My name is Annabel Bendavid, and as you all can probably guess by that greeting, I am from Australia, Sydney to be specific. After being brought up surrounded by a vibrant Jewish community and attending Jewish Day school my whole life, it was basically assumed that I would take a gap year in Israel. Sounds simple right? However, when a MASA booklet was handed to me with what seemed to contain more Israel programs than i could count, I knew my decision wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
So, what made me pick Aardvark? I can promise you it wasn’t because it was first on the list! It all started when Simon made the long trip down under and visited my school, Moriah College. I was immediately interested in what he had to say, and not only because of his British accent. The freedom of the program and the experiences i could gain specifically from interning intrigued me. Having said that, the thought of leaving home for 5 months was something that was pushing me away from committing fully to the program. However, after a few of my friends signed up for Aardvark, i decided to to bite the bullet and sign up myself and i haven’t regretted my choice for a minute since.
Coming from Australia. where everything is backwards, my Aardvark experience only began in second semester. I was quite nervous coming in as half of the people had already spent 5 months together, but as soon as I started to get to know everyone I knew i had nothing to worry about. Right now I am living in the dynamic neighbourhood of Florentine which could not be a better a location! With Rothschild Boulevard right around the corner and of course Aardvark’s favourite spots such as Anitas, Jacksons and Amsterdam Fries, you can really gain a feeling of what it feels like to live in the bustling city of Tel Aviv.
Aardvark has provided me with so many unique opportunities I would have never been able experience otherwise. One of my personal favourites would definitely have to be our tiyul to the Gaza border and the kibbutzim that were affected by the the Gaza- Israeli conflict in 2014. It was inspiring to see the hope for peace despite the people living in those regions seeing the conflict first hand. Another aspect of the program that I have enjoyed thoroughly has been Selah, being the Jewish Identity track. With different “Tanach Tiyuls” every Monday and our early morning learning space on Thursday, Selah has provided me with a greater knowledge of myself and my connection to Judaism. However, with Aardvark being a pluralistic Jewish program my understanding of Judaism has extended beyond myself, where it has been incredible to use Selah as a learning opportunity to also understand and see different experiences of Judaism in reality.
Of course, I cannot speak about my Aardvark experience without mentioning my internship. With interning being a key aspect of the program, I knew it was important for me to find one that I enjoy. Currently, I am an intern at a Startup called, “Syte” and i love it! Every Sunday and Wednesday I spend my morning writing blogs for the the company’s fashion website and running their social media. My internship has allowed me to grow and extend myself in a variety of ways, specifically in my confidence and people skills.
Finally, with Aardvark drawing to a close and everyone feeling a little nostalgic I can only be thankful for my experiences here, despite of course there being some hardships along the way. Through being exposed to all different types of cultures and making friends from all over the world, Aardvark has truly been an experience I will never forget.