gap year in israel

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Hi! I am Mia Cohen from Sydney, Australia, and I still can’t believe how fortunate I am to have experienced the last 3 incredibly rewarding and enriching months in Tel Aviv on Aardvark. I went to Moriah College, a modern orthodox Jewish school in Sydney, and in 2020, I look forward to commencing a combined Law and Media degree at the University of New South Wales.

After my last year of school, I knew I wanted to take a gap year in Israel, and when I found out about Aardvark, a program where I would be independently living in Tel Aviv, meet Jewish friends from all over the world, be able to travel on international trips and gain work experience, I knew that it was not only the perfect program for me, but the start of a life-changing year ahead.

I love English and writing, and when we were given a brochure of internships, I was naturally drawn to Wazimo – a digital media company where I write and edit articles ranging in content from popular culture to historical landmarks. It is such a young, energetic and hard working environment which I love going to twice a week. I am encouraged and inspired by my wonderful bosses who treat me as a co-worker rather than an intern.

What is so unique about Aardvark, and what ultimately convinced me to sign up to the program, are the incredible international trips offered. I was fortunate to have gone to Ethiopia in February and was fascinated to learn about the history of the Ethiopian Jews and visit the Jewish community centre and synagogue called Hatikvah. It was amazing to walk inside and notice it’s polar opposite aesthetic to a Sydney synagogue, it is a hut on the muddy ground with an Ethiopian and Israeli flag (and no toilets might I add)! However, these differences were set aside when we saw Ethiopian Jews singing the same songs and prayers as us, which enabled me to see with my own eyes the power of Judaism, providing such meaning, hope, and a sense of strength and identity for the community, even while they struggle to fulfil their dream of making Aliyah.

I was also fortunate to have recently been on the Italy trip where, as well as going to the classic tourist spots, we viewed Italy through a Jewish lens, exploring the Venice and Rome Jewish quarters and the Great Synagogues of Rome and Florence. It was incredible to learn about Italian Jewish history, especially on our first day going to the first Jewish ghetto in Venice, which was established 500 years ago, and seeing the remaining Jewish symbols and Hebrew writing along the walls that weren’t destroyed in the holocaust. It was also incredible for me to see my great-grandfather’s seat at the Great Synagogue in Florence, which was bought by my family in his honour after he was stationed in Florence during WWII.

I am looking forward to the Germany International trip in May and leading as a counsellor at Ceder Lake Camp in Pennsylvania after Aardvark. I am so grateful to be on Aardvark and can’t wait for the next 2 months!

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael