gap year in israel

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Hi there, my name is Angelica Levy and I’m from London, United Kingdom. I am currently lucky enough to be living in one of Jerusalem’s most distinctive, historic neighbourhoods, Nachlaot. In January I will be moving to Florentine in Tel Aviv for the Spring Semester, prior to beginning my university career back in the UK the following academic year.
Throughout my final years of school, I had always intended upon doing a gap year. Despite the unforeseen circumstances of a global pandemic, I remained resolute in my decision. Having been on various trips to Israel over the years, it had always been at the forefront of my mind when it came to deciding possible destinations for my gap year. With the list of viable countries to travel to dwindling due to Covid-19, discovering Aardvark Israel only solidified my desire to come here, and I haven’t looked back since!

My experience of living in Jerusalem thus far has been one-of-a-kind. One of the first ever phrases we learnt in ulpan was ‘Efo ha shuk?’ – and with good reason. The Machane Yehuda Market, renowned for its vibrant atmosphere, is the city’s epicentre for nightlife, and is located a mere two minute walk from our accommodation. Doing our grocery shopping there, as one of the few tourists in the country at the moment, gives me an authentic insight into daily life here and has allowed me to feel properly integrated with the locals. Hearing the siren go off every Friday to signal the incoming of Shabbat is such a special time, and you can feel the ambience of the entire city change. Having initially been slightly skeptical about living in such a religious place, the cultural richness that permeates through Jerusalem is so unique, and I have never felt more grounded.

This semester, I have been interning for the political NGO StandWithUs. This has really enriched my understanding of Israel’s socio-political climate, educating myself about significant historic and current events that have shaped the country into what it is today. In conjunction with this, one of our tiyulim earlier this week involved going to Judea & Samaria, where we spoke to people from either side of the conflict. Listening to their parallel narratives gave me a new awareness when it came to comprehending what Palestinian-Israeli coexistence actually looks like on the ground, and gave me refreshing optimism for the future.

My advice to a potential future Aardvarkian is to be adventurous and branch out of your comfort zone. Your time here has so many opportunities to offer you, both within the program itself and beyond it. For example, a group of friends and I recently decided to go to a Chabad host family for Friday night dinner, something I never would’ve thought to do back in the UK. By the simple act of a family welcoming us around their table, it instantly made this homeland feel like my home.

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael