Hello! My name is Julianna Mallis, and I’m from Marietta, Georgia. I knew I wanted to do a gap year in Israel since tenth grade, and I spent my remaining years of high school convincing my parents to let me. I went to a gap year fair about a year ago, and learned about a lot of different programs, but Aardvark really stood out to me. I felt that it would give me the most freedom, and had already heard from previous participants how much they enjoyed it. After registering for the program, I worked hard to get myself here by taking on various jobs. It makes my experience more meaningful knowing that being here is a result of me pushing myself and achieving my goals.
I love living in Jerusalem; the community is close, and the Aardvark building is really homey. My internship is at a bakery in downtown Jerusalem, which is a fun experience and conveniently located. I can leave work and go to the shuk for groceries, or to a restaurant for lunch (my favorite is waffles), or to a multitude of stores for clothes and various things. I also participate in the Selah track here twice a week. I learn about Judaism and see places relevant to our history and culture.
My favorite tiyul was our first one: the trip to the Golan Heights. The most memorable part was our water hike. We trekked through a river and talked to each other as we floated along. The connections between the sections of the river were small tubes that we slid through like water slides. I enjoyed getting to know everyone while cooling off in the water. Winter in Jerusalem has me missing the heat of the Golan.
My favorite weekly activity is “Parasha & Pizza.” Every Wednesday night, we get together and discuss the weekly Torah portion over pizza. I never miss it and always enjoy the pizza. It’s hard to make it happen when we have tiyuls on Wednesdays, so last week I took it upon myself to organize it and summarize the Torah portion so that we didn’t have to skip a week. It was a bit stressful to plan and deliver the whole portion myself, but it was really rewarding to see how much everyone who came enjoyed it and appreciated the activity (and pizza). I’m no Rabbi Marc, but I think it was pretty successful.
Every day, I am thankful that I am able to live as a Jew in the land of Israel and that Aardvark has given means to do so. The opportunities provided to me really allow me to experience life in this country and appreciate its continued existence. I am sad that my time in Jerusalem is coming to an end, but I am looking forward to my adventures in Tel Aviv!