gap year in israel

June 24, 2021

Jerusalem Weekly


Hello Parents and Students,
This week included some enlightening and some just-for-fun activities.

On Sunday, the students went to Sacher Garden with their Madrichim for some outdoor activities, and also enjoyed the weather and cold coffee.

This week for FOI (Faces of Israel), the students heard the fascinating story about the disengagement from Gush Katin 2005; Gush Katzin was an Israeli community in the southern Gaza Strip. The conversation was in preparation for our tour of the Gaza border communities on Tuesday. The students learned from former Gush Katif resident Etai Ben Simhon about life in Gush Katif before the forced removal of its residents, and the security and economic reasons that made his parents move there in the first place.
Some of the students’ questions included: Did the state give money as compensation to the displaced residents of Gush Katif? Why did the government decide to evacuate the citizens? and What happened to Etai after the evacuation?
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Alex Rosenberg had this to say about the discussion:
On Monday afternoon, we had the pleasure of hearing Etai Ben Simhon speak about his upbringing, being an Israeli Jew living in Gaza and the troubles that came with the withdrawal in 2005.
Going into great detail, he spoke to us about the large mental toll that growing up under the constant threat of death takes on a teenager. With no iron dome or red alert alarm to give warning of rocket fire, Etai told us about the scary reality: that the first rocket was your warning to take cover. With many other threats being present, his settlement was constantly surrounded by military force in order to keep them safe, but this meant that there was a lack of freedom that as a teenager became difficult to deal with. While Etai faced many more difficulties growing up in Gaza, what stood out to me the most is what he said about his mother. When explaining what happened when Israel and the Jews withdrew from Gaza in 2005, he told us that it took their leaving Gaza for his mother to realize that while they’d been living there, she was under a blanket of constant stress and anxiety. Every time one of her children left the house, it was a worry that they wouldn’t return.
Having grown up in North West London myself, it was very hard to imagine an upbringing quite like the story Etai told us. When I went out, there was no worry about if I was going to come back again. Listening to Etai speak about what he dealt with throughout his whole childhood gave me huge admiration for him. He helped us understand why many Jews chose to live in Gaza; not only were they protecting the rest of Israel as they were the main target for rocket attacks, but they were occupying land that was rightfully theirs.
For me personally this ‘Faces of Israel’ talk was the best that Aardvark has put on. It was engaging, interesting, and left everyone with something to think about.
As this is my last week on Aardvark, it was fitting that I was presented with a great opportunity to really think about other circumstances, which in turn forces one to grow as a person. So I would like to leave with a sentence that for me sums up what I am feeling towards having had this talk.
It is only when you are made to think about someone else’s suffering, that you realize how lucky you have been and learn to admire those who have not.
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On Tuesday, we began our tour at the lookout dedicated to Asaf Siboni z”l on the northwest corner of the Gaza Strip. There we could see the fence that separates Israel from Gaza, Gaza City, the kibbutzim in the area, and the burnt fields from last week’s activity on the border. While there, the students got a picture of the history and the present realities and narratives both for people in Gaza and the people in the areas surrounding. Most inspirational was the presentation by Hagar, their counsellor, who grew up and still lives on Nir Am, the kibbutz next to the lookout point. She told her story about life in the area. She had also arranged for a discussion with the volunteer security commander of Kibbutz Nir Am to get his perspective on living on Nir Am in both peaceful and tense times. We also took a break to enjoy Nir Am’s swimming pool!

From there, we ate lunch in Sderot and supported the local businesses there. The most popular was Hummus Shel Techina, which is one of Sderot’s best cultural exports, with branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Beer Sheva.

With full bellies and smiles on our faces, we left for Netiv Ha’asarah to meet with Tzameret Zamir and learn about her project called Path to Peace. Like tens of thousands who have come before us, we placed ceramic pieces of art on the security wall surrounding the kibbutz which borders the north of the Gaza Strip. Tzameret’s hope is that projects like this can show the humanity of people affected by war on both sides of the wall.

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“This week, we were able to go to the border with Gaza and we were able to learn about the perspectives of people who live in the surrounding communities. This experience opened up my eyes to a new way of life that helped me view the conflict in a way that I previously had been unable to picture prior to the trip. I especially enjoyed our trip to Sderot and to Nir Am, and I enjoyed the swimming pool.”  – Noah Pearlman

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After a relentless week working hard at both our internships and in our classes, Aardvark rewarded us with a trip to the cinema, to see “Cruella.” Judging by the audible volume of certain individuals during the movie, it’s fair to say it was an enjoyable watch. The movie aims to provide some context to the tragic backstory of one of Disney’s most notorious villain: Cruella DeVil. The art direction feels like it was lifted straight from a Vogue shoot, and the fashion is fabulous. Just as punk rock is taking over Carnaby Street in London during the ’70s, Cruella stands up to wreck the public’s entrenched sensibilities of stuffy haute design through bold, glam, rock-inspired creations, delivered with defiant disruption. The movie’s robust soundtrack is loaded with iconic music from the 1970s; it feels exciting every time a note starts to play. The script is divine, and the actors seem to delight in their characters. The best part of the movie was most certainly Billy’s silence – hopefully they start taking us more often! – Dan Rose


On Monday, students on the MADA track had their graduation ceremony, after six weeks of volunteering in ambulances. I would like to congratulate Eve, Evie, and Gabriel for their wonderful contribution during their volunteering experience.

Volunteering In the Spotlight – by Evie Cowen
My time volunteering at MADA not only taught me valuable first aid skills, but also allowed me to see a version of Jerusalem I’d never seen before. I met people from all over Jerusalem who all had a different story to tell. MADA also introduced me to a wonderful group of people from all over the world whom I got to know during the 10-day training course. MADA has been such a valuable experience to me, and not one I’ll forget anytime soon!

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Yotam is on call this weekend. 
Have a great weekend,