Shalom from the Holy City of Jerusalem!

It has been an action-packed semester thus far. I’m sure you are very interested in hearing all about it, so let’s do a quick review!

Our semester opened up with activities that promoted introspection and setting intentions for the semester ahead. We has a Jewish meditation workshop run by Moshe Feiglin wherein we explored out own complex relationship with our faith.

Shalom from the holy city of jerusalem!

High Holidays

With this, we focused our attention on the High Holiday season and the themes that they carry looking at a wide range of source from the Talmud, the Rambam, and into the modern era. When asked what he had learned, Ephraim brought an idea from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Ephraim explains, “Tefillah is different from prayer. Prayer is coming to G-d and asking for something we need. Tefillah is an opportunity to come and talk to G-d; to have a conversation and form a union. It’s really to start a relationship.” We spoke a lot about the concept of teshuvah. Another participant, Ilan, explains what he learned; “Teshuvah is not just repenting, It’s more so returning to your true self. We all have a spark inside of us. Teshuvah is the return to that spark.”

In preparation for the High Holidays we had a special workshop where we learned the laws of the Shofar and actually made our very own Shofarot! In like manner, we spent time learning about the ideas and laws behind the four species before going to the annual four species market to purchase sets for all of Aardvark Israel in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We went to Neot Kedumim, the biblical nature reserve, where we learned the laws surrounding construction of Sukkot huts before building our very own Sukkah on the roof of the Jerusalem apartments.
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Perhaps the most popular trip thus far has been our trip to Hof Dor. We learned about the special blue thread used for tzitzit. Then, we put on our snorkel gear and searched the ocean for the snails that produce the ink. Our guide showed us the entire process of extracting the ink and incorporating it in the production of the tzitzit. Building on this, we further explored Jewish ecology by looking at the relationship between Judaism and animals in Jewish law and thought at the Biblical Museum of Natural History.
In the weeks that followed, we explored the relationship of stories, music, arts and crafts within the Jewish tradition. We had the pleasure to hear from one of Jerusalem’s most famous Jewish storytellers, Barak Hullman. We learned the music, art, and craftmanship were foundational to Jewish practice as they were central components of the Holy Temple through our visits to the Hebrew Music Museum, the Temple Institute, and at the gallery of scribal artist Kalman Delmoor. The high point of this unit was our Shabbaton in the mystical city of Tzfat that concluded at the studio of the world famous glassblower Sheva Chaya, where we got to make our very own mezuzah case! A number of students remarked that this was the best Shabbaton they had ever been on!
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
More recently, in anticipation for the Thanksgiving feasts, we did a short unit on blessings over foods and eating with intention. We then embarked on a tour of the Machane Yehuda Shuk where we put into practice the learning we had done beforehand. We learned and partook of Jewish cuisine from various traditions such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and more. Moreover, we tasted and showed gratitude for the natural produce of the land of Israel. Then, just yesterday, we crawled through the Bar Kochba caves that were used by the Jewish guerilla warriors to rebel against the Roman siege. From there we went to Tel Azeka, the site of David versus Goliath. We read and re-enacted that momentous battle in Jewish history.
Believe it or not, that is just some of what we’ve done so far and there is much more to come. In fact, just next week we have our second Selah Shabbaton in Mitzpeh Ramon. We are learning more and more about ourselves, each other, and our relationship with our Jewish tradition as we progress on this process and journey together.
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael