Hi! My name is Ben Oken and I am from Westlake Village California. I am currently living in Jerusalem in a neighborhood called katamon. Katamon is a quiet place with mostly families but i wouldn’t want to call any other place home.
I first heard about Aardvark from my parents who found it, and at the time I didn’t want to come to Israel because I had never been here before so I just brushed them off. Eventually we looked into the program more and decided it was a good thing for me and I realized that coming to Israel would be an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Coming on aardvark was one of the best decisions I have ever made because in Israel I have become a more independent, outgoing and confident person than I was at home.
One of my favorite parts about aardvark is the internships. This semester I am working at Zalmon Eran school in talpiot teaching english. Working with Israeli kids is a challenge but it has been an amazing experience because I am able to learn more about the culture here and they are learning about American culture as well.
Another great aspect of Aardvark is the freedom that it gives you on the weekends and nights because you are able to go out on your own and explore Israel. One of my favorite memories from this semester was going camping with some friends in the Mitzpe Ramon crater in the Negev. It was breathtaking being able to escape Jerusalem and camp in the middle of nowhere with no one around but ourselves. Looking back it’s memories like these that make me appreciate Aardvark because other programs don’t have the opportunity to do these things.
Overall I am very grateful to be here in Israel and to be on Aardvark because I have gotten to see a lot of this wonderful country and see all that it has to offer.