gap year in israel

Dear Students & Parents,

Time is flying and this week we reached our three month mark! Three months and the students have learned and experienced so much, and we are so proud of them! Continue reading to read all about their adventures this week!

As you probably know, this week is Chanukah and we are all very excited for the opportunity to celebrate this special holiday with our students.

To get into the Chanukah spirit, last Sunday night at our apartment meetings, our counsellors taught the students how to make ‘latkes’. Latkes are potato pancakes, deruny or boxties and are shallow-fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour and a binding ingredient such as egg or applesauce, often flavored with grated garlic or onion and seasoning. Chanukah music was played, and it was the first time for some of us making this delicious Chanukah food.

In Parsha and Pizza we learnt about the Torah portion of Vayeshev. We learned about Joseph’s dreams and his multi-colored coat and his brothers’ plot to kill him because of their jealousy. Joseph was sold into slavery and found himself in Egypt in Potiphar’s house. Mrs Potiphar tries to seduce Joseph and despite his resistance he ends up being framed and sent to prison. There in prison he encountered Pharaoh’s baker and winemaker and successfully interprets their dreams and thereby comes to Pharao’s attention. The group discussed the significance of Joseph’s dreams and what the different characters motivations were. Some of our old commentaries portray these events as revealing God’s master plan to eventually get the Jewish people to go down to Egypt. We also were introduced to a modern psychoanalytical reading of the dreams. Rabbi Marc ended with a focus on Potiphar’s wife and her attempt to seduce Joseph. In the mystical tradition this moment represents a cosmic struggle of humanity with the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) a force so powerful that only a spiritual giant like Joseph the Righteous could defeat.

On Tuesday we went on a tour of the Menachem Begin Museum. We started with a presentation about the ancient burial caves just behind the museum, which date back to the First Temple period. The juxtaposition between ancient history and modern history is everywhere in Jerusalem. We continued the tour inside the museum. Some of the exhibits we enjoyed the most were the collection of old videos and the model of Begin’s old safe house and apartment. The tour was led by a terrific guide that walked us through the different exhibitions. We learned about Begin’s life and the events that shaped his ideas and thoughts. We learned of his interesting journey from Russia, to Poland, and finally to Israel where he lead the underground organization, the Irgun (also known as the Etzel), prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and finally his work as the sixth Prime Minister of Israel. It was fascinating to learn about both the man and his legacy. Noam Aharon said, “I always walk past the Begin Museum and it was so interesting to finally go inside and learn the history of Menachem Begin.”

On Tuesday evening, we had a terrific activity about the map of Israeli. At first glance, it might appear to be a straightforward topic. However, as we dived into the details it quickly became apparent that it is not so straightforward. For many people, both tourists and citizens, understanding the history of the land and its borders, from biblical times through to the establishment of the Jewish state, can be difficult and confusing. During the evening, using an interactive method and an actual map floor that was created during the program, we explored Jewish history, the history of Israel and the region, and the various sides in the contemporary conflict in the Middle East. During the program, we discussed important events from Jewish and Zionist history and examined them from a variety of perspectives

Jillian Elman said, “I mamash (Mamash” is a Hebrew word for “Really”) enjoyed how interactive the program was and I really liked how Joe delivered the topic. It was the first time I understood the complications of the borders of Israel and the complexity of the situation in the Middle East. I have learned a new way to advocate for Israel in a way I’d never thought about”.

On Wednesday evening, after internships and classes, some of us enjoyed a night at the movies! We went to see the movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”. We don’t want to give away any spoilers, so we won’t tell you about the movie, but we highly recommend you go and see it!! For many of us, it was our first time in a movie theatre in Israel and that was an experience within itself. One of the highlights was seeing the Hebrew subtitles on the movie and actually being able to read them and understand! Hannah Saban said, “I have learned so much in Ulpan that I was able to follow along for parts of the Hebrew subtitles! It’s amazing for me to see how much Hebrew I’ve picked up in only three months here!”

In Selah we had a packed week of Jewishness! On Monday we travelled to Beit Guvrin, a national park in the center of the country that contains the ancient city of Maresha from Biblical times. We had an amazing opportunity to take part in an archaeological dig and crawl through 2000 year old caves as part of the Dig for the Day program. The group dug out 75 buckets of dirt and sifted through the finds. We prepared for Chanuka by hearing the story of the Hasmonean wars that took place at the site and we were able to see one of the incredible finds dug out from the caves there which gives historical evidence that explains the origins of the Maccabee revolt against the Greeks.

Thursday saw us head to the Old City where we had a chance to pray at the Kotel and spend time wandering through the alleyways of the Jewish Quarter. Rabbi Marc gave a short class on the symbolism of the Menorah as we sat by a beautiful reconstruction of the golden menorah from the Temple. After coffee and snacks we met with a few of our regular teachers for an intimate rooftop discussion and Q+A.

Later on Thursday afternoon we went to an interfaith prayer session called Praying Together in Jerusalem. We studied the week’s Torah portion with three different faith leaders before dividing into Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayer groups. We ended with a silent prayer together for peace, love and harmony among the nations of the world and for our city, Yerushalayim. Along with Aardvark students, there were Christians from France, Britain, and America as well as Muslims from Bethlehem and Hebron.

Our Politics class Last week began a unit looking at the political and social aspects of Jewish legislation in the State of Israel. Rabbi Marc took the group out on Wednesday evening to attend a lecture of Rabbi Aharon Leibovitz who has been an activist and campaigner for liberal reforms of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. We heard him lecture about Religion and State and the issues regarding monopolies, transparency and corruption in fields as diverse as marriage laws, conversion and kosher food licensing.

Internship in the Spotlight: Hi my name is Annie and I volunteer at Yaffi’s gan. The children there are all around the age of three. I spend my time helping the ganenets. I get to chase around the children and just play with them. They are all so adorable and they make my day. I know I am making a difference in their lives and helping them to learn life skills like how to share and take turns as well as how to wash your hands, use scissors, make salad and more! -Annie Wilkin

Soon we’ll celebrate Chanukah, and we have so much planned! Candle lighting ceremonies, Sufganiot (jelly filled donuts-yum!), a BBQ at Debbie’s house, and a Macy’s Day like Parade in the streets of Jerusalem!

All the Best

Click here to see our Program Video

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael