gap year in israel

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Shalom Parents!

Today the Aardvark program officially came to an end.

It was bittersweet for all of us. It has been a wonderful year, but it is sad to see the students leave.
While a small number of our students are still strolling the streets of Jerusalem, most of our participants are already on flights home and will soon be trying to shake off their jetlag. Wherever your kids are at the moment, one thing is for sure, they are not here… The office is quiet… All I can tell you is that it feels unnatural! I’m waiting for someone to walk in and ask for a new light bulb, directions, to make a cup of coffee or simply crash on the couch and announce that they are hungry. We’ll need to get used to this new loud silence until August when we welcome a new group to Israel.
Last week we met on Sunday.

The madrichim took the students for a fun day at their homes. Chaya invited her group of students to her neighborhood.

She created a scavenger hunt throughout the neighborhood for the students. Each stop on the hunt represented a significant spot that Chaya enjoyed or went to when she was a child. In each clue were facts about Chaya so basically it was a “Getting to know your Madricha” activity. Ellis Lewkowicz said, “I really liked going to see where Chaya lived her whole life and it was really nice to spend the afternoon there getting to know her more. I am going to miss her a lot.”

Maya’s group went to her Kibbutz, had a BBQ and met her family. They also did an AMAZING RACE. Sapir took his group to his kibbutz and they watched a movie, they also did an amazing race and met his Kibbutz friends.

With Trump’s arrival to Israel we began to wrap things up with a final event in our last Ulpan class. We tested each other’s Hebrew with a number of fun games. One of the games had one person sitting at the front of the class and on the screen behind them was a Hebrew word. The person was not allowed to look at the screen and everyone else gave gestures or clues to help them guess the word in Hebrew. It was a fun way to end our Ivrit lessons.

On Thursday morning we went to our director Debbie’s house for a BBQ and a dip in the natural spring that’s just down the road. Peter said that being in Debbie’s home really made him feel like Aardvark was a big family and not just your average gap year program.

On Wednesday we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim (also known as Jerusalem Day). We celebrated 50 years of the reunification of Jerusalem. The Tel Aviv group joined us to partake in a Flag Parade throughout the city of Jerusalem. Hundreds of flags were waving around throughout the event.

The final few days of Aardvark brought cleaning, packing, and tearful goodbyes. Let me tell you a secret folks, your children are not children anymore, they actually know how to clean…so please, make use of this information (but it didn’t come from me).

On Thursday night we gathered together in Jerusalem for a final ceremony. After a nice dinner with all the students and staff from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, we officially concluded our year with a variety of speeches, musical presentations and an emotional slideshow of the whole year. One of the most exciting moments was undoubtedly Alex Kaufman’s speech during which he spoke about his personal experience in Israel and how despite the difficulties he had, he managed to overcome and enjoy the experience. Let us just say that no one remained indifferent in the crowd. You can find the speech below.

Another highlight of the evening was the exhibit of “6-Word Memoirs of Aardvark Israel.” Throughout the last two weeks, each student was asked to summarize or highlight an aspect of his or her experience in just six words and to submit it along with a photo. You can see a few of the photos below; I think you’ll find that the results were very special.

I want to thank all of you for being supportive of us throughout the semester. I know it’s not easy to send your child away from home for such a long time and I want to thank you for taking this leap of faith in us. You gave us feedback over the phone when you spoke to your child’s madrich and we are taking everything you said into consideration in the planning of next year’s program. I can tell you that we tried our best to make this year as significant as possible for your children and I believe that we succeeded in achieving this goal. Let me know if you see something different in their eyes when they get back (and I’m not talking about the jetlag from the 14 hours of sleep they got on the plane.)

Again, thank you!

To read "My Year in Israel – Alex Kaufman – 2016-2017"