gap year in israel
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Shalom Parents and Students!

This week on Aardvark Israel was very versatile. As most of our students will be staying here with us for another semester (yay!) some will be going back home at the end of December. For those students who are returning home after this semester, our partners at MASA organized a special conference, to help them prepare for the challenges that may come, particularly when it comes to their Jewish or Israeli identity. The conference included workshops focusing on various topics. Julian Frucht told us about the tools the conference gave him: “I’ve become better at advocating for myself [while I was in Israel] through learning independence and living on my own. I’ve also always been in favor of Israel, but now after living here for 4 months and experiencing the culture, I’m more likely to advocate for it when I go to college.”

Our tel aviv students at tel azekah
Our Tel Aviv students at Tel Azekah
Leadership workshop in neot kedumim
Leadership workshop in Neot Kedumim

Our Tel Aviv communities traveled to Tel Azekah, where they recalled the story about David and Goliath (well, that’s a classic), then they carried on to Tzora Forest, in Mateh Yehuda, near Jerusalem. After a nice walk, they arrived at Samson’s Tomb, and learned about the story of Samson, back in the days.

Our Jerusalem community visited Neot Kedumim, where they took part in a leadership seminar, which included outdoor training and leadership development while connecting to Israel and Judaism. Adam Grossman wrote about his impressions: “Yesterday, we traveled to Neot Kedumim. After splitting into two groups, we were taken around the nature reserve to undertake activities centered around team building, communication, and cooperation. From herding cattle to obstacle courses, we learnt both how to effectively be part of a team as well as how to step up and take more active leadership roles when needed. We ended with some processing, where we discussed leadership traits that we believed we had, but also ones that we could develop over the course of the year.” Sounds inspiring, Adam!

Today, our Selah students braved the winter weather for a tour of the Nachlaot neighborhood, followed by a bit of relief from the elements at the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book. They learned about the earliest Jewish neighborhoods outside of the Old City and how they have been preserved to this day. Each community has a unique story and comes together to form a complex tapestry connected by alleyways. The students continued their tour of the Israel Museum at the famous Ahavah sculpture representing the unity between so many people that all come together in Jerusalem. Their tour ended at the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered at the moment of the founding of the modern state. This represented another instance of the unifying thread where ancient and new unite.

Technology and Tikun Olam come together: our Big Idea students visited Hilma, a hi-tech non-profit company that is fully dedicated to helping the public by developing and maintaining technology for companies and organizations. Becky Geisberg told us about her experience there: “We had the opportunity to meet and talk to volunteers at Hilma who are doing National Service for Israel. Most of the company’s projects have a social impact orientation, and they act with the true belief that technology can help create Tikun Olam. We learned about several projects they had done and were currently working on, for example, Albi, an app that helps exercise the minds of people with Alzheimer’s. Hilma also created a survey for people who are suffering from domestic abuse. This survey was distributed through healthcare providers and allowed people to diagnose whether they needed immediate help. This survey also provided resources that were available to the victims. Overall, it was very cool to see how much of an impact a small company can have on the quality of life of so many people.”

Big idea students at hilma, a hi-tech company striving for tikun olam
Big Idea students at Hilma, a hi-tech company striving for Tikun Olam
Selah students by the ahava sculpture
Selah students by the Ahava sculpture

Today in our Spotlight on internships and volunteering, we have Elysha Jackson from Canada, volunteering at Save a Child’s Heart. “I have had such a meaningful experience during my first-semester internship at Save A Child’s Heart. SACH is an organization that brings children with congenital heart defects from countries where they don’t have access to pediatric cardiac care and provides them with life-saving procedures here in Israel. My role at SACH is at the home where they house the kids and their parents before and after their surgeries. I spend time with the kids, keeping them company and filling their days while they wait for their treatment, and also as they recover from it. I am forming such incredible bonds with the children and their families that makes it so bittersweet to say goodbye when they return home. I’ve even had the eye-opening experience of visiting some of the kids in the ICU after their surgeries.

Save A Child’s Heart is such an incredible organization, and I am beyond grateful to be a part of it.

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
As always, we would like to wish you all a wonderful weekend! We hope you’re spending it someplace warm because this week was particularly rainy and cold here in Israel (finally!) Use this weekend to relax because we are now starting our last weeks of the semester! It’s going to get busy, just saying. Stay tuned 😉