gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

The first month of our program has come to an end, and it has been a very successful month. The vibe here at Aardvark Jerusalem is becoming very family-like and a lot of fun. The participation of our students in the various activities, the challenges they face in their internships and the bonds they create between themselves are huge contributors to the success of this semester.

This last week has been great and it will be my pleasure to tell you all about it:

On Sunday, after internships and volunteering, the students had time to clean their apartments, to go grocery shopping, and to do laundry.

That afternoon, Selah met for its weekly Learning Space. The group studied a Talmudic tale about optimism and then spent the session reflecting on perspective and how we interpret events that happen to us.

In the evening, the Madrichim met with their students in their apartments for a quick cleanliness check and then an educational activity. This time the Madrichim chose to run an activity that involved making a chocolate fondue with lots of fruit and snacks, each student had to answer a personal question that matched the fruit they chose to dip in the fondue. This way the students got to know one another better and had a great and delicious time bonding and creating new memories. Some of the subjects that came up in these conversations were life goals, hopes and dreams for the future, childhood challenges, etc.

(Very) Late Sunday Night all of the students staying up to watch the Super Bowl!!!! The students went to the Hillel Student Center to watch the game.

Josh Cohen said, “It was amazing to bring all my friends around to the Hillel Student Center and show them what I do for my internship. Although it was an abysmal game, eating pizza and hanging out as an entire program was an awesome experience. I can’t wait to bring them to the next event I co-plan.

On Monday morning, the Selah group travelled to Bet Shemesh where they met the Tel Aviv Selah crew and had a guided tour around the Biblical Natural History Museum. This gem of a museum combines a passion for animals with exceptional insights into Jewish life and traditions. Through the wildlife on display (there are a number of stuffed animals as well as live ones that we were able to handle) we learnt about Kashrut laws and the Prophets who used animals as metaphors in their prophecies. We also had a chance to think about ecology, creation, evolution, science and the land of Israel. It was an amazing morning.

On Monday night we all headed out to Jerusalem’s annual Winter Festival. The festival takes place every Monday in Jerusalem during the month of February. There are street vendors, live music, comedians, video art, etc. The students enjoyed walking around and seeing Jerusalem with new eyes.

On Tuesday morning we went on a Graffiti Tour in the Nachlaot neighbourhood in Jerusalem and learned about the city’s fabulous street art. Through the art, we learned more about the political situation in the country and the different opinions held by people in this diverse city.

Michael Wolman said, “The graffiti was so colorful and vivid. It was so beautiful to see art on the streets of Jerusalem and hear the stories and history behind the graffiti. I love creating art and this sparked my creativity.

We also got to know one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city – Nachlaot.

On Tuesday Evening, the students met with Nadav Schwartz, a religious man who came out of the closet in his mid-twenties after having gone through an Orthodox Yeshiva-based education and upbringing. He even got married young in an attempt to live a mainstream life. Nadav told us his story and made us think about some of the challenges faced by religious gays and lesbians. It was a moving and eye opening evening.

This week in Parsha and Pizza we spoke about the Torah portion of Teruma. The portion describes the design and planning of the mobile temple that the Jewish people took with them on their travels across the desert. It was called the Mishkan. The Torah describes all the materials needed to build the Menorah, the Ark of the Covenant and other utensils to be placed in the Mishkan as well as their dimensions. All the gold, wood, fur, cloth, silver and curtains were donated by the people. We spoke about the importance of spirit in donating and giving. The Torah describes the Jews as contributing to the building with “generosity of heart” and this led us to reflect on the billions of dollars raised by Jewish philanthropists across the world each year. Perhaps giving and donating is part of our Jewish DNA. Finally, we learnt about the Ark of the Covenant and how it was covered with gold both outside and in. Some commentaries took inspiration from the Ark in that it teaches us to be consistent and make sure our insides match our outsides. It really can be quite a challenge to be authentic!

This Saturday Night, our Ethiopia Trip departs and we wish them a safe trip and can’t wait to hear all about their adventures when they return!

Next week, we will be visiting the neighbourhood of Musrara. Musrara is a unique neighbourhood in Jerusalem, a fascinating microcosm of the city’s history and its various demographics. A combination of art and war, the students will walk through Musrara and really see the history in the walls. There will also be a Shabbaton in Mitspe Ramon down south for our Selah group.

Shabbat Shalom,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael