gap year in israel

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Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Shalom Parents and Students, 

Since the week started with two days of Shavuot holiday, it was a short one but still amazing!

On Monday night, we were informed by Masa that we were lucky to receive an extra night for our trip up north with all three communities from Rothschild, Florentin, and Jerusalem. The students and staff were really happy to look forward to three whole days together in the Golan Heights, filled with fun, excitement, and relaxation.

On Tuesday morning, we all headed up north. Each group was a mix of students from Rothschild, Florentin, and Jerusalem. We went on different hikes and enjoyed a few hours of hiking, swimming in the Golan streams and hanging out in nature.

Swimming in the golan streams and hanging out in nature
Swimming in the golan streams and hanging out in nature
Swimming in the golan streams and hanging out in nature

One of the trails was the Majrase – Betiha Nature Reserve, near the Sea of Galilee. The students walked the whole hike in the water until they arrived at a big pool they could swim in.

Another hike was The Snir Stream (Hatsbani) which is the longest of the Jordan River tributaries. The stream flows all year round, through trees and travertine walls.

The third trail for that day was Ein Tina, a hidden spring which runs between the kibbutzim Gadot and Gonen. Along the easy hike towards the spring, the students enjoyed a refreshing walk in the stream before reaching the Ein Tina source, where a beautiful waterfall bursts through fig trees.

After the hikes, we went to some historical lookouts and learned a little bit about the history of the area. The first lookout was Tel Faher (or Golani Lookout) which is a former Syrian outpost in the Golan Heights that has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967. Tel Faher was the site of an intense battle between the Israel Defense Forces and the Syrians, which ended in the conquest of the outpost by the Golani Brigade.

The second lookout we visited was Gadot Lookout, on the Western edge of the Golan Heights overlooking the Hula Valley. This site served as a fortified Syrian military outpost complete with communication trenches and concrete bunkers and surrounded by barbed wire and minefields. From this base, the Syrians were able to fire down at the Israeli Kibbutz Gadot and to command the Bnot Yaakov Bridge. At the end of the Six Day War, the Syrians fled from the onslaught of the IDF’s Golani Brigade, and the site now serves as a memorial for the soldiers who fell conquering the Golan Heights.

After a great day of hiking and learning about the Golan Heights area, we had dinner and continued our evening with Karaoke, Israeli games, and dancing.

Karaoke, israeli games, and dancing
Ice skating
“This week, we went up North to the Golan Heights for an overnight trip. It was the first time all of the Aardvark students could be together due to Corona. With everything going on last week in Tel Aviv, it was so nice to get away. We did several beautiful hikes in the Golan, went to an indoor “park” with ice skating, bowling, and a trampoline park, and then we went to an inflatable water park on the Kinneret! With less than a week left here in Israel for us year students, it felt like a perfect beginning to an end.”
 Dani Starr
Ice skating
Trampoline park
Swimming in the golan streams and hanging out in nature
Inflatable water park
Wednesday morning, we divided again into three different groups, this time doing some classic Golan hikes. One group walked through Nahal Jilabun, delighting in the beautiful waterfalls and views. Another group walked through the Banias, and the third was as far north as possible in Nahal Ayun. After each hike, again we visited different sites to get an overview of the geopolitics and current situation at either Mount Bental or Mitzpe Dado in Metulla.
The entire group then convened at Beit Hillel for a whitewater rafting experience on the Hatsbani River where it flows into the Jordan River.
On Wednesday night, we visited the Canada Center in Metulla and enjoyed the opportunity to jump, ice skate, and bowl together.
Floating water park in tiberius
Floating water park in tiberius
Thursday morning came all too fast, and we each chose one of three places to visit. Some chose to visit Tel Dan, a beautiful nature preserve with rich history back to the Biblical period. Others went to Nimrod’s Fortress, nestled high in the Northern Golan hills to learn about the Ayubid and Mamluk defense of the area against the Crusaders. The third group chose a more challenging walk and they descended the Arbel mountain.

Afterwards, all three groups reunited at the Kineret for an afternoon of water play at Aquakef (a floating water park) in Tiberius where we played for a few hours before the long trip back to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Tired from the adventures, but satisfied with meeting new friends and celebrating the closing weeks of the year program, we ventured back to our cities.
Tiyul tuesday into a three-day trip to the north
From Stas Joukovski
“This week we were lucky enough to turn our Tiyul Tuesday into a three-day trip to the North, despite the current and continuous tensions and conflicts in Israel. Our fun adventure began at 7:15 am on Tuesday morning, bright and early on the coach, ready to drive up to the North. The first stop was a water hike in Majrase . After a long journey, we stumbled off the bus, excited to get into the water, which was freezing!! The Madrich decided to create a competition for us where we had to try and capture a soft toy Lemur. The winner, which ended up being Justin Mandel, gets a day at the spa! This competition was taken extremely seriously and we spent the whole water hike trying to get it off of Jeremy, who had it for a solid 24 hours. After the hike, we got back on the bus and arrived at the hostel. After settling in, we had time to relax, socialise, eat, and then had a choice of 3 evening activities: just dance, karaoke, or Israeli games. I chose karaoke, which was definitely the best activity, especially when Sweet Caroline came on. The next day started early – a 7 am breakfast, followed by a hike in the Golan Heights. Coming from someone who has never been to the Golan Heights before, I was mesmerised by the beautiful views and flowers. We stopped to take lots of photos and to appreciate the amazing waterfalls. We then travelled via an observation area in the Golan Heights, where you can see into Syria, to Kfar Blum, where we whitewater rafted down the river. This was my favourite part of the trip because we were all trying to push each other into the river and hijack each other’s rafts (also still trying to get the Lemur), making the experience a lot of fun. Then it was back to the hostel for evening number two. The options for evening two were ice skating, bowling, or trampolining, of which I managed to cram in all three! All the activities were in the same building, so it was easy to go from one to the other, and we had the whole building to ourselves (all of Aardvark)!

Morning three started early again. We were given three options for activities in the morning and as a keen hiker, I went for the more intense hiking option. We hiked on Mount Arbel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, which I’m sure you can imagine was beautiful. During the hike we saw the Arbel caves made by Herod’s army as well as the site where a synagogue once stood in the 2nd Century. This was followed by another favoured moment of the trip – swimming in the Sea of Galilee and playing at Aqua Kef, which was an inflatable water park.

As a write this on the bus going back to Tel Aviv, I realise how much we managed to fit into the three days. Such a great experience with lots of brilliant memories”
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Our Madricha on call for the Florentin Community this weekend is Danielle.
Our Madricha on call for the Jerusalem Community this weekend is Noga.

Our Madricha on call for the Rothschild Community this weekend is Oz.

Shabbat Shalom,
Natali, Gili, and Etai