gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

Here are this week’s highlights:

On Monday night we went to the music festival in the Old City. We walked along the festival path starting at the Jaffa Gate, and then through the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and finished with the Christian Quarter. In the Armenian Patriarchate, we enjoyed a show inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On Saint James Street, we saw Israeli music videos, by some of Israel’s leading video and animation artists, projected on the walls of the Old City. In the Open Cardo, we experienced an interactive musical-chairs instillation that played orchestra music as you sat on the chairs. We heard a broad repertoire of ethnic Arabic music in Shuk HaKatzavim and, at Muristan Square, we danced and had a blast at a headphones party!

Noa Kurz said, “We walked through all four quarters and listened to ethnic music of famous Israeli and Arab musicians. Where else in the world can you do that?!”

This week our field trip was on Tuesday and this also happened to be Israel’s Good Deeds Day.

We started the day by volunteering at the Gazelle Valley, which is located in our backyard (not really, but around the corner). Some of us planted flowers, weeded, sickled, and prepared the land, while the rest of us built a terrace. We worked hard and really experienced what it is to give back to the community and work the land of Israel. Geena Cohen said, “I felt a sense of community volunteering together with my friends. In our internships, we intern spread out over Jerusalem, but today we got to volunteer together. And what made it better was that, it’s so close to our home and we can come back whenever we want to continue volunteering here.”

After lunch, we went just outside of Jerusalem to do the hike called Sataf. We learned about the ancient Arab villages that once existed in this area and their ingenuity in accessing the natural water flow. We made our way to a pool that was built many years ago to collect the flowing water and crawled through a tunnel to the other side. The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed walking through nature and experiencing the beauty that is Israel. We saw the trees blossoming as spring is around the corner, and learned about the different trees and plants in Israel, and which wild fruits are safe to eat.

Naomi Pearl said, “It was us and nature today. We saw ruins. We saw trees blooming. We heard the birds and animals. The morning was volunteering and giving back and this afternoon gave us the opportunity to be in the Judean Hills and see Israel. This semester is helping me step out of my comfort zone and hiking wasn’t really my thing before, but now I’ve found a certain beauty in being outside and at one with Jerusalem.”

We ended the day by spending some time with our madrichim, discussing the day’s events, what volunteering is, what it means to us, and all our thoughts and feelings from the day.

This week in Parsha and Pizza we began the third book of the Torah – Vayikra – Leviticus. This week’s Torah portion introduces us to the world of sacrifices. Although sacrifices do appear earlier in the Torah, this is the first time that a uniform framework and rules are given over to the people. Rabbi Marc explained four different types of sacrifice that were offered during Temple times and we discovered through the details that most were animal offerings (Kosher only) although some could be grain-based breads. We mapped out some of the classic reasons given for Karbanot (sacrifices in Hebrew, from the root word karov – קרוב – which means closeness) and ended the session with everyone choosing their favorite type of sacrifice. The clear winner was the Shleimim, which was meant to bring Shalom – peace – between God and the person offering it or between the person and their guests. The rule was that this sacrifice needed to be shared with people and eaten together with priests, family, friends or the poor. Some students noticed that it is not too different from having a barbecue!

On Thursday morning, our boys woke up really early, and had Shacharit (morning prayers). The morning was planned by the student Yaakov Bockian, who for his Breakout March, wanted to have a morning services for the boys. It was so meaningful and powerful to all pray together, while overlooking all of Jerusalem. We felt a sense of family and unity. Afterwards, we enjoyed a breakfast sponsored by Aardvark and Yaakov. Thank You Yaakov for planning this amazing morning, it was so motivating for the rest of us to see you achieve your goal!

All the Best,

And Shabbat Shalom