I hope you are all excited to see your children again. We, the Tel Aviv staff, have had a bittersweet 3 days… It is so exciting to see the change and progress every single one of the students made during the semester! But right now the office is so quiet… it feels unnatural! I’m waiting for someone to walk in and ask for a new light bulb, directions, to make a cup of coffee or simply crash on the couch and announce that they are hungry. We will need to get used to this new loud silence that will last until August when we welcome a new group to Israel.
The final few days of Aardvark brought cleaning, packing, and tearful goodbyes. Let me tell you a secret, your children are not children anymore, they actually know how to clean…so please, make use of this information (but it didn’t come from us).
Today, the last group of students got in a taxi, drove to the airport and as of now, Aardvark is officially over!
On Thursday, we gathered for Aardvark’s final ceremony. As you can imagine it was a truly meaningful experience. Three students had been chosen to share their experiences of the year/semester, a few students performed musical numbers, and there was a wonderful slideshow of the whole year made by Ira Weiss. Among the performers was Eliana Cantor who sang and played the guitar beautifully (she has an amazing voice!) All the speeches were inspiring and I have included a portion of one of them to give you a taste
Asher Goldberg, an amazing student, wrote: (This is only a part of it)
“When one speaks of growing up on their gap year, it is usually in terms of maturing. However, in my case, I have actually aged 60 years and this is quite terrifying. But jokes aside, I’ve experienced a significant change throughout my year… As the semester has been drawing to a close, I have been reflecting on my year, as I’m sure everyone has done. I knew I had gone through changes but trying to pin point the moment was not working. Then I realized why it wasn’t working. There is no moment where it all suddenly changes. It’s a gradual process and as I had this thought, it made me realize something else. For a lot of my time here I had a strong dislike towards the program because I myself had put this perfect idea of a gap year into my head and this program wasn’t fitting into that perfect mold. I decided instead of trying to make it fit to my expectations, I should readjust my expectations. This meant I wasn’t only focusing on the bad all the time, I was finding the good as well. Just like me adapting, learning and changing, I realized so too is the program adapting to us, and soon my critical thoughts were a thing of the past. This allowed me to have a much greater appreciation for what Aardvark has done for me this year. “
To conclude, here are the thoughts of Limor Katz
“I have loved every minute of this program but it wasn’t easy at first. I definitely faced a few bumps in the road to get to this point. At the beginning of the program I didn’t really enjoy it, truth be told. I found it hard to connect with people, feel comfortable and just to get used to Israel as a country. I think the culture difference came as a shock and the fact that I didn’t speak Hebrew made it very hard for me to fit in. I was very homesick and I got sick quite often. It wasn’t easy at first but with time I think I did a good job at overcoming these bumps. I knew I was a strong person before this program but I am definitely way stronger than I was before.
I now have a different respect for Israel. After having had the privilege of travelling all over the country I was able to see sights and towns that I never would’ve had the chance to see if I was just a tourist in the country.
I now know that I made the right decision coming on this program and I also now know why I am here. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my aardvark experience. You have all individually shaped me into the person I am standing in front of you all.”
Thank you Limor!
Yesterday, we met in the office after a long day of cleaning for final goodbyes, a few students organized the Moadon and prepared a presentation with funny pictures of everyone. After the “official goodbyes”, we went downstairs for a final dinner together.
Finally, I wanted to thank all of you for being supportive of us throughout the semester. I know it’s not easy to send your child away from home for such a long time and I wanted to thank you for taking this leap of faith in us. You gave us feedback over the phone when you spoke to your child’s madrich and we are taking everything you said into consideration in the planning of 2017-18. I can tell you that we tried our best to make this year as significant as possible for your children and I believe that we succeeded in achieving this. Let me know if you see something different in their eyes when they get back.
So, for the last time,
And Shabbat Shalom!