gap year in israel

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Jerusalem Weekly Updates 

Dear Parents,

Chanukah is a wonderful time to be in Israel and the students have had the chance to take full advantage of the true festival of lights. It has been a great week and we are looking forward to a few more nights of light… Here are the highlights:

On Monday, as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival this month, we went to see the movie In Her Footsteps. In the dead of night, the director Rana’s parents left the house her father had built in the Bedouin village Tal-a-Sabeh and moved, or perhaps fled, to Omer, a very bourgeois Jewish town located just 5 km away. During the 10 years in which she dealt with breast cancer, her mother’s only wish was to be buried in Omer. The town never dealt with the issue of where to bury its Muslim residents. The film documents an entire family torn between fulfilling the mother’s last wish and social codes that cannot be ignored. During the process of separation from her mother, the film reveals the family’s intimacy, secrets and dilemmas, raises serious questions about women’s identity, nationality and the meaning of home.

Efi Masliansky said, “On Monday night I went to see “In Her Footsteps”, a documentary about a woman whose mother’s illness and death brings into question societal norms, women’s rights and the sentiments of non-Jews in Jewish areas. The film focused on how strong and valuable mothers are to us and how we should cherish them. I cried throughout the entire film, I felt especially emotional at a certain scene where one of the daughters came back from America and surprised her mother. The amazing feeling of reunion in that scene made me miss my mother more than anything. Once I got back to the apartments, I called my own mother to tell her how much she means to me.”

On Tuesday morning we went on a hike in the Jerusalem mountains. We began the day by driving to the stalactite caves to see the wonderful rock formations that formed over millions of years and were discovered during works carried out in a quarry around 50 years ago. Alena Berkman commented, “I really enjoyed seeing such a beautiful & natural wonder, along with being visually pleasing I also learned about the stalactites specific to this one cave.”

We then started our hike not far from Bar Giyora, a place southwest of Jerusalem, and hiked down the Ktalav dry stream. Soon after we began walking we were totally sounded by the area’s beautiful nature and all we could hear were birds and other sounds of nature. On our way down towards the old Bar Giyora train station we spoke about the geology of the area and about the different trees that grow there. The train station is no longer in use today, it was once part of the Jaffa – Jerusalem railway line that was built during the Ottoman era and at the time was the height of technology. The train was steam operated and used this stop to refill water so it could complete the journey to Jerusalem. We had a picnic lunch next to the Soreq River and spoke a bit about mapping, topography and navigation.

On Tuesday evening we met for festive candle lighting outside of the building, lit the first Chanukah candle as a family, sang the Chanukah songs we know and danced. We then continued the party inside where we passed around a giant dreidel and whenever the music stopped, the student holding the dreidel had to either answer a question about the Chanukah story, or do a Chanukah related dare. Will Oken had to eat a hot sauce filled Sufganiya! It was a crazy fun night and a nice way to start our Chanukah experience in Jerusalem. We ended the evening with more dancing and Sufganiyot (jam doughnuts).

This week Akiva Goldsmith has written a few words for Internship in the spotlight, “For the past few months I have been privileged to work at an internship in The Knesset with MK Yehuda Glick. As one of the only English speakers on his staff, I handle a lot of the correspondence between him and his English-speaking supporters around the world, and even helped publish an edition of his newsletter. Assisting Mr. Glick in his weekly activities has given me valuable experience and an interesting insight into the workings of the Israeli parliament and governing system, something that has interested me for years.”

This week’s Parsha and Pizza had a Hanukkah theme. We lit candles together and sang Maoz Tsur. Rabbi Marc gave an overview of the holiday’s main themes and customs. Rabbi Marc played us a video of a powerful song written by one of his friends and colleagues Rabbi Daniel Silverstein. Click here to watch the video of the song. Rabbi Marc then led a discussion about miracles and military might and explored some of the history of the Hasmonean dynasty.

This week on Selah we went to visit the Bible Lands Museum for a guided tour. This museum focuses on the many nations who lived in the Holy Land throughout the Biblical era. It was amazing for the group to wander around, see the artifacts, and understand that our Jewish story is intrinsically linked with other civilizations and stories. We checked out the Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the Canaanites and saw the first alphabets (Alef Bet) and writing. We took part in a quiz using a new cellphone app that had the group running around the museum to find objects. As it was almost Hanukkah, we had the chance to see a very special coin dating from the Greek period and the Maccabee revolts. The coin depicted the infamous Antiochus IV who led the campaign against the Jews prior to the Maccabee revolt. It was very poignant to see. On Thursday, at our Learning Space, we began with an art project on the theme of Hanukah and based on one of the writings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook and his commentary on the Siddur. Everyone made a candle representing a value of the Jewish people. We created an enormous display for the Jerusalem office. We also had the chance to eat some Jachnun and Malawach – inspired by the oil theme of the holiday.

Next week we are going to the Israel Museum to see a Chanukah exhibition along with the Tel Aviv group followed by a closing ceremony and dinner with them.

Shabbat Shalom,

וחג חנוכה שמח

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael