gap year in israel

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

Dear Parents,

Shalom Shalom!

What a week it’s been!

On Sunday the students met with their Madrichim in the apartment meetings, and in memory of Ori Ansbacher, they learned about Israel and the Shvil Israel. The Shvil is a trail that goes from the North of Israel to the South of Israel. The students learned the markings of the Shvil (blue, white, and orange) and how to navigate it. Israeli youth usually hike the trail before their army service or afterwards. Some people take two months to do the entire trek, and others take years to complete it.

On Monday for the optional activity, we went ice-skating! The students put their skates and onesies on and had fun slipping and sliding on the ice. It was fabulous to see them having such a great time. It was a fun and funny evening for us all.

Etai Bally said, “We went ice skating on Monday night for the optional activity. At first, I was surprised to see ice-skating offered in Jerusalem. The rink was in the amusement park and once we got there, there were a few people of eastern European descent who were very good. I was intimidated at first since my knowledge of ice-skating is lacking, but once I strapped up my skates, I already felt like a pro. It took a few rounds to get better and keep my balance but once I got the hang of it, I had a really good time.”

On Tuesday morning, we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. We split into two groups. One group consisted of students who have been to Yad Vashem before and the other group was students who have never been. We walked through the museum, learned about the Holocaust and saw the atrocity of what happened. We were shocked by what we saw and moved by what we were experiencing.

On Tuesday afternoon we went to Mount Herzl, the site of Israel’s national cemetery and other memorial and educational facilities, on the west side of Jerusalem. I asked some students to write a few words about the people that are buried on Mount Herzl, soldiers or heads of State from Israel’s history.

Miquelle Taubman wrote the following: “Emmanuel Moreno was an Israeli Lieutenant Colonel in the Sayeret Matkal unit in the IDF, one of the most elite units of the IDF. Moreno was born June 17th, 1971 in France. His family made Aliyah when he was one years old. Moreno grew up in Jerusalem along with his four brothers. While completing high school, Moreno began the trial period for Sayeret Matkal. Moreno had a wife, Maya, and three kids, Aliyah, Nevia, and Noam-Yisrael. Moreno was known to be one of the most passionately dedicated soldiers to ever serve in the IDF. His superiors in the army and also his family and friends would talk about how Moreno was constantly aiming to better himself so that he could be that much more useful to the IDF and the State of Israel. Many times, Moreno was compared to the legendary Jewish war hero Bar-Kokhba. Moreno was involved in many missions, most of which were top-secret. As a result, the IDF still forbids his likeness from being published even after over a decade has passed since his death because of how sensitive the missions were. In addition to top-secret missions, Moreno fought in the South Lebanon War, the first and second Intifadas, and the Second Lebanon War. On August 19th, 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, Moreno and his squad had just completed a very important mission in Southern Lebanon and were on their way out when they were ambushed by Hezbollah. Moreno was shot and killed. Moreno’s death was mourned by both those who knew him personally as well as by those who had only heard of his heroism. Two years after his death, Moreno received the “Head of the Regional Command Citation” award. In Tel Aviv, a street was named after him in his memory. Moreno was known to be one of the most incredible members of the IDF to ever live.”

On Tuesday evening, our students joined more than 6,000 people gathered at the First Station, a cultural and recreation area, for a memorial dubbed “A City Wrapped in Light” — Ori is Hebrew for “my light.” Marchers joined them, mostly youths, who took the path from where Ansbacher was killed in the forest outside of Ein Yael, a Jerusalem nature preserve where she was working with children for her year of national service.

Well-known Israeli artists including Ehud Banai and Amir Benayoun performed, as did the Shalva Band. Musician Shlomo Shabat set a poem written by Ansbacher, called “A World of Peace,” to music. Several of the teen’s friends spoke.

Internship in the spotlight – Shloime Ash: Hi, I’m Shloime Ash and I intern at Yachad Israel in the Vocational Center. Interning here really gives me a feeling of accomplishment and I love helping them go on job services and participating in class. Yachad is amazing because the personalized training program really gives the individuals a head start to conquer life and I’m more than happy to be part of that.

This week in Parsha and Pizza the group studied the Torah portion of Ki Tissa. It contains one of the most dramatic moments of the bible, when the Jewish people were waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai they conspired to build a Golden Calf and begin to worship it. God gets angry, as does Moses. The episode leads to the death of thousands of idolaters and a rupture in the relationship between God and the Jewish people. Rabbi Marc helped the group to understand the possible causes of the idolatry and why the people ended up worshiping a bull in particular. One lesson that can be learned from the episode is that of hubris. How surprising is it to think that the very people who saw God’s miracles, plagues and wonders, and who stood at Sinai and heard God speak, could fall from such great heights to such a historic low. Maybe the Jews felt that they had made it to the top. From their pinnacle of spirituality what could harm them? The Netivot Shalom commentary points out that it is often right when things are going great that the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) hits us. This is the time when we need to be most grateful and alert, and it is not the moment to bask in our own glory. This is a great chance to thank your children for making our weekly learning so special. Those that come each week do so voluntarily and choose to dedicate time to enrich themselves and connect to their tradition. Rabbi Marc hopes that you enjoy reading these weekly summaries and that you find a chance to talk with your children about them every so often.

Selah had an amazing Shabbaton last weekend in Mitspe Ramon. We began with a Friday afternoon tour of the Visitors Center where we learned about the life of Ilan Ramon and his family. Ilan Ramon was Israel’s first astronaut who flew on the NASA Columbia mission that ended in disaster in 2003. After a pre-Shabbat meal, we met with Rabbi Marc’s wife and children as well as our special guest family, Jeff and Naomi Schrager (originally from Dallas, Texas), who were there to run activities with the group over Shabbat. We prayed and sang in an immersive and interactive Kabbalat Shabbat service together before we had a delicious dinner. Later that evening, we had a crazy Oneg Shabbat full of incredible games (ask your children about the Chair of Doom!) and ended the evening with a deep discussion triggered by a recent piece of news about an Indian man who is suing his parents for giving birth to him. This led us to an amazing conversation about the meaning of life as we studied Talmudic texts at eleven o’clock at night! After a long sleep, we began the next day with Kiddush with Jeff who ran a session linking Ilan Ramon to the recent controversy over the Shalva band and the Eurovision to the meaning of Shabbat and Jewish Identity. Lunch was full of singing, Zemirot and Birkat HaMazon, followed by some rest and a walk to a gorgeous desert sculpture garden. Overall, it was a wonderful Shabbat of bonding, learning, fun, nature and Judaism.

On Monday we went for a visit to the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv where we spent the morning thinking about the Jewish value of Chesed and the practice of Bikur Cholim – Visiting the Sick. We met with representatives of Ezer MiZion, an incredible volunteer organization that works in Israeli hospitals and beyond offering care and support. Later in the morning, we met with a hospital chaplain, Aliza Pilichowski, from an organization called Kashouvot and we heard all about her work with the sick and the needy. She really gave us some perspective on our lives and inspired us with her practical tips about how to help people in hospitals when visiting the sick. Finally, this week we continued with our weekly Learning Space. This is an opportunity to give a big shout out to Gadi, Yoni, and Tristan for waking up early this last month to study Talmud with Rabbi Marc – they just finished their first Sugya (section of the Talmud).

Next Week we are going for a tour in Abu Gosh and meeting with the Women of the Wall, as well as seeing a light show in the Old City!

Until next week,

All the best,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael