gap year in israel

July 15, 2021

Jerusalem Weekly

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Dear Parents and Students,

 

The program is coming to an end soon, but we’ve had an amazing week. We’re taking advantage of every moment!

Last weekend, we had a great Shabbaton all together in Tel Aviv. Friday night, the students went to a variety of synagougues and then we gathered all together at our hotel for Shabbat dinner followed by Oneg Shabbat. We gathered on the roof of the hotel, and with the beutiful view of Tel Aviv, we played different games. It was a wonderful evening which also included singing shabbat songs together and enjoying one another’s company.

On Saturday afternoon we took a tour of the Neve Tzedek and Neve Sha’anan neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. We got to know the history of Tel Aviv through the eyes of artists and art, and also learned about the contrast between the rich Neve Tzedek and the downtrodden Neve Sha’anan neighborhoods.

During our Saturday morning activity, we spoke about Jewish identity, how it is reflected in our day-to-day lives and how we look it after this gap year. We pondered whether there’s a right way to be Jewish or is it a matter of personal definition. We discussed what it’s like to be Jewish in Israel and outside of Israel and asked difficult questions like the differences and difficulties of being Jewish inside or outside of Israel, and more.

Shabbaton all together in tel aviv
Shabbaton all together in tel aviv
Shabbaton all together in tel aviv
Shabbaton all together in tel aviv
Shabbaton all together in tel aviv

On Monday we had an interesting session of Faces of Israel with Jonathan Elkhoury, a gay Christian Lebanese refugee who now lives in Israel. He and his family were forced to leave Lebanon and go to Israel after the Lebanese Civil War for their own protection. Jonathan’s father was a member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), which was supported by the Israel Defense Forces.

 

We learned a little bit about the history of the dynamics between Israel and Lebanon and discussed questions of identity, and what it feels like to grow up in Israel as a foreigner, to embrace the Israeli rituals, education, and much more.

Also On Monday morning the British students had the opportunity to visit Mea Shearim in Jerusalem. We met with a tour guide who showed us around the neighborhood and explained the nuances of the community. We then visited “bizmax” where we spoke to different members of the Haredi community who were able to benefit from a UJIA funded project that helps educate Haredim and provides them with courses to help them get into work.

Haredi community
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
On Tuesday we woke up early morning and left for a two-day trip to the northern Galilee. Our first stop was a beautiful hike in the area of Mivtzar Monfort, an old crusader castle in the Upper Galilee about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Haifa and 10 miles (16 km) south of the border with Lebanon. The site is a national park inside the Nahal Kziv nature reserve which we explored throughout the day.  Matt Bloom shared the following about his experience on the tiyul:
 
The trip to the mountains was somewhat unexpected, and I wasn’t expecting there to be quite so much hill. But the trip itself was unforgettable in that sense. Finding a walking stick right at the beginning of the trail felt like divine intervention, especially in retrospect.
The pain in my legs will pass, but I will remember those moments for a long time perhaps even the rest of my life.
Trip to the northern galilee
Trip to the northern galilee
We finished the day at Rosh Hanikra with a night tour of the grottos lit by lanterns. Rosh Hanikra is a geologic formation on the border between Israel and Lebanon, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The white chalk cliff face opens up into spectacular grottos. We took cable cars down to the grottos, which – more simply put – are sea caves. The grottos were formed in the wake of underground shocks that ripped open gaps within the bedrock. Slowly, rainwater penetrated these rifts, forming tunnels and caves that continued to expand due to the waves that slammed against the rock.
We explored the magical caves, lit by only our lanterns, and the big moon. The laughter echoed in the cave as we reminisced about the wonderful adventures of our time in Israel.
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
On Wednesday we started the day with a hike in Nahal Yehoram, a stream that starts at a beautiful fortress and descends into a dry stream surrounded by trees. During the trip, our tour guide, David, spoke to us about the fruit-bearing carob tree and related to us how much like the tree, often only after years of investment our actions in the world bear fruit.
We continued from there to Akko and after free time in the old city where the students walked around the market, we gathered for lunch in the Knights’ Halls, continued to tour the halls of the fortress and talked about the Crusader period.  As we entered the various halls, we saw different aspects of Crusader life in that period. From there we continued walking around the old city of Akko and walked in the Templar tunnel to the port. From there we returned home tired and satisfied.
 
Talia De Beer shared about the trip:
“We had such a nice time in Akko! I loved walking around the market and by the port. I enjoyed learning about the crusades and hearing about the historical significance of the city. It was also very interesting to see how so many different cultures and religions coexist with one another. Overall, I had a great time!”
Hike in nahal yehoram
Hike in nahal yehoram
Hike in nahal yehoram
Hike in nahal yehoram
Hike in nahal yehoram
Hike in nahal yehoram
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Avi is on call this weekend. 
Have a great weekend,
Natali