Chanukah is a wonderful time to be in Israel and the students on their gap years have had the chance to take full advantage of the festival of lights. It’s been a great week and we are looking forward to a few more nights of light… Here are the some of the highlights that the group has enjoyed:
On Sunday night we treated the students with tickets to the Hapoel Yerushalayim basketball game in the new Pais Arena not far from our apartments. The spirit and energy at the game was contagious with a sea of red and white (Hapoel’s colors) and fans cheering the team on to a huge win. The final score was 112-77!!! At the start of the game the players lit the chanukiah on the court and during the game, a couple got engaged! Aaron described the game saying, “it was a fun game and we ruined the other team.” It may not be the NBA, but it was still a great time for all.
Before we all headed over to the game, we met in the Aardvark office to light the chanukiah together and to eat a pre-game snack of sufganiyot (donuts). As I said, it’s not the NBA so our pre-gaming takes on an Israeli style as well!
The weekly siyur on Tuesday took us to the Supreme Court of Israel. It was fascinating to learn about how the court system in Israel works, which is very different than in the United States and many other countries. For example, in Israel there is no jury and only the judge determines the verdict of a trial. Furthermore, the Israeli Supreme Court hears approximately 10,000 cases annually!! The architecture of the Court is very beautiful and the building was designed to be full of symbolism and meaning. There are separate libraries for the justices and the attorneys who appear in the court and several different courtrooms since trials may be heard by anywhere from three to all fifteen Supreme Court Justices (but always an odd number to avoid a tie.)
On Tuesday night, we continued on our day of touring with a field trip through Nahlaot, one of the most interesting neighborhoods outside the Old City. The people of Nahlaot are warm, hospitable, and diverse. For example, we met a Hasidic guy that was a student of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and he taught us a Hasidic nigun (tune) and showed us his very cool chanukia setup which we contributed to by lighting more candles. Wandering through the narrow streets of Nahlaot we got to see a variety of chanukiot, some oil burning and some with candles, displayed in windows, on porches, and in little glass boxes outside the doors of homes. It was lovely!
On Wednesday night, our parsha and pizza was neither parsha nor pizza. We actually came to my house (Natali) and had a dinner of burgers and French fries (to continue the Chanukah theme of oil) and we heard stories from Rabbi Marc about the importance of being Jews, especially during Hanukkah, and making sure to light the menorah.
In our Current Events course this week we started watching a movie called The Gatekeepers. It is a very informative and eye opening movie that explores the conquest of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and how the Sha”bak (Shin Bet – Israel’s internal security force) keeps tabs on the civilians and terrorists living there. The movie was also nominated for an Oscar and it is of course raising discussion about the Arab-Israeli Conflict, the current security situation in Israel, and prospects for peace.
It has been a very festive and fun week and over Shabbat our Selah students are celebrating together with a Shabbaton in Nes Harim, located in the forests surrounding Jerusalem. On Saturday night many of the students are leaving for the annual Aardvark China trip! For the students who will be in Jerusalem next week we have a great week planned with a special trip to Beer Sheva organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh and aimed at showing the students the young, vibrant side of this desert city, a Night at the Movies, an evening of making donuts and much more!
Chag Orot Sameach!