gap year in israel

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Student of the Week – Avi Cohen

Hello, my name is Avi and I’m currently having a blast in Aardvark Jerusalem. My road to Aardvark is a little different than most. In 2010, my family and I made Aliya from our home in Potomac, Maryland. This move was a big change for me, mentally and emotionally. As I began blending into Israeli society, I felt myself drifting from my modern orthodox background. While in Potomac I went to a Jewish elementary school and attended services on the weekends, those activities were no longer present in my life when I got to Israel. I was finding it increasingly harder to enjoy living here and I begin to question my Judaism.

For a while this went on until one day I snapped and decided that Israel just wasn’t for me. I wanted to go back to Potomac for good. I felt angry at my parents for making me move here and I didn’t understand their reasoning.

But as time went on, I began to adjust to the idea of living in Israel, potentially for the rest of my life. Now, I can’t really say when this exact moment was (mainly because it was a process that lasted a couple of years) but something clicked in me. No longer did I not like living here or did I feel a sense of anger. That’s when I knew that I wanted to spend a year before the Army reacclimatizing to Israel and Israeli society.

I started to look into spending a gap year in Israel. Although I didn’t have a particular goal in mind I knew that I wanted to spend a meaningful year here, because I knew that I wouldn’t have another chance to spend a year doing what I want. I found Aardvark while looking online through a simple Google search. The programing options as well as the sea sports add on made Aardvark stand out to me over all of the other gap year programs.

My experience here so far has been amazing. The connections I made here will last a lifetime. My favorite part of the program is that every week we get to explore Israel through trips and activities which truly show what this place has to offer.

I especially liked the trip to Akko that we took last semester with the other half of Aardvark. We explored the different cultural ties to the old city as well as its architecture. What fascinated me the most about the area was not the fact that we weren’t just looking at regular old buildings, but rather we were walking through our country’s history and in our ancestors’ footsteps.

Another part of the program that I enjoy is the internships. This semester I work at Bagel Cafe, an upscale breakfast/brunch restaurant in the German Colony. I really feel like I’m directly making a difference in Israeli society in addition to learning a valuable skillset that could come in handy in the future.

Overall, while the road to Aardvark may not have been easy, I can’t imagine spending this year doing anything else. The opportunities and friendships that Aardvark has given will stay with me, well past my time in the army next year.