gap year in israel

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Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Hello Parents and Students,


This past week was both fun and exciting but also stressful and with many new situations we all had to learn how to deal with.

On Sunday, the students learned about cults with their Madrichim. They had intellectual conversations about the habits of cults and had many interesting discussions about religion and the rituals involved in it.

On Monday evening, Yoav’s and Netta’s groups spoke to Neil Lazarus, an internationally acclaimed expert in the fields of Middle East politics, public diplomacy, and effective communication training. We spoke about the politics of the Middle East and especially about what’s going on in Israel. We discussed the last few elections in Israel and changes in the political map in the last few years. Also, we talked about the situation Israel is dealing with right now, including the protests, and got a clearer view about the reasons behind what Israel has been dealing with in the last few weeks.

On Tuesday morning, the students had a conversation with Debbie, Shay-El, and Moshe about the situation and about what to do in case they hear an alarm and need to find shelter. After the talk, we drove to West Jerusalem for a great day of learning and experiencing in our capital city.

We started the day by going to the Knesset, where among other things, the students learned about the menorah in front of the building. It was presented to the Knesset as a gift from the Parliament of the United Kingdom on April 15, 1956 in honor of the eighth anniversary of Israeli independence and was modelled after the golden candelabrum that stood in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Learning about the menorah in front of the knesset building

Learning about the Menorah in front of the Knesset building

After a short walk through the Rose Garden surrounding the Knesset, we drove to Machane Yehudah Market for a great lunch. The students had a taste of what the market has to offer and then we took a walk in the Nachlaot neigborhood. Nachlaot is a grouping of 23 courtyard neighborhoods in central Jerusalem but outside the walls of the Old City.

Walking in the streets of nachlaot
Walking in the streets of Nachlaot
Learning about the history of nachlaot neighborhood in “gan hatut”
Learning about the history of Nachlaot neighborhood in “Gan Hatut”
Matching hats at the armon hanatziv promenade
Matching hats at the Armon Hanatziv promenade
Learning about the history of the nachlaot neighborhood
Learning about the history of the Nachlaot neighborhood

After lunch in Machane Yehuda Market, we hopped back on the bus and drove to Armon Hanatziv Promenade, which overlooks most of Jerusalem and offers a beautiful view of the city, including new Jerusalem, the Old City, Mount Zion, and the three valleys which surround ancient Jerusalem.


The students spoke about the dynamics between the different parts of Jerusalem, seen from the Promenade, and learned about the populations that live in the different parts of the city. They discussed Arab-Jewish dynamics, and the current situation. One of the interesting talks they had with their Madrichim was about the meaning of Jerualem as the capital city of Israel. Coming from the famous and cultural Tel Aviv, it was interesteing to learn about what makes Jerusalem so unique and different from what they’ve been experiencing so far this semester.

Enjoying the view from armon hanatziv promenade
Enjoying the view from Armon Hanatziv Promenade
Learning about the different areas of jerusalem as seen from the promenade
Learning about the different areas of Jerusalem as seen from the promenade

Jeremy Gart wrote about his experience:

“For our weekly trip this Tuesday, the Aardvark crew and I headed to Jerusalem. Initially, there were some hesitations regarding safety and the stability of the city, but once we arrived, these worries quickly dissipated. The local Jerusalem crowd was as friendly and energetic as ever, and the trip was a total success. At Machane Yehuda market, we snacked on knafeh fresh off the fire, filled bags of candy to the brim, and snagged a few eye-popping bucket hats. When we headed for the hills outside Jerusalem, we received a crucial history lesson on the millenia-old city, and were given ample time to let the view sink in. Sure, we may not have been able to visit the Old City or the Temple Mount this time around, but our trip to Jerusalem was still a fantastic day-long adventure.”

After we returned to Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening, sirens sounded throughout the center of the country. The Hamas actions against Israel forced our students to deal with a situation that most of them have never experienced before. With the support of the staff, the students rushed into the shelters and even then were able to be together and even enjoy ourselves.

Shelter selfie!
Shelter selfie!
Staying safe in the shelter
Staying safe in the shelter
On Wendsday evening, the students had some fun in their apartments with their madrichim. Some watched a movie and some just hung out together in the apartments.
Apartment 16 enjoying their time together.
Apartment 16 enjoying their time together.
Netta’s group having fun together
Netta’s group having fun together
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

This Week in Selah:
On Monday, Jerusalem Day, despite being based in Tel Aviv, we took advantage of the train, and a mere half-hour of travel brought us to Jerusalem. We met with Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, an activist and former City Council member. He discussed his work in creating a more just and equitable system for Kosher supervision and for weddings. He explained that the Prophets describe Jerusalem as a beacon of light and how he takes that seriously and hopes that his work will also provide hope and inspiration for others. We then shared a few poems about Jerusalem and discussed the tensions that are built into the city, especially in light of the current flare-up.

On Wednesday, we were supposed to meet with Estaban Gotfried and hear about his important work with Beit Tefila Yisraeli, but due to the situation, we cancelled the meeting and he was unable to meet us on Zoom, so we continued our Selah session about Torah study on Zoom.

In (th)INK! this week, we participated in a great session introducing some of the major themes of next week’s Shavuot holidaym and how the celebration of the revelation at Mount Sinai is really a message of empowerment and agency in our own lives.

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
The past two days in Israel haven’t been easy, but ensuring the safety and well-being of our students is our top priority.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Southern Israel and all those in Israel affected by the current situation.
The Madrich on call for this weekend is Yoav 
The Madricha on call for the Shavuot holiday is Netta
Have a great weekend,