The First Weekly Letter – 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 highlights of the week. Here we go:
As you know, the students arrived throughout Monday and they began to get to know one another and the staff. For lunch, we went across the road to a local Falafel shop. Later on that day, we had our first activity; each Madrich with his/her apartments had the chance to have an intimate apartment meeting that included icebreakers and the opportunity to share information about each other.
Following that, we had a tour of the Florentine neighborhood; we showed the students where all of the essential places are around the apartment buildings and office. We finished the day with a nice dinner together at a restaurant and followed it with a community talk run by myself about the upcoming semester: goals, main topics, and expectations.
On Tuesday, we began the day with a tasting tour of the Levinsky market (Shuk). The tour was run by 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. Later on, we split up into apartments to have an activity on how to build and handle a budget as an individual and an apartment. 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. We finished both tours in the historic train station with a final activity: the students were asked to write a letter to themselves, which included their expectations, thoughts, and wishes for the upcoming semester. At the end of the semester, they will receive it back and can read their own letter from the past.
Joining the Jerusalem group on Wednesday, we drove up north for our first overnight Tiyul (hiking trip.) Our first stop was a hike through the waters of the “Nahal HaKibbutzim.” It was hot outside so everyone enjoyed the refreshing dip in the river to cool us down. Many of the students used floats to float down the river and splash each other, and used this opportunity to continue getting to know one another. The next place we visited was an amazing viewpoint called Har Shaul where everyone took advantage of the stunning panorama to take photos and where Aardvark held the official opening ceremony for the semester and year.
After checking into our guesthouse for the evening, we had a safety and security talk with Debbie and a Health Session with Shay-El. We enjoyed a lovely dinner together, followed by a night activity planned by the amazing Madrichim!
On Thursday, we hiked up Mount Arbel it is located in Israel’s Lower Galilee region and stands sharply and prominently over the Sea of Galilee. Its graceful stature and steep slopes, particularly on the eastern side, provide magical views across the Sea of Galilee and beyond, to the Golan Heights, and Israel’s tallest peak, Mount Hermon. Designated as Mount Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, the mountain has beautiful observation points, hiking trails, archaeology and Biblical history!
Dug into the slopes of Mount Arbel are caves that were the hideouts for the Jews who fought against the Greeks and Romans. The Druze extended them in the 17th century, but the original caves are documented to date back to the second temple period. As well as the cliffs, Arbel houses an ancient synagogue, the ruins of which can be seen today.
After hiking up and down Mount Arbel, we cooled off with a swim in the Kinneret!
After a stop at the Kinneret Cemetery, where we learned about some famous Israelis who are buried there, we headed back home to Tel Aviv!
Olivia Cohen said: “I had a lot of fun when hiking on Thursday; it was very nice to see the land and experience the view. I think that I made a lot of new friends because we got split up into two groups and I got to socialize with people from the other apartments which was really cool! I also learned a lot of things about the mountain from the tour guide which was awesome!”
On Friday, before Shabbat preparation, we had two activities: the first was a session about our apartment logistics and the second program was a bit different and focused on a very important life skill in Israel – how to negotiate and get the best price when buying something! ;-). We went to Shuk HaCarmel and had a competition – the winners were those who bought the items on the list with the least money possible. The prize for the winners was a juicer for the apartment!
After we finished, we had some time to rest and prepare for Shabbat. We met at the office for Kabbalat Shabbat together. The student dressed up nicely and we sang some Shabbat songs together. At the end of the Kabbalat Shabbat, the students gave a blessing for the upcoming semester.
After a touching Kabbalat Shabbat, we walked together to the Neve Tzedek synagogue to join Shabbat prayers and dinner. On our way, we saw an amazing sunset, and in the synagogue, the students had the chance to interact with some Tel Aviv locals.
On Saturday, we began the morning with an optional Shabbat Kiddush and a discussion about the weekly Torah portion.
Later, the students split up into groups and had a duet potluck together at their apartments. They made omelets, eggs, all different kind of salads and pasta. The Madrichim brought a food called “Rogalach” which is an Israeli sweet pastry, and they had a lovely breakfast together.
At noon, we walked to an amazing park called “Charles Clor” next to the beach. Each group sat down in a circle with their Madrich and had an activity about Jewish Identity. After we finished, we continued with a few elective workshops: Drum Circle Yoga, Frisbee, Juggling and Arco balance. It was really fun! Towards the end of the day, we had Havdalah and gave each other blessings for next week.
Sophie Waldman said, “Any new experience that includes meeting 60+ people in less than twenty four hours will inevitably nudge anyone out of their comfort zone. Everyone was in the same boat; forced into new apartments, with strangers, in a new country, we were nervous, and simultaneously eager for the adventures to come. Our madrichim were instrumental in making us feel so welcome and familiar in a place that to most of us was both culturally and geographically foreign. And from water hikes to Kinneret swims, from shuk visits to graffiti tours, it seems that together, we have come so far in such a short amount of time. It feels like we have known each other for 5 years, yet it has been 5 days. Simply put: my year has only just started – and it has already been extraordinary.”
We all are ready and excited for the upcoming week.
Have a great week,