gap year in israel

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Shalom Parents & Students,

Another busy week has come to an end here on Aardvark Jerusalem and our students are slowly settling into the program’s daily routine. Now it is my pleasure to tell you about some of the highlights from the past week. 

On Sunday we began the week we the monthly community talk in the Ulam hosted by me. These talks give the students the opportunity to discuss their experiences and other matters with the entire group. Furthermore, each talk contains an educational message, and information about the program and the future schedule. We spoke about the activities we have coming up, for example a visit to Mishkenot Sha’ananim, a graffiti tour in Nachlaot, visits to Abu Gosh, Temple Mount, and more! We then proceeded to discuss the coming month’s theme. The month of February will deal with the theme of God and Religion. The purpose of the month is to explore questions linked to the topics. The questions we will ask and try to answer include:  Does God really exist? What does God mean to me? Do I love religion? What information do I have about all religions? Should religion and state go hand in hand? Is there a connection between religion and war?

On Monday we decided to be brave and to take the students to the Crazy Mary Horror Maze. Personally, I am very afraid of these things. However, our students showed great courage and most of them made it to the maze’s higher leaves. The lowest level is 1 and the highest is 9. Most of us made it to level 6. It was a good experience for our students. Despite the concerns of some, they were there as one group and had to help each other overcome our fears. Noah Spivak said, “I wasn’t scared because my eyes were closed the whole time.

For Tuesday afternoon’s trip, we took to students to one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, Mishkenot Shananim. Mishkenot was the first neighbourhood built outside of the walls of the Old City. An actor named Ariel led the tour and during it, he took on the role of many different characters. First he was Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, 1st Baronet (24 October 1784 – 28 July 1885), a British financier and banker, activist, philanthropist and Sheriff of London. Montefiore was born to an Italian Jewish family; he donated large sums of money to promote industry, business, economic development, education and health among the Jewish community in Palestine, including the founding of Mishkenot Shananim in 1860, the first settlement of the New Yishuv. As President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, his correspondence with the British consul in Damascus, Charles Henry Churchill from 1841 to 42, is seen as pivotal to the development of Proto-Zionism. Next the actor became an old woman from Tripoli, and for his final performance, he transformed into a Yemenite Jew who lived in the neighbourhood, close to the Jordanian border, during the Six Day War. He spoke about the deep tensions on both sides of the border during that time.

Etai Bally said, “He taught us about how Mishkenot Shananim came to be in an entertaining and interesting way. We also learned about the history of the area through his multiple characters and their stories. He was very funny and kept us captivated and laughing throughout the entire tour. If only all tours could be like this!” 

On Tuesday Night, the students gathered in our Ulam to hear a lecture from a local caricaturist about the connection between humour and Israeli culture. The lecture was funny and interesting as it gave us an idea of the techniques used by artists to express criticism by thinking outside of the box and using humour. At the end of the lecture we were given the opportunity to try it for ourselves, we were given various caricatures and came up with different and funny captions for them.

Tal Cohen said, “It was mamash (really) funny and I learned a new kind of humour. Israeli Humour. 

Internship in the Spotlight: My internship is at the Jerusalem Aquarium. The aquarium’s exhibits are based around the four major bodies of water in Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Kineret, and the Dead Sea. My job is to take care of and feed the fish. I’ve been learning about all the different types of fish here in Israel. I also really like how my supervisor speaks to me in Hebrew, and my Hebrew is definitely improving because of that. I have been interning there for a few weeks and it has been very fun. It is the highlight of my day each day. – Eli Picker

This week in Parsha and Pizza we discovered the joys of Jewish law through our study of the Torah portion Mishpatim. Rabbi Marc gave an overview of over twenty different laws stipulated in the text. It was incredible to see the scope of interest and the diverse areas of human life that Judaism interacts with. We took in agriculture, the death penalty, liability for damages and compensation, the legal system, corruption, sexuality, festivals, dietary laws, architecture, and more. The students had so many questions and the conversation was lively and deep. We ended the night with an overview of the laws of slavery. Amazingly, this is one of the first laws given to the Jewish people after their freedom from slavery. It is clear that the Jewish take on slavery is very different from our historical image of the slave trade from Africa in previous centuries. In fact, a large proportion of the laws are more about welfare, debt relief and economic responsibility to the needy. Our tradition also marks out clear ethical and practical guidelines to protect the lives and rights of those people who end up being classifies as slaves.

This week we had a seriously good week of learning on our Selah track. We began our week with the Learning Space on Sunday afternoon. Once a week we gather for some serious text study and conversation. We began with Rabbi Marc and a Talmudic legend that explores the theme of friendship. Afterwards we began getting ready for Purim by beginning our in-depth study of Megilat Ester (The Book of Esther) with our beloved teacher Dana. Then, on Monday we travelled by train to the city of Lod. There we went to meet with representatives of Tzohar. Tzohar was founded in the mid-1990s to build a bridge between secular and religious Jews in Israel. It is primarily a rabbinic organization that offers important services and projects to the Israeli public. Recognizing that the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate in Israel sometimes does more harm than good in motivating people to connect with Jewish life, Tzohar offers a friendly face to people looking to get married, keep kosher or convert to Judaism. We toured their offices, met with different Rabbis and staff and had an opportunity to ask some difficult questions about the role of religion and state in Israel. Democracy, civil rights, religion and politics were just a few of the issues we took on.

Shabbat Shalom

Natali Basel

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael
Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael