Dear Parents & Students,
We are sure you have heard about the oil spill which devastated Israel’s coast Israel two weeks ago. The oil spill is considered one the most severe ecological disasters that has ever happened in Israel’s history. Thousands of Israelis have joined efforts to clean the tar that has spread over most of Israel’s shores, and we at Aardvark Israel joined Masa Israel Journey in their clean-up efforts.
This week, we had a little bit of everything. On Tuesday, the groups drove down south, where half of the group went around the Gaza Strip, saw the cities, and met people from the area, while the other group went to Kiryat Gat to meet the Ethiopian community there and go on a hike around the area.
Other than that, we ran a chess and shesh-besh (backgammon) tournament and of course, participated in Selah, BIG IDEA, Yazamut and th(INK).
“This week’s apartment meeting was a bit different than our usual Sunday meetings with our counselors – it was a special activity entitled “Let’s Get Critical.” Last week, each of us was asked to fill out a short anonymous survey on how we feel about sensitive topics such as mental health, religion, and politics. And on Sunday, we all gathered to discuss the results. Of course, they were quite surprising.
While some questions had more split results, others were almost unanimous. Nearly everyone who took the survey, for example, has experienced anxiety at least once, and a large majority of us are proud to be Jewish. And our political beliefs are very diverse, with Aardvark students represented all across the aisle.
After each question, we discussed as a group why the results might be the way they are, followed by a concluding talk. I personally thought the activity was very powerful and inspiring, and it made me realize how much I really share in common with other students on this program. One of the big takeaways of the activity was that we should never feel ashamed to open up, as chances are we are far from alone in whatever we are struggling with.”
“This week we traveled down south to the Gaza Strip border. Our tour guide spoke to us about the conflict and answered questions we had. We got to physically touch the walls that protect Israel as well as speak to a woman living on a Moshav on the border. After the woman shared her story, we got to write messages on small, colorful ceramic tiles that we then glued to the wall. It is so inspiring to see people try to make beauty out of a horrible situation.This experience got me to really think about how lucky I am that I do not live my life in constant fear and also increased my understanding of what life is like for those living on the border. I now have a deep admiration towards those Israelis who bravely choose to live in ‘red’ areas.”
“The vibes committee met for the first time the day before International Women’s Day, but it was super important to us to do something even on such short notice. Especially today with social media and all sorts of toxicity in high schools that goes on, women supporting women is more needed than ever. We wanted all of the incredible young women on Aardvark to know they are loved and appreciated for everything they do. Happy International Women’s Day to all the incredibly powerful and strong women on Aardvark Israel and around the world.”
This week in Selah, we began a deep dive into understanding the holiday of Pesach. We read the verses in the Bible and tried to imagine what this holiday should look like. How can we best teach our children about the foundational story of the Exodus from Egypt? Rabbi Fivel gave each student a new Haggadah which we will begin to explore and add our own commentary to as preparation for Seder night.
On Wednesday, we visited Tel Maresha/Beit Guvrin and saw an incredible archaeological site from Biblical and Hellenistic times. There is a whole network of underground caves that served many purposes throughout history. At first they were quarries, then storage, then they housed industry like olive presses and finally, they were used as hideaway caves during the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Romans. In light of our recent study and conversations about Jewish Identity, we explored the story of the mass conversion of the Idumean people to Judaism at the end of the Hellenistic/Maccabbean period.
In (th)INK! this week, the students took the lead in the discussion by bringing a number of questions that arose for them in their independent exploration of this week’s Torah reading. We touched on issues such as “why do bad things happen to good people” as well as asking about what makes something miraculous.
“This week on yazamut, we went to Beit Berel to meet an entrepreneur and learn about his company that sprays down anti viral medicine in order to get rid of varroas on bees. Once we learned about his company, we went to the bee farm and watched bees in their habitat. Then we went back to the office and did a final wrap-up reflecting on his company and what we learned. All in all, it was a great day!”
Big Idea & International Women’s Day
For International Women’s Day, Big Idea Gap Year had the pleasure of hosting two amazing women. Lior Hadar and Galia Hayat discussed how to break the glass ceiling in the Israeli High-Tech industry and what it is like to work in a male-dominated field.
Gila Hayat, 25, is the co-founder & CTO at Darrow.ai. Gila served for seven years in 8200 intelligence unit as a software developer, r&d team lead, and a data scientist. Darrow’s mission is detecting legal violations in the open web and bringing them to court.
Lior Hadar is Viber’s content manager and UX writer. She started her career in high-tech as a copywriter in the ad-tech industry; during the pandemic, she started at Viber. Lior manages the company’s social media platforms with millions of followers, writes the company blog and all in-app microcopy, and works on brand campaigns.