gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

We’ve enjoyed another jam-packed week here at Aardvark.

On Monday evening, representatives from the NGO, Tevel B’tzedek came and speak to and tell us about the group and what they do. Aardvark coordinates with Tevel B’tzedek when we send students to volunteer in Nepal. Tevel B’tzedek aims to create Jewish leadership through Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) by volunteering in impoverished communities in Nepal, Haiti and Africa to help improve their quality of life and wellbeing. They presented a short video about how the organization has had a lasting impact on the Nepalese people, especially after the earthquake there in 2015. After the video, the 2 representatives laid out how the organization is structured and what the day-to-day schedule is like for volunteers. They also shared their experiences, with one talking about how they were there during the earthquake and instead of sending everyone home due to danger, they decided to stay and provide aid to the affected people. In the end, the floor was opened up to questions for students to get a better understanding of what goes on in Nepal once they are there, so they could start to think about making a decision if they were interested or not.

Tuesday was a big day for our students. In the morning, we toured Tzedekiah’s cave, saw the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and also went up to the Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock). At Tzedekiah’s cave, we learned how the cave was man made 3000 years ago and that it was used as a quarry to build the Temple Mount itself. It was crazy to fathom that 3000 years ago, people were cutting massive stones out of the earth and then hauling them up for the construction of the temple. From Tzedekiah’s cave, we walked through the Christian quarter of the Old City and arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church is where Jesus is supposedly buried and it was cool to tour around and see the different halls and decorations and displays within the church. After we toured the Church, we took a short lunch break in the Jewish Quarter and then continued on to go up to the Temple Mount. It was incredibly surreal to be at the holiest place in Judaism and to learn a bit about the history of the Temple Mount itself. All of the students were in awe of such a place that not everyone gets to see. We are incredibly lucky that we are in a peaceful time for us to be able to go up to the Temple Mount and experience what’s at the Dome of the Rock.

Tuesday evening, we had a Clown Workshop to prepare for Sunday Morning when we will visit to The Alin Childrens’ Hospital to cheer up kids who are ill and bring a little joy to them. The workshop consisted of learning a few games to play with the kids. We practiced a game where we had a flower and wanted to give it to one of the kids, but were too shy to do so. The object of the game was to go up to a kid and give them a flower but while doing that acting super shy until you “gained” the courage to give the flower to the kid. It was really fun practicing these games and we are looking forward to having fun with the hospitalized children.

This week was the last week of Maarva. Our amazing students, Jake Walters and Jordie Wise returned home to us on Thursday afternoon for the last time from base! We are so excited to see them and are very proud of them for completing Maarva!

This week in Midrash class we focused on the amazing legend of King Shlomo and Ashmedai the king of demons. This story appears in the Babylonian Talmud (Gittin 68) and is full of fantastic creatures and amazing feats. Shlomo needs to build the first Temple but to do so he needs to find the legendary Shamir (a worm-like creature that can magically eat through stone). However only Ashmedai the king of demons knows its whereabouts. Shlomo, captures the demon-king and acquires the Shamir and builds the Temple. However the story ends with a battle between Shlomo and Ashmedai which the Jewish king ultimately loses. The story was the longest story we have read all semester and it took a full three hours to crack its meaning. We read it as a story of hubris and the dangers of believing too much in the myths of our own power. Shlomo – the wisest of all men and the one who God chose to build His Temple – loses his power by virute of his own arrogance. Midrash class has been a powerful experience for all involved in it and both the students and the teacher have really enjoyed a semester of meaningful legends.

Until next week!

All the Best,

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael