because I knew we could have a meaningful dialogue. Just as my conversation with her was starting, rocket alerts began to blow up my phone and I heard another siren. This time it was not shocking, we all knew the drill. So, I yelled to wake up my roommate and told my friend I had to go find shelter now, and hung up the phone. I walked out the door and woke up the building again, making sure everyone was awake before I left. We sat half-awake in a basement hallway at 5 am wishing for the rockets to stop so we could finally fall asleep. We met even more Israelis in the shelter and had more great conversations. This time after the sirens stopped, we were hesitant to leave the shelter. It felt like there was not enough chaos for it to be over, but slowly we made our way back to our apartments joking about how we would see each other in a few minutes. Thankfully, we were wrong, and there were no more sirens that night. Some of us were able to get some rest before our safety meeting in the morning while others stayed up waiting for the next siren that never came. When the sun finally rose and the streets came alive again the adrenaline wore off and we were able to relax a little bit.
For me, I knew what I was signing up for when I planned my gap year in Israel. I wanted the Israeli experience this year, and I definitely experienced it. My parents and friends want me to come home early because of the tension, but my heart and soul definitely won’t let me. It is a privilege that I have a home where I know I can sleep safely each night. I could never leave my friends here in Israel early just to go back to that safety that they don’t have. This is their reality, and I’m glad I got to experience it and I’m thankful I am safe and everyone I know is safe. I believe that everything in life can teach you something if you let it, and through the sirens and my individual conversations over these past few days, I believe that no matter your identity, we all as people can agree that innocent people need to stop dying. Living through the conflict gave me a greater sense of responsibility in fighting for peace. Maybe opening up dialogue seems small but I am one person doing everything that I can and everything that I know how to do, and that has to count for something.”
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Ava Rosen wrote about this week on Yazamut (Entrepreneurship):
“On Monday night, our madricha Didi told us to download a game from the app store and start to play it. Confused but interested, I opened the game called Match Masters and played a few rounds of matching shapes to gain points and beat my competitor. You work through the rounds and gain cool boosters and coins. The next day, we found out what this was all about. Our small group traveled to a WeWork office to meet the maker of this super fun game! His name was Tzur, and he told us all about his business. He started as a designer for game making, and after a few failed years and games, this one caught! Match Masters is #1 in Poland and Croatia. Their success has skyrocketed in the last few months, and it was awesome to see his pride as his and his colleagues’ hard work paid off. They have a few offices, and each area works on a different aspect of the company. We also spoke with two other people who worked on monetization and campaigns. I love when we meet people face to face and get a deep inside look at how they got started and how far they’ve come. It makes this big word “entrepreneurship” seem tangible.”
This week was the conclusion of our Big Idea track; here is what Jaclyn Josephson wrote about it:
“This past week in Big Idea we met to conclude our year. We spoke about moments in Big Idea when we were proud of ourselves, our favorite experiences, and how we believe we grew as people. For me, I spoke a lot about Impact Month, where we were tasked to code an app with the coding skills we gained in first semester. This task was extremely challenging. However, when partnering with my peers and working with our teacher, Tal, I found that collaboration and team work was the solution. It was an extremely rewarding experience to complete the app from start to finish”
This week in Selah:
On Monday, Jerusalem Day, despite being based in Tel Aviv, we took advantage of the train, and a mere half-hour of travel brought us to Jerusalem. We met with Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, an activist and former City Council member. He discussed his work in creating a more just and equitable system for Kosher supervision and for weddings. He explained how the Prophets describe Jerusalem as a beacon of light and how he takes that seriously and hopes that his work will also provide hope and inspiration for others. We then shared a few poems about Jerusalem and discussed the tensions that are built into the city, especially in light of the current flare-up.
On Wednesday, we were supposed to meet with Estaban Gotfried and hear about his import work with Beit Tefila Yisraeli, but due to the situation, we cancelled the meeting and he was unable to meet us on Zoom, so we continued our Selah session about Torah study on Zoom.
In (th)INK! this week we had a great session introducing some of the major themes of next week’s Shavuot holiday, including how the celebration of the revelation at Mount Sinai is really a message of empowerment and agency in our own lives.
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Our Madricha on call this weekend is Maya.
Our Madrich on call on Shavuot is Ilan.
May we hear good news and stay safe.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,