The First Weekly Letter – Tel Aviv
Dear Parents Shalom from Tel Aviv,
It has been an amazing week. We have had a great time meeting your children and I’m excited to tell you about the week’s highlights. Here we go:
As you know, the students arrived on Monday and began to meet each other and the staff. It was a long day of settling in and unpacking. For lunch, the students had their first taste of local Israeli falafel from the shop next door. When everyone had settled in, the Madrichim played icebreaker games and met their “family groups” in their apartments.
Following that, we had a tour of the Florentine neighbourhood: we showed the students the essential places around the apartment buildings and office. We ended the day with a nice dinner together at a restaurant and followed it with a community talk given by myself about the upcoming semester: goals, main topics, and expectations.
On Tuesday, we began the day with a tasting tour at the Levinsky market (Shuk). The tour was based on an interactive app and the students had the chance to explore the Shuk by themselves and enjoy some of the best food the market has to offer.
Afterwards, we had breakfast together, followed by an academic session in which the students learned about the courses we have on offer.
We continued the day with an elective session: a bike tour around Tel Aviv and a street art tour around the south of Tel Aviv. The bike tour was a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the city of Tel Aviv, it was a bit intense due to the wind in our faces on the boardwalk, but the students came through and proved that they can deal with a challenge.
The art tour was unique as we had the privilege of learning about the amazing pieces of art in our neighbourhood from a street artist called Muriel. She was able to give us some inside information about the street artists of Florentine.
Later on, we split up into apartments for an activity about how to build and handle a budget as an individual and an apartment. The students went with the Madrichim to the local supermarket in order to put their budget plan into good use. After shopping, each apartment had a cooking session and a family dinner with their new friends.
Wednesday and Thursday was our first overnight trip with the Tel Aviv group. The students began the day at The Salad Trail. The Salad Trail is an unforgettable experience in the greenhouses of the Habsor region in the northern Negev. The agronomist Uri Alon (a specialist in international agriculture) guided us. We observed the most up to date agricultural technologies – the “hi-tech” of agriculture. At each stop on the tour we heard an explanation before picking and eating our fruit right away! We encountered a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables: The Tomato Greenhouse, The Greenhouse of Flying Strawberries, The Orchard of Chinese Oranges, Racing of Homing Pigeons, The Herbal Greenhouse of Fresh Medical Herbs, and The Field of Carrots. After sampling all of the fruits and vegetables, and a tasty lunch, we headed out for a tour of Sderot. Sderot is a city where many Israelis who formerly lived in Gaza were relocated to by the Israeli government following their removal from Gaza in 2005. With the city’s proximity to Gaza, it is a place that in recent years has been vulnerable to rockets fired from Gaza in the ongoing conflict. The city has taken measures to protect its residents from these rockets, including reinforced buildings and safe rooms in buildings, and bus stops that double as bomb shelters. We visited a children’s playground that is also a bomb shelter so that the children living in Sderot can still play. We then proceeded to a viewpoint from Israel into the Gaza Strip; we were able to see the houses there including some used as Hamas headquarters.
On Thursday, our students started the day by choosing which hike they wanted to do, Masada or Ein Gedi. Both hikes include steep hills and amazing views and our guides pointed out the historical connections we have to these areas. After finishing both hikes, we drove to one of the many Dead Sea beaches for lunch and a natural spa. For some of the students, it was their first time floating in the salt and trying the Dead Sea mud.
On Friday, before Shabbat prep, we had two activities: the first was a session on the importance of volunteering in the community. We discussed how we can contribute as a group and as individuals. Our second program was about the logistics of the apartments and about ways for the students to maximize their time in Israel.
After the sessions, we walked together to the Carmel Market for a short tour and some time to walk around and buy some groceries. There the students tried to learn a very important life skill in Israel – how to negotiate and get the best price when shopping! 😉
After we finished, we had some time to rest and prepare for Shabbat. We met at the office for Kabbalat Shabbat. The student dressed up in their fine cloths and we sang some Shabbat songs. At the end of the Kabbalat Shabbat, the students gave blessing for the upcoming semester.
After a touching Kabbalat Shabbat, we walked together to a Neve Tzedek synagogue to join Shabbat prayers and then dinner. On our way, we saw an amazing sunset, and in the synagogue, the students had the chance to interact with one of the local communities in Tel Aviv.
Shabbat was a relaxed day. There was an optional Kiddush and breakfast with Rabbi Marc, a potluck lunch in the apartments and a tour given by Shay El and Rabbi Marc. Shay-El led a tour in the historical neighbourhood of Neve Tzedek and Rabbi Marc led a tour about the connection between Shabbat and the city of Tel Aviv. Afterwards, in the afternoon, the students were able to choose from juggling, acrobalance, a discussion of the weekly Torah portion, and yoga sessions. We ended the day with communal Havdala in the Moadon and wishes for the coming week.
One last note – Please be in touch directly with your child’s Madrich/a. They will be happy to chat with you and assist with any issue.