July 15, 2021
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.
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.