Hi, I’m Rachy Brodtman from London. I joined Aardvark Israel in January and opted for the summer semester add on, so thankfully I’m in Tel Aviv until August, rather than May. In October, I’ll either be starting uni at Durham to study Philosophy and Theology, or stay in Israel to study Liberal Arts at TAU.
I knew I wanted to spend a few months in Israel for my gap year, but choosing the right program was hard. I chose to come on Aardvark because I was keen to be immersed in Israeli society, and I think internships and volunteering is the perfect way to do that. Aardvark offers a perfect balance of freedom and guidance, enabling us to feel supported and motivated to stay here longer.
Two days a week I work at a soup kitchen called Lasova, which involves packaging and handing out food to anyone who comes to the centre. Working at Lasova has highlighted the class discrepancies in Israel, and how different organizations aid members on the fringes of society. The other two days I work at the Eritrean Women’s Community Center (EWCC). I quickly found a family in the environment I was working in; eating traditional Eritrean food and learning about the music and history of the country has been a highlight. EWCC offers vocational training such as language courses, hair and beauty, and computer skills, with the aim of empowering the women of the community. Whilst volunteering there, I’ve been writing newsletters, assisting a computer skills training course and extending visas. Volunteering at EWCC has challenged my relationship with Israel greatly, forcing me to consider what it means to be a Jewish state. What do our Jewish values teach us about how to treat asylum seekers? Does the Israeli government work in accordance with such values?
A highlight of my time on Aardvark was Purim; for three nights in a row we dressed in costumes, we went to a forest party with Israeli friends, spent one night on Rothschild and the next in the Jerusalem shuk. Every weekend on Aardvark is free, so I would recommend any future student to make the most of that time and throw yourself into the deep end; stay with distant relatives, get lost in the Golan Heights and find an internship that will push you. Having the experience of starting a new life in a different country, making friends, living independently and finding new hobbies is something that I will hold on to forever, and it has enabled me to feel so much more secure in myself and my goals to live and study abroad.
Whilst Tiyul Tuesdays and event nights are so much fun, it’s also the more mundane activities that have made my time in Israel so special. Sunset yoga by the beach, late night walks in Neve Tzedek and the 3AM conversations on our balconies are what I feel most grateful for.
Meeting people from all around the world has been eye opening; I started the program knowing no one, and was instantly accepted into the group, forming friendships with people that already feel far older than 7 months. Having a combination of first semester students and second semester was great, I formed connections with people who were far more versed in independent living than myself, showing me the way, and taking me for ice cream at any point of apprehension. Aardvark has no ‘type’ of person, which means you are inevitably pushed out of your comfort zone, making politics and history classes far more interesting.
To future Aardvarkians, my advice to you would be to actually leave your apartment and explore. Coming on Aardvark has been character building to say the least. There are endless opportunities to surround yourself with stimulation, whether you want to engage in the political, cultural or religious aspects of Israel. As comforting as it is to stay in bed all day, you’re going to want to remember this experience as a time of fulfilment and lots of adventures. So just push yourself, because I promise you it is worth it; talk to everyone! People can be really nice if you give them a chance.
I hope you choose to come on Aardvark, it’s an incredible experience and I hope you have the most amazing time like I’ve had.