gap year in israel

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Shalom Parents,

I hope this email finds you well.

My name is Shay-El and I’m the Assistant Director of Aardvark Israel. Since Eyal is on leave, in him place I’m honored to share the highlights from the past week:

Last Shabbat, the Selah group had its first Shabbaton of the semester. We went to a Moshav called Shuva in the south of the country. We were hosted by a special community of pioneers who share a vision of Zionism, ecology, education all tied together with New Age and Hassidic philosophy. We ran our own Kabbalat Shabbat and ate meals together. We sang songs and played games too. Rebecca, our amazing counselor, ran a morning activity that involved everyone being blindfolded and placed with a partner with whom they had to answer some personal questions about themselves and their Judaism. Before Seuda Shlishit Rabbi Marc and his family gave a shiur about Miriam’s Song in the Parsha. We ended Shabbat with a moving Havdalla service.

On Sunday, the Mind and Body students continued their study of Chinese Medicine techniques. The students learned about Acupuncture, the rationale behind it, its strengths and they even tried the technique! (Do not worry, they tried it on an orange 😀 )

In our weekly apartment meetings, the madrichim started a program called “My Israel Journey”. It is a program that combines several introspective activities designed to help students internalize the process they are going through while in Israel. This week, we spoke about the components of our journey in Israel and the keys to success. In addition, we shared a few important tools that can help to process individual experience while in Israel.

Also, the students who are joining our International trip to Ethiopia in a week went through an orientation in preparation for the upcoming trip. If you are interested to learn more about the story of Ethiopian Jews in Israel, we invite you to watch a video prepared by the Israeli Museum of Diaspora Jewry. Please click here to watch the video.

On Monday we had a community meeting. Every month we gather as a whole community to discuss the past month and to hear feedback. We also introduced the upcoming month – the theme and all the activities we are planning. It is also an opportunity for us to build and develop our community.

On Tuesday, we celebrated Tu BiShvat (The Jewish holiday celebrating the birthday of trees and ecological awareness). We drove to the Tzora forest and planted trees along with Aardvark Jerusalem. Afterwards, we hiked the Dolev Nahal – a beautiful walk through green hills. The students enjoyed the fresh air and the post-rain scenery along the trail. When they got back, many students joined Rabbi Marc for a Parsha and Pizza session: This week, we heard all about the Torah portion of Yitro that 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.

On Wednesday, the Mind and Body track watched a documentary called “What the Health” which explains the vegan approach and then went to Meshek Barzilay, an organic and vegan food place to have lunch and discuss some of the things they have been learning.

The Selah group had a real treat as we got to be the special guests at a Wedding! We went to the city of Lod to get to know an important organization of Rabbis called Tzohar who are trying to make Judaism more appealing and accessible to the wider public here in Israel. One of their projects is to help secular couples have a more meaningful and Jewish wedding. We got to join an intimate ceremony. Some of the group held the Huppa poles, Rabbi Marc was a witness and the whole group got to sing and dance the couple into their new life together. It was an amazing day and meeting with representatives of Tzohar really gave us an insight into the challenges of Religion and State here in Israel.

In our evening activity we joined together for a Tu Bishvat Rap performance. We hosted a special Rap Rabbi from London to combine our Jewish holiday tradition together with a modern style of music. During the evening, the students learned about the holiday and wrote songs connected to the holiday, which they then performed. It was really cool to watch!!

On Thursday, we wrapped up the week with our regular internships and classes. Selah had their weekly Learning Space where we go to engage in classes and discussions about numerous topics. Here is a selection: The origins of Jewish prayer, Where food comes from, The snake in the Garden of Eden, The search for true happiness and The character trait of pride. The group is really enjoying their weekly studies and it is amazing to see the group engage, debate, question and learn together.

This weekend, the Madricha on call is Daniela.

That’s all for the past week. We are looking forward to next week!

Shabbat Shalom and have a great weekend,