gap year in israel

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

Dear Parents & Students,

We have finished the second week of the program and it was AMAZING!!!

We began on Sunday with a session about the academic lessons and various classes we have on offer here on Aardvark. We also had a session about the importance of Internships and Volunteering.

The students then had free time to clean their apartments and cook food for dinner after which each of the apartments had a meeting with their madrich or madricha. During these meetings, the madrichim check the apartment’s cleanliness, go over the weekly schedule, and run an activity for the students.

On Monday, we woke up bright and early and began our internships and volunteering! While some students began their internships this week, others participated in group volunteering activities while awaiting their interviews that will take place over the coming week. The students helped prepare the First Station for winter. The First Station is located close to our neighbourhood and is home to a variety of activities to the public, as well as having amazing restaurants of all types, a carousel, and much more! 

Aaron Davis said, “It was incredible to help paint and clean up the First Station! It felt like we were truly helping our new community and something I learned is volunteering starts at home. And Jerusalem is my new home!” 

Monday afternoon, we had our first Ulpan (Hebrew) class and everyone came out knowing more Hebrew words than they did when they went in! Then we started our other classes. The students are able to take classes on Politics, Midrash, Chassidut, and The Art of Reading and Writing.

On Monday evening, we offered bowling as an optional night activity and we had so much fun that the students already want to go bowling together again. 

Adam Rawraway said, Even though it was an optional activity, we all showed up to go bowling. It was an awesome way to continue bonding as a group and with our madrichim.

On Tuesday morning, the students took a Segway tour through the Old City of Jerusalem, a great way to see an ancient city using modern technology. When first stepping on to a Segway you feel may feel a bit unsure but within a few minutes your body learns the motions and driving a Segway becomes intuitive. By the end of the tour, we were confidently riding past beautiful views and enjoying the ride. Our students learned about the different quarters of the Old City, such as the Jewish quarter, the Muslim quarter, the Christian quarter and the Armenian quarter. From there we Segwayed to King David’s grave, and paid tribute to one of the Jewish Kings. We also saw the Churva Synagogue that has been rebuilt 4 times over the years.

Shira Vilvovsky said, “It was really nice to see the Old City in an alternative way, it’s a place we always visit, but this was a new way of seeing the history in the walls. We also challenged ourselves and learned how to do something new. I think this is a really great way to start off the New Year, by learning how to do something we’ve never done before.

Tuesday night, we had our first Faces of Israel activity. Faces of Israel happens once a week on Tuesday evenings. In Faces of Israel the students will learn about different places in Israel and the many different people that live in Israel. To begin the semester, our counsellors called us to the ulam and split us into groups.  We then began an epic photo scavenger hunt of our neighbourhood. We had to do tasks such as find the ‘Katamon’ sign (the name of our neighbourhood), Rabbi Marc’s house, the local laundromat, and more! We had to either take a photo or video at all the places and it was a truly fun and creative way to learn all about our neighbourhood and where everything is. At the same time, we met many different people who live in our neighbourhood and some of us were even invited over for Shabbat! Both teams made it back having completed all the tasks! Both Maia’s team and Shalhevet’s teams were crowned the winners and won a pizza party next week!

Sam Leopold said, It really helped me learn my surroundings and I can’t wait to live like a vida local. Get it?!

Wednesday night, we all braced for the snow that was coming! As soon as it began to snow, we all ran outside had a legendary snowball fight. For some of us, it was our first time seeing snow! 

Selah began this week – Aardvark’s unique Jewish Identity track. Selah offers extra Jewish programming for students who are interested. The group meets twice a week for innovative experiential activities. We began the week with our first Tanach Tiyul – once a month we head off to a site connected with a biblical character or story. Living in Israel offers us the opportunity to really connect with our history in a direct way, linking ourselves physically to the land and history of our people in ancient times. We toured around Tel Be’er Sheva, an archaeological site with remains from three thousand years ago. We focused on the patriarch Abraham and through a combination of touring, discussing, learning and some great guiding by Rabbi Marc and Tali the counsellor, we connected with the first Jew and what he represents to us. We even stopped to make a wish by an ancient well that some people claim dates back to the period of our matriarchs and patriarchs. Thursday saw us head to the Museum of the Jewish People where we had a workshop on Jewish Identity with the museum’s Director of Education. We shared our genealogical roots and talked about the spread of the Jews around the globe. We then toured a number of the exhibits – including the Synagogue and Prayer room, the Jewish heroes activity centre and the new hall dedicated to Jewish and Israeli humour. On Friday, the group is heading north to the idyllic community of Hoshaya where we will be having our first monthly Shabbat experience together.

This week we held our first Parsha and Pizza of the semester. Each week Rabbi Marc comes to hang out with our students, eat a little pizza and learn about the weekly Torah portion. This is an optional evening program that regularly attracts good numbers of students who come highly motivated to talk about Jewish themes (and fill their stomachs too!). This week we heard about the Torah portion of Beshalach, which continues to tell the story of the Exodus. The Jews are pursued out of Egypt by Pharaoh and his army and when the Children of Israel reach the Red Sea, they begin to panic. God splits the sea, saves the Jews and drowns the Egyptians. The people break out in song and praise – a powerful peak of spirituality. The Torah goes on to describe in detail how the Jewish people begin to complain and grumble and towards the end of the portion the people see Manna fall from heaven. Rabbi Marc showed a clip from one of the Indiana Jones movies to highlight the idea of faith. The splitting of the sea is accompanied by many legends – notably that of Nachshon ben Aminadav. God wanted the people to walk into the sea but no one wanted to do it. Was this a test of faith? Nachshon courageously jumps first into the sea, setting off the miracle. A great discussion broke out about faith, bravery and optimism when confronted with life’s challenges. 

Next week, we will be volunteering with the Shomer Hachadash for the holiday of Tu B’shvat, have a Tu B’Shvat seder with our madrichot, and we will hear the life story of Yiscah Smith!

Looking forward to telling you all about it! 


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael