This past Tuesday, we listened to a guest lecture from Charlotte Korchak, a member of Standwithus. For me, these past two weeks have been eye-opening: hearing Palestinian and Jewish Settlers talk sbout living in Judea and Samaria, learning about the politics around the terms “occupation” and “Palestinian” and the struggles of being a group not wanted by your Arab neighbors, and being taught that the Jews are your enemies as well. But, through all the learning about the conflict, I found myself taking pause. For so long I had listened intently to my grandparents’ stories of the Six Days War, the explanations of the politics that they taught me. There was nothing earth shattering I learned, it all made sense in the narrative I learned. But as Ms. Korchack was explaining how anti-semitism pushes an antizionist narrative to rally antizionists against a single leader and administration, something clicked. We’ve been doing the same thing. There has to be a time and a place for political discussions. But just like Donald Trump doesn’t represent all Americans, the PA doesnt represent all Palestinians, and BiBi doesn’t represent all Jews. When we have conversations with other Jews about Israel, or with college peers and friends from home, we have to remind them of that fact. Because for most of the people involved in the “conflict” they just want to raise children in a safe environment and make enough money to put food on the table.
-Ben Rubinstein, Los Altos, California
As first semester and my time in Ussishkin apartment 4 comes to a close, I was excited when my counselor, Elina, asked me to plan one of our final apartment meetings. I decided to run an activity which promoted bonding, and with a meaningful keepsake. We picked names out of a bowl to make each other friendship bracelets. Each color string was associated with a positive character trait, and each girl customized which strings matched their recipient’s personality. Once the bracelets were finished, we told each other which colors/personality traits we had picked, and we were able to pretty accurately guess who each bracelet’s recipient was. It drove home the fact that although we are all such unique individuals, each of us brings our own special energy to the table in order to create a harmonious apartment 🙂 I’ve loved living with these girls and I can’t wait to spend another semester with them!!
-Sara Goldstein, West Hills, California
In Selah, we began a new unit on the Chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) community, and we went into the historical story of Chanuka, which we will continue with a field trip next week. One of the questions we are exploring is how to make a case for the similarities between the modern-day Ultra Orthodox and the original Maccabees, and to also make a case for how they differ. We also explored the idea of Thanksgiving through a Jewish lens. This week’s outing was a walking exploration of Mea Shearim, the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem.
The madrichim planned an awesome pajama party for us on Tuesday night. I, of course, wore my Bat Miztvah pajama pants. We jammed and played games, including one where you have a candle tied to a string around your waist and the goal is to get it into a bottle. Sounds weird- because it is! It took some serious quad strength and concentration. In America, we do pillow fights at pj parties; I guess Israelis have a different definition of sleepover fun! We then watched Legally Blonde and munched on popcorn, cookies, cake, and hot chocolate. It truly was the highlight of my week:)
-Carly Shindler, Johns Creek, Georgia
The Og Stream has been one of my favorite hikes so far. I clearly remember when I first arrived, commenting to my friends how what I was seeing could very well be out of a movie. The beautiful views and photo opportunities on this hike were truly endless. The guide repeatedly reminded us to slow down and to “take it all in” as not to rush the experience. At some points we were walking through what seemed like canyons and at other points we were walking in the middle of a shadeless desert. I am very thankful that Aardvark takes us on trips like these to see the incredible natural beauty of Israel.
-Danya Belkin, Santa Barbara, California