gap year in israel

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My name is Adam Acker, and I come from a small town called Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Before going into detail, I want to acknowledge my parents for allowing me take part in an amazing program, and live thousands of miles away from home for nine months. Oh, and of course, thanks mom and dad for the financial assistance.

Sadly, I never had the exciting experience of visiting the Holy Land before this past year. Of course, I was instantly attracted to Aardvark Israel as soon as I heard about it. Growing up in a small, yet dynamic Jewish community, I studied about Israel at an early age. Throughout my time learning at Jewish day schools and Longmeadow High School, my love for Israel just kept growing. My time spent in Jewish youth groups also grew my interest of Israel. After talking to my Israeli friends towards the end of senior year, I was convinced that I wanted to experience a gap year in Israel. Soon enough, I flew from Boston to Tel-Aviv, and began my yearlong adventure.

This semester I worked as an intern at The Eighth Note, a music label that is prevalent in Israel. I was always interested in the music industry, so it was the perfect way to learn how it works behind the scenes. (Thank you to my counselors, Hagai and Tally for helping me with the internship process). After work one day, my intern team and I were invited to attend a “Hadag Nahash” concert. They’re one of the most popular bands in Israel, and they put on a great live show.

Looking back, I still can’t believe how great the locations of our apartments were. First semester in Tel-Aviv, I could take a short walk to Rothschild Boulevard and eat at one of the street’s many delicious restaurants. There was always so much action wherever we went. In our neighborhood, Florentine, you could always find a great shawarma or hummus spot in the area. In Jerusalem, the center of town was not only where I worked, but also a great place to chill. Yaffo Street has numerous bars and cafes, which are fun to hang out at on a Thursday night. The local shuk also has live music and more bars, which were a staple part of my Jerusalem experience. One advantage of taking Hebrew all year was being able to cook Israeli food during the holidays. We recently made shakshouka and chocolate cookie balls during our class about Israeli culture. My roommates and I made some good schnitzel a few times. Sometimes in Israel, all you need is a schnitzel or falafel pita to get you through the day.

I spent Passover this year in Afula, which is the sister city to Longmeadow. My friend Ofek’s hosted me for the Seder. It was cool to visit his town, since he lived in Longmeadow during his gap year. Purim and Independence Day were also pretty wild this year. We got rowdy and raved in the streets of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. It’s safe to say Aardvark knows how to celebrate.

We had numerous trips on aardvark, but some of my favorites include Kibbutz Ketura, The Dead Sea trip, and the Masada hike. Oh, and I went to Beijing, China with 30 other people on the program. It’s unreal that I climbed the Great Wall of China during my gap year. That trip was definitely an interesting one.

To the future participants on Aardvark: Make Israel your home, and try to immerse yourself in a place that is completely different from where you grew up. It’s worth it in the end. Plus, nothing beats making friendships and getting to know amazing people.

I plan to attend a state college next year in Massachusetts and study sciences. My goal leaving this country is to be active in my community, and on campus as someone who represents the state of Israel. There are too many people out there who don’t know how positive of an impact Israel has on the world. Needless to say, I love this country and can’t wait to come back.

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael