gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Dear Parents & Students,


After a well-deserved spring break, celebrating Pesach and travelling around Israel, this week we got back to our schedule. with classes, Selah, Yazamut, Tuesday Tiyul, and more.
We spent a day in Yaffo and Neve Tzedek and had a very interesting discussion on Israeli-Palestinian politics, in which everyone could share and challenge their thoughts.

On Wednesday, Yom HaShoa Eve, we all met at the office for a session about the way we remember the Holocaust. People shared their personal connection and story, and we watched a testimony by Eva Mozes Kor, a Holocaust survivor. It was a very moving evening and everyone was respectful and appreciative.

Next week is Yom HaZikaron, the memorial day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, followed by Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s 73rd Independence Day.

(In the picture is our Spring Break optional hike to the Lake Trail.)

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Ava Rosen shared about her Spring Break experience:

“It’s safe to say why all of us Aardvarkians looked forward to Pesach – along with seeing our families and celebrating the annual holiday, we had spring break! It’s a time for everyone to get away from classes and internships to travel, see friends, and explore more of Israel!

Six friends and I decided to spend the week traveling to Tiberias and seeing more of the North. If you haven’t been, Tiberias is a city sitting on the Sea of Galilee, aka the Kinneret. Being near such a huge water source changes the environment entirely. Instead of sandy dunes, lush, green mountains rise up all around the lake, and chirping birds welcome you. It’s crazy to think that going only two hours north of Tel Aviv is like stepping into another world.

We spent the first day on the water, of course, trying (and at first failing) to wake board and wake surf. The next day, we took a quick 40-minute bus ride to Tzfat, yet another place for gorgeous views of green rolling hills. Sitting at an elevation of 900 meters, the high city is known for its beautiful old city remnants and modern artistic vibes. After this fun day, we decided to do some more adventuring, and the following morning we traveled to the Golan Heights, where we did some once-in-a-lifetime waterfall rappelling over drops of 165 feet! We spent the last day recovering and relaxing in Tiberias’s natural hot springs before coming back to Tel Aviv.

Overall, this whole year has been about traveling and exploring, and this past week we definitely did that! I’m so happy to finally have the opportunity to experience more now that so many places are open and available to us. And if you haven’t been North, it’s certainly worth the trip! Chag Sameach!”

Spring break in nature
Spring Break in nature
Bike ride at kibbutz revadim
Bike ride at Kibbutz Revadim

Danya Dubrow-Compaine also wrote about her holiday:

“What do the US Embassy, a seder table just outside of Jerusalem, and a coral reef in the Red Sea have in common? They’re all places I had the opportunity to visit during our recent Passover break (although when it comes to the passport renewal appointment I had at the Embassy, perhaps the more accurate word is obligation because it took no less than 7 months to schedule).

Because I don’t have any family in Israel, Lauren Cayle invited me to stay with her family in Ma’ale Adumim for the weekend of Passover. It was my first time celebrating the holiday in a Modern Orthodox household, and while the actual seder was mostly similar to my own (save for a lot more alcohol and the 2:30 AM end time), what was particularly interesting was to see how the family navigated the transition from Shabbat directly into Passover for the first time since 2008. Instead of saying motzi over challah at the table on Friday night, we went outside to eat pita – the last portion of chametz they had in the house. Instead of lighting candles for havdalah with a lighter, we used a pre-lit 24 hour candle to avoid creating fire on a holy day. It was also extremely interesting to spend the holiday in a settlement and to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the peace process over a midday snack of matzah with the grandfather of the family.

After four incredible, home-cooked meals, Lauren and I joined Sara Goldstein at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to catch the 12 AM bus down to Eilat (buses weren’t running earlier because of Passover). Despite quite a stressful arrival that included Sara losing her suitcase with all her clothes and my climbing to the top of five different buildings to try to find our AirBNB, we woke up bright and early on Monday to go to the first day of our five day SCUBA Open Water Diver certification course. There, we were greeted by our amazingly quirky Russian instructor, who could never be seen without a cigarette in her mouth save for when she was underwater, and two Israeli guys in their 20s, Ido and Adam, who were joining us for the course (and much to the excitement of my dad, brought a GoPro with them to take pictures). It was my first time ever SCUBA diving and the experience was absolutely breathtaking. On the first day alone we saw an octopus, starfish, sea cucumbers, and purple jellyfish that you could touch because they don’t have tentacles in the Red Sea. Every time we went underwater it felt like we were entering a completely different universe. It was the perfect way to spend our mornings. In the afternoons we enjoyed Eilat’s central marina area by shopping (Sara needed all new clothes after all), going tubing, and relaxing at the beach. All in all, the break was a great change of pace from the routine I had built for myself in Tel Aviv, and it reignited my excitement for the last two months of the program.”

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

This week in Selah, we began by sharing our different experiences from Seder night around the country. Some felt that our study deeply contributed to their participation in their seders. Then we went on to meet with Rabbi Haim Tyverya in the neighborhood. He is the Chabad rabbi in Florentine, and he taught about their beliefs in the Messiah and also about the mikve that he has in his synagogue in the neighborhood. On Wednesday, in honor of the national holidays coming next week, we visited Ramat Hanadiv, the gardens that are the burial place of the Baron Edmund Rothschild. We learned about him and his role in the early days of the pre-state building of the first modern communities in Israel.

In (th)INK! this week, we engaged deeply with the question of the place of innovation and inspiration in Judaism through an exploration of the tragic story of loss in this week’s Torah portion. We asked about where we can innovate and bring our full hearts to the expression of our Jewishness.

Yaffo market
Yaffo Market
Beach front in yaffo
Beach front in Yaffo
Never forget holocaust

“On Wednesday evening we walked to the office as the bustling Florentine streets came to a somber lull bringing in the eve of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). For the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, we split up into groups where we dove into the difficult questions of why and how we remember the horrors that occurred during the Holocaust. The first video we watched shared the story of Eva Kor, a survivor of the horrific twin experiments. In her story, Eva recounted her traumas while also expressing her desire to forgive, a perspective that I had never heard before. As a twin myself, this story resonated with me on a deeply personal level. We then watched a controversial media interpretation of the diary of Eva Heyman which was explored through an Instagram story. Both pieces sparked deep conversations regarding forgiveness, trauma, and how we educate and consume media today. Leaving the activity, the silent streets gave us space to think about how lucky we are to be living here in Israel today.”

– Ava Schwartz

“Wednesday we had a discussion pertaining to Israel’s national Holocaust remembrance day, Yom Hashoah. We watched two very different videos and discussed them. The first was a testimony from a survivor who was a Mengele twin; the second, an Instagram story meant to depict what the period of the Holocaust was like. It was good to discuss this topic because it is very left out in today’s society. Deniers are allowed to say whatever they please because of the policies of social media outlets, and Holocaust education is decreasing around the world. We must work harder as a society to educate on this topic and stop antisemitism.”
 – Ethan Pope
Jude - holocaust
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Our Madrich on call this weekend is Shai.

Shabbat Shalom,