gap year in israel

Dear Parents,

Here are the highlights from our week:

On Sunday evening, Maia the Madricha ran a salsa class for the students. Salsa is a popular form of social dance with its origins in Cuban folk dances. The movements of salsa are a combination of Afro-Cuban dance, Son, cha-cha-cha, mambo and other dance forms.

Josh Cohen said, “This was a new form of dancing that I had never tried. It was really fun to learn something new. Maybe I’ll even take up salsa classes in the future!

On Monday, after a morning of volunteering and internships, followed by an afternoon of classes, the apartments had a meeting with their madrichot. This week’s meetings focused on the students’ expectations individually and as an apartment. In Hebrew the word for pillow cover is “Tzipiot” and it is also the word for expectations. The madrichim gave each student a pillow cover on which to write his or her expectations for the semester. In addition to this exercise, in honour of Tu B’Shvat, the students ate some dried fruits with their counsellors.

On Tuesday morning, to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv groups met up to do some farm work with HaShomer HaChadash. Established in 2007, HaShomer HaChadash is a grassroots organization helping farmers and ranchers in the Negev and the Galilee safeguard their land. HaShomer HaChadash works to ensure a stronger Jewish presence, inspire a sense of mutual responsibility among the Jewish people and create a stronger and more just society. We began the day by splitting into groups and learning about Tu B’Shvat and then we began raking and cleaning the land around the trees. Afterwards, everyone met up to cook lunch. Together we made focaccia bread and salads, and many students even starting making pizzas and calzones, which were cooked on a round outdoor oven called a sambusak. To round off the day, the students had a Tu B’Shvat Seder and were able to pick their own oranges to take home. It was a great way to celebrate the New Year of the Trees, and give back to the Land of Israel!

Dana Bederson said, “Volunteering with Hashomer Hachadash was a really fun way to spend Tu B’Shvat as well as meeting Israeli’s our age who are also taking a Gap Year. It really felt like we were contributing to Israel, the place I have called home for the last 5 months!

On Tuesday night, the students gathered to watch the movie Wall-e. In Pixar’s Wall-e, a small robot is left to clean up the world after humans pollute it to an unliveable state, forcing them to flee the planet in giant resort spaceships. This robot then discovers a plant growing amongst the trash, spurring an adventure that leads to the re-colonization of the once polluted earth.

Joe Porter said, “Wall-E is the tale of a little robot left alone on earth to clean up after humans literally trashed the place, then took off for a comfy life in outer space, where their rapacious need for consumption has turned them into blobs who can’t stand and move on their own. There is definitely a lot to learn from this movie in connection with Tu B’Shvat and how it is our job to take care of Earth, because if we don’t, then no one will. 

Selah had a busy week. On Friday the group headed north to the idyllic community of Hoshaya where we had our first monthly Shabbat experience together as a group. Before Shabbat began we had a shepherding workshop. The group was challenged to guide a flock of 30 sheep and goats from their pen to a field and back. To get into the biblical spirit the group even dressed up in ancient style clothing! Shabbat evening, we all ate at host families and had the opportunity to learn about life in the community. We then gathered for a fun-filled Oneg Shabbat activity of games and stories. The group slept overnight at Kfar Kedem surrounded by farm animals, beautiful countryside and a Bedouin tent. Shabbat morning we had an activity with Rabbi Marc before eating a catered lunch together. In the afternoon we visited the home of Dr Ruti Feuchtwanger and heard about her involvement in Kolech – Israel’s leading religious women’s organization. We also had a wonderful workshop with a young community member about the power of religion and meaning in this world. It was an amazing first Shabbat and really helped the group bond.

On Monday we headed off to the Tel Aviv port where we gathered for Soul Music – a private concert in one of the old hangars with Danny Weissfeld – a fascinating musician who went from playing guitar with international celebrities such as Kelly Clarkson and Pharell Williams to making Aliya and discovering Kabbalistic music. Danny shared his story with us and played us six songs from his recent album. We also began our weekly Learning Space – we were able to meet and greet our new teachers for the semester and have a taster session of what we will be learning for the rest of the year.

This week in Parsha and Pizza, we learned all about the Torah portion of Yitro, which contains the famous Ten Commandments. We read through them together and thought about their significance. The students asked: Are they the most important of all the 613 commandments? Do they contain the basis for morality and ethics? Are they still relevant today? Rabbi Marc introduced some of the structure of the commands – half being spiritual and half being moral – and he brought an ancient teaching showing how the two sides of the tablets mirror each other. We also 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”. Yitro also advised Moses to appoint judges to help him guide and lead the people. This devolving of power proved to be an effective way of responding to the whole community and being there to assist them. We looked at the qualities of those picked to be judges and had an interesting conversation about our leaders today, and whether they are considered to be “people of valour” and “haters of profit”?

Internship in the spotlight:

My name is Tal Cohen and I intern at an acroyoga studio called StudioAYO. For my internship, I am helping my boss take her business to the next level. I help with advertising on social media and reaching out to local businesses. Right now, I am working on looking for Airbnb apartments for a yoga retreat that we have coming up in the next few months. Not only do I help with the business side of things, but I also get to take free yoga classes, and attend yoga workshops. So far, I think that I have a pretty great internship, I get to wake up in the morning and go do something that I am passionate about.

Aardvark has representatives visiting London, San Francisco, Vancouver, Detroit, LA, Denver and the BBYO International Conference over the next 3 weeks so if you know anybody who might be interested in our program in those areas, please have them contact us to arrange a meeting.

Best regards and Shabbat Shalom,

Natali Basel

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael