gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

Dear Parents,

We hope you are all doing well and that those of you who are preparing for Passover are not finding the cleaning too stressful. Remember dust is not chametz!

Here are this week’s highlights:

Early Sunday morning, Natali flew with some of our students for their trip to Italy! Everyone else had internships and volunteering as usual. On Sunday evening, we had apartment meetings, where the counsellors checked the apartments’ cleanliness and ran an educational activity.

On Monday night, the students went to the movie theater to watch the film Dumbo (a more grown-up remake of the original animated version). Dumbo is the story of a young elephant whose oversized ears enable him to fly. He helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer. After the movie, we sat and discussed some of the lessons we learned from the film. They included embracing what makes you an individual, believing in yourself, not letting others hold you back, finding friends in unexpected places, and protecting the animals and environment.

Eli Picker said, “Tonight’s activity we went to the movie theater here in Jerusalem. We went to see Dumbo on the big screen! It brought back many heartfelt memories as well as reminded me as to why I am on this planet, which is to help animals. Dumbo is such a great film but it also has some key elements to take away with regards to animal welfare and what humans have previously done to animals, and how we can help the animals in the future.”

Tuesday is usually tiyul day, however this week it also happened to be Israel’s Good Deeds Day.

Good Deeds Day is an annual tradition of dedicating the day to performing good deeds. All over the world, hundreds of thousands choose to volunteer and help others, putting into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good, be it large or small, to improve the lives of others and positively change the world. For this year’s Good Deeds Day, the Jerusalem students participated in workshops, creating potted plants from plastic recycled materials and concrete, alongside Israeli schoolchildren. Afterwards, our students took the plants over to Hadassah Hospital to cheer up the patients and their families, nurses, and doctors.

Shlomo Ash said, “Today, as a group, Aardvark went to help schools plant flowers. I found it therapeutic and honestly enjoyable to interact with Israeli youth. After we finished, we headed to the hospital to give them out to people who would want company and a little bit of joy. It really made me feel great to see their smiles and it’s amazing that both parties can benefit from each other – I felt good giving to them and they made me feel good by their giving to me. One of the ladies took my flowers and blessed me, and it really made my day. Thanks Aardvark!”

On Tuesday night, the Faces of Israel activity took the form of an exclusive tour of the Mea Shearim neighborhood. Our very own Rabbi Marc led the students on a walk through the social, spiritual and economic hub of the Ultra-Orthodox community. We began the evening with a presentation on the history of the different sectors: Haredim, Hassidim and Sefardim, and an overview of the dress codes of the different sects. We went to hear Hasidic music in the largest religious music store in Jerusalem and visited one of the many local Jewish bookstores. We saw clothes stores and posters of celebrity rabbis and took in some of the politics, conflicts and values of the area. We ended up eating cholent and kugel in a tiny eatery called Heimishe Geshmake Essen – which is Yiddish for “Tasty homemade Jewish food”!

Wednesday night, for Parsha & Pizza, we decided to change things up a little bit. Student Dana Bederson taught us the Parsha instead of Rabbi Marc! Here is what Dana wrote:

“On Monday night, knowing that I want to be a Jewish professional later in life, Shalhevet asked if I would lead our weekly Parsha and Pizza evening. If you don’t know what Parsha and Pizza is, well here’s the gist. We sit in the office and learn about this week’s Torah portion. Some come for pizza but we mostly come for the Parsha because most of us who go are interested in adding a little more Jewish learning into our week.

This week’s portion is Tazria. It comes from Leviticus. And it is the last two chapters before Bamidbar or Numbers. We started by giving a basic overview of the whole parsha. Since you weren’t there I’ll give a short version. Tazria deals with the laws of ritual and physical impurities surrounding birth, circumcision and leprosy. What struck me the first time reading it was that the Torah provides us with so much detail about how to purify someone who was infected by leprosy. It names specific places on the body, about the color of the flesh and hair, and whether the leprosy appears in a cut, or burn or a scar. I noticed that the Torah has one way of dealing with the problem of leprosy. G-d uses isolation. That’s an interesting concept. Today in society we don’t isolate those who have sought help by going to a doctor or a hospital. Now we have doctors and nurses to diagnose and treat us. But in the Torah, isolation is the medication of choice. It makes sense for biblical times because they didn’t have modern medicine. The exact words G-d uses are “He shall be unclean as long as the disease is on him. Being unclean, he shall dwell apart; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:46). So, in my search to impart wisdom on my fellow students I looked for some midrashs online and I stumbled across one called “Living Outside the Camp,” By Richard F Address. He is a Rabbi in Cherry Hill, NJ. I really identified with his idea that G-d made those who may be needed our attention and care and isolated them from the community at the time when they might have needed friends and family the most. So I challenged myself, my fellow Parsha and Pizza goers and Ori and Shalhevet to answer some questions:

Have there been time/times in your life where you felt “outside the camp”, either physically or mentally?
How did this make you feel?
Has there been time in your life where you have held a position of power and made someone else feel “outside the camp”?

I challenged them to write down their answers and to share if comfortable to do so. I won’t share what we said. Everyone including myself identified with something in this Parsha. I’m glad Aardvark allowed me this cool opportunity to teach my peers.”

Kol Hakavod Dana for teaching all of us the Parsha and taking on this leadership opportunity!

Selah last weekend had a wonderful Shabbaton in Tel Aviv. On Friday night they ate with host families and we joined Rabbi Marc for a catered Shabbat lunch followed by a discussion about giving and taking based on an influential modern work called ‘Strive for Truth’ (Michtav M’Eliyahu). For our Monday trip, we went to visit the Ramada hotel in Jerusalem, Israel’s largest hotel, with the capacity to host thousands of guests. We met Rabbi Krakowski, of the Orthodox Union Kashrut department (OU), who helped us gain behind the scenes access to the kitchens where we saw their chefs, waiters, health inspectors and kosher supervisors all busily preparing food. We were given an overview of Kashrut laws and had a chance to see them put into practice on an industrial scale with impressive technology and architectural designs to separate meat, dairy and pareve as well as the Pessach food section. We ended the day with the opportunity to ask Rabbi Krakowski questions and he gave a short class on the benefits of observing the Jewish dietary laws. We also had time for our Learning Space where we sang songs, designed a colorful Jewish identity fan, studied the Shema, wrote letters of appreciation and considered the meaning of loving our fellow man. It was a great week.

Internship in the Spotlight: Hi, my name is Adam Rawraway and I was born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa. I work as an intern at Gigawatt Global. Gigawatt Global is a multinational renewable energy company that is focused on the development and management of utility-scale solar fields in emerging markets. During my time at GWG, I’ve performed various tasks primarily working with PVSyst software.

PVSyst software is a software that is used by engineers and architects to study grid-connected photovoltaic systems. I use PVSyst software to identify the optimal location of a potential solar grid and the optimal angles at which the solar panels should be placed. PVSyst also allows me to identify the voltage of a solar panel and an inverter that will yield the most electricity. With this software, I’m also able to design and simulate a grid (using real weather patterns!), to the dimensions and specifications of the project developers.

I have taken invaluable knowledge from my time working at Gigawatt Global and I’m sure I’ll put my newly acquired skills to good use at some point in the future!

The madricha on call this weekend is Shalhevet.

Shabbat Shalom!

The Aardvark Israel Jerusalem team

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael