gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

We had another fun packed week here in Jerusalem starting with karaoke!

On Monday-The girls program, decided to go together for an evening of karaoke, in the Jerusalem City Center, The students decided to leave all ther problems of exams and homework behind and let loose on stage. It was an incredible evening full of music and fun.

On Tuesday morning we went for a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s famous Holocaust Museum, There we divided into two groups for guided tours of the various exhibits. One room had TV screens, each depicting a a Holocaust survivor. Each is talking about some very touch questions, such as, “Where was God during the Holocaust?” or questions of complacency or memories of a trip to Poland. Or whether today they buy German products.

From there we went nearby to Mount Herzl, the site of Israel’s national cemetery for those who have died in the military, and other memorial and educational facilities, found on the west side of Jerusalem. The night before I asked some students to write a few words about the soldiers buried on Mount Herzl-soldiers, or key figures in Israel’s history.

Joshua Carr Wrote about Nissim Gini

Nissim Gini. Turkish born, in 1938 was a young volunteer in the War of Independence – this was not uncommon. There were many children as young as Gini, aged 10, who ferried information through the lines or as a lookout, trying to help the soldiers relay enemy positions. It is a great honor to have been asked to talk about Nissim Gini, to pay respect to the youngest ever fallen soldier of the IDF. Nissim volunteered, along with many of his close friends to defend his city, his homeland and demanded a position in the IDF to serve the State of Israel. There were no telephone lines or any means of communication so this is why Nissim’s courier job was extremely important. He did this job of running between the enemy lines valiantly, amidst all the bullets and bombs. Nissim requested a handgun in the case of being faced by an Arab soldier, unfortunately access to one was denied. On May 27 1948, one Jewish position fell and Nissim was wounded. One day later, he died a painful death.

Any loss of a soldier to the IDF is a huge loss, but a loss of such a young child, who hadn’t even finished school, had his whole life ahead of him. It is unbelievably hard to comprehend how his parents and his entire loved one’s felt when they heard the news he fell a painful death after being seriously wounded. Especially when you have siblings this age, it is simply unimaginable to feel. As we are here today to pay our respects to all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives at the means of many others, one name will always stick by me. Nissim Gini. Learning about the loss of such a young child whilst my sister is currently the same age, is extremely hard to comprehend. Baruch Dayan Emet, Nissim Gini.

Celeste Williams Wrote about Max Steinberg, a 24yr old from California, decided to come to Israel on taglit. Much like us he discovered his love for the country and its people when he arrived. After a visit to Mount Herzl where Max came upon the grave of a fallen American IDF soldier he became inspired to change the course of his life. Upon arriving home Max informed his parents he would be going back to Israel and joining the IDF. Max trained hard and was eventually excepted into the Golani’s 13th Battalion as a sharp shooter. His love for Israel inspired him to serve in the army as a lone soldier. And when he was killed while serving his family decided to have him buried in Israel despite wanting to stay close to him. They were incredibly touched by the love and warmth that the Israeli people showed them when over 10,000 people showed up to his funeral. Max Steinberg was a hero to his family and a hero to the Israeli people.

Mati Davis Wrote about Theodor Herzl

What can I say about Theodor Herzl that hasn’t been said? Visionary, Leader, Writer (etc.) All these characteristics have been so hackneyed that any point of bringing them up would make this speech banal. Instead, let us discuss Theodor, or Teddy, whichever you prefer, as a real person.

Theodor Herzl was born in 1860 to assimilated, German Jews. He struggled deciding on his career, and eventually found journalism. He was involved in many nationalistic organizations but all of that changed when he covered the Dreyfus trial for his newspaper. Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French military was wrongfully stripped of rank, on the accusation that he was a spy for Germany. Everyone knew that Dreyfus was Jewish and that this mockery of a trial was clearly anti-semitism. Something about witnessing that clear breach of justice sparked something inside the, at-the-time, unexceptional Herzl. This spark guided him to become one of the main fathers of modern political Zionism. He truly went “from 0-100” in an instant.

When people in history accomplish great things, the only thing they are remembered for is that accomplishment. For example, did you know that 2 of Herzl’s children died before 45, or that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of the builder of the Suez Canal but, fortunately for the Jewish people, he failed as a scientist, and instead chose to be a writer. The point I am trying is not that Mr. Herzl was a bad parent or a mediocre scientist, but that he was an authentic person dealing with real issues at the time. He was no God or Epic hero, but a human character with flaws, just like all of us.

Now you might say, “Mati! How dare you compare yourself to a man like Herzl, He was a great man! You’re nothing!” To which I would respond, “That is exactly why we need to compare himself to us. If he is so revered that he passes into legend, he will be like so many before him: stripped of his human quality and worshiped as a perfect idol. How can we ever aspire to be him if he is treated as such?” I can never be like legendary Moses, Heracles, or Gilgamesh, but I just might make a good Herzl. Herzl had both the vision and the humanity to achieve a movement that has helped so many. What he accomplished is real and attainable. The proof is all around us. We just need to find our sparks. His biggest lesson, among others, is that even the most average to the most perfect, can accomplish great things when motivated.

On Tuesday evening we learned about this special holiday, one of the unique holidays of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jewish) community, that is celebrated on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. Since 2008, it is recognized as a state holiday for all Israelis. The Students went on to the Avi Chai Museum for evening of Ethiopian culture. They learned about the Ethiopian foods, like injera. Injera is an East African sourdough risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. Traditionally made out of teff flour, it is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea And special musical instruments and dance styles.

In Power of Persuasion, we discussed Israel & the West Bank, and how The Six Day war changed the modern Middle East for the last half century. Are Israeli settlements legal or illegal? What does international law have to say about Israel’s presence in the West Bank? What are the claims of the Palestinians? How has the Peace Process evolved over the last few decades and where do we stand today? What is the position of the International Community? As complex as the topic is, many students had some questions answered. However, this class was just one session of an educational process tackling the main issues of Israel and the conflict, and as a result, many questions were answered with more follow up questions.

Next week we plan to walk the Arbutus stream and see some amazing effects. But we will fill you in on that in next week’s letter.


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael