gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

Here are the highlights from our week:

Our Sunday, at the apartment meeting with our madrichim we got into the Tu B’Shvat spirit (the trees’ birthday) by growing our own grass heads. Our counselors brought each one of us a head and on the head we wrote the things we wanted to “grow” this semester and the work we wanted to do on ourselves. We are excited to watch our grass heads grow and ourselves as well. Our madrichim also ran a Tu B’shvat seder (meal) with where we ate different dried fruits from Israel.

On Monday night, we had an activity with the organization Shutaf. Shutaf is an organization for children and young adults with special needs and is committed to inclusion-based programming that answers the social, educational and vocational needs of the community. The organization believes in inclusion for all, regardless of disability and financial limitations. The program creates new opportunities for children and teens of all religious backgrounds to come together, learning important Jewish values of acceptance and understanding.

Together with Shutaf we learned about labels and how we react to and treat others, regardless of whether they have any disabilities. We opened up about ourselves, learned about each other, and came out with the understanding that each one of us is different and we can look at a disability and see the ability. Keely Siegel said, “The presentation was informative and progressive. It allowed us to understand labels and why they can be offensive to certain groups of people.

On Tuesday’s trip we joined with the Tel Aviv group. We went to the Forest of Zara (near Beit Shemesh), started Tu B’shvat, and planted trees. We sang Tu B’shvat songs and said the prayer over the trees. Ben Oken said, “Planting trees on Tu B’Shvat really helped me connect to the earth and to the land of Israel. I even named my tree. I named the sapling “Will Oak”.”

From there, we went to a beautiful park for lunch and it was nice to sit in nature and enjoy time catching up with our friends and playing games. We then continued on to a hike and our amazing tour guide Lavi told us stories about the history of the area and about nature and Tu B’shvat. We played a game where we had to build a tower of rocks and then a piece of chocolate was placed on a tissue on the tallest rock. Then standing on one foot we had to bend down and try to eat the chocolate without using our hands. After each turn another rock was taken away. Brandon Troy was the only one who succeeded in getting the chocolate from the rock closest to the ground! It was a long day but was super fun and a really great way to celebrate Tu B’Shvat. We enjoyed being outside in nature and it was overall a really fun educational day.

On Tuesday night we had an optional activity at the Crazy Mary Haunted Maze. We went into the maze in groups of six and huddled together as we made our way through. It was positively scary but we would definitely go again.

Internship in the Spotlight by Sarah Pomerantz: This semester I have been able to have the most amazing internship at Gan Hashikumi. The Gan (preschool is for children with special needs and helps them learn and grow in a loving environment. I work in a classroom for children between the ages of 2-4 and I am specifically paired with a child named Ari. Ari suffers from autism but is one of the most amazing and loving kids I have ever met. I help him learn how to climb stairs, take him to the snooze lab that allows us to step into his world, and give him endless amounts of love. I also play with other kids teaching Hebrew sign language and songs. I absolutely love my internship and these children. I wake up every day excited to work on my Hebrew with the other teachers and see the smiles on the kids’ faces. I have learned patience, acceptance, and love for all and I have begun to see how disabilities are something do not have to hold people back, rather they can be celebrated and worked on. I am inspired by these children and their commitment to learning how to walk, communicate, and eat without giving up. Gan Hashikumi does amazing work and I am thrilled to have found such a loving environment to volunteer in.

This week in Parsha and Pizza we heard all about the Torah portion of Yitro which contains the famous Ten Commandments. We read them together and thought about their significance. The students asked: Are they the most important of all the 613 Mitzvot? Do they contain the basis for morality and ethics? Are they still relevant today? Rabbi Marc introduced some of the structure of the commandments – half are spiritual and half are moral – and he brought an ancient teaching showing how the two sides of the tablets mirror each other. We then focused on Moshe’s father in law – Yitro – who gives his name to the Parsha. We noticed how he was a non-Jewish Midianite priest and that when Moshe told him the tales of all the miracles and wonders of the Exodus Yitro used the phrase Baruch Hashem -ברוך השם – which means “Blessed is God”. It is a very common response for traditional and religious Jews to the question ‘How are you?’ Yitro was so happy for the good that God had done for the Jews that he wanted to give thanks. We used this as a springboard to talk about all the things that we ought to be thankful for in life and the importance of gratitude.

Next week

  • We are going to visit the Israeli Knesset (Israel’s parliament)
  • We are going to the Shaon Horef Festival ,every year for 4 weeks in February, the Shaon Horef Cultural

Festival transforms the streets of Jerusalem into a lively cultural venue full of surprises as thousands of young people come together for this exciting series of cultural happenings.

Best regards and Shabbat Shalom,
Natali Basel

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael