gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

My name is Hannah Saban, I’m 19 years old and I’m from Atlanta Georgia. This fall I will be attending High Point University in North Carolina and what follows may be the least formal student of the week there ever was, so stick with me (; I was birthed into the world by my beautiful mother Hillary, completing our family of 5. I have two older brothers, Jacob who is 24, and like a real adult now with a 9-5 job and his own desk and everything, and then there’s Benny who’s basically just the older boy version of myself but cooler and smarter. Growing up with brothers is like having a live in reality check that also leaves you out and sometimes shoots you with a nerf gun. Skipping ahead a lot, I went to a Jewish high school and came to Israel for the first time with my senior class. School was never easy for me and I found myself having to work harder than my friends did to achieve the grades I want. I knew I wanted to go on a gap year and I knew it was going to be in Israel, and after attending a gap year fair at my school, I chose Aardvark!!!

I got to Jerusalem in August and cannot even believe that the year is almost over. Never could I have imagined the impact this year would have on my life and I’m excited to share a short part of my journey! I came to Israel knowing absolutely no one and was completely and utterly out of my comfort zone. I had to learn to wake up every day and put effort towards things I didn’t normally put effort towards, but the moment I met all of the amazing incredible people, I instantly felt comfortable and absolutely enjoy every day I get to spend here. I have fallen in love with Israel and every connection I’ve made.

This semester I was lucky enough to go on two international trips and I have begun volunteering for the Magen David Adom ambulance overseas program. Both of the international trips I decided to go on just happened to be in places that had monkeys… coincidence? Definitely not. My first Aardvark International trip was Ethiopia and I was absolutely shocked by its diversity and beauty. We had the amazing opportunity to visit a Jewish community where we attended part of their morning service. Seeing them take the Torah out and pray in Hebrew was one of the most beautiful things and one of my favorite parts of the trip. We also hung out and played with the kids who either spoke a little English or a little Hebrew. Their community was welcoming and kind and it was an amazing day. The Ethiopian Jews have so much history and learning about their challenges living in both Ethiopia and Israel are so interesting. The trips are also an amazing way to grow closer to the Aardvark staff and Ethiopia was truly one of the best times I’ve had. We also casually sat in a field of hundreds of monkeys just chillin’ and it was as surreal as it sounds.

The second international trip I went on was to Nepal, and I actually got back pretty recently. This trip was two weeks long and we went to a village for 5 days where we stayed with host families and learned about their culture. Every morning waking up at 6am didn’t seem so bad when there was a beautiful sunrise to watch and delicious chai tea to drink made by our host mom. It also wasn’t so bad going to bed the second the sun set because we were just absolutely exhausted. While learning a little Nepalese, I got to experience the beauty and simplicity of their lives all while peeing in a hole in the ground.

Finally, I will talk a little bit about MADA! So, I attended a 10 day training course in Jerusalem where we studied and learned from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm each day. There was a lot of material but our teacher was amazing and we had a really fun class with kids from all over the world. After I passed the test (woo!), I started working shifts on the ambulance. I know that contrary to me, some people find medical stuff really gross and don’t want to hear about the gross bloody vomit I deal with on a daily basis so I’ll spare you the details. I really love working with the Israelis and treating patients of all ages but mostly old people living in Israel. Being able to make an impact in Israel through volunteering is an amazing way to give back and I am so lucky to have gotten this opportunity.

If you’ve made it this far you’re probably my mom so thanks for always being my number one fan I love you and miss you lots!! As I think about my life before Aardvark it’s hard for me to imagine how different I was and how this program has truly turned me into an adult. Being able to live on your own and take care of yourself isn’t easy at first but I got used to it.

Shoutout to my friends and all the amazing people I’ve met on this program. I love you with all my heart and can’t wait to spend the next two months together, I don’t really know how to end this so I’m just gonna say thanks if you’ve read about my Aardvark journey and mom I miss u and can’t wait to see you!