gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

Happy Adar II!

The Jewish sages say that from the moment Adar begins we increase in our measure of happiness. Here at Aardvark, we are definitely lifting up our spirits as we prepare for the crazy and joyous holiday of Purim.

On Monday, the students and staff were all back to their regular schedules, after an amazing Shabbaton and weekend.

Monday evening’s art activity run by our amazing Elishe, called Zooming Out, focused on the students’ perspectives. Everyone first looked at a book called Zoom, where each page zooms out (like a camera lens) and shows how the picture on the page before is part of something bigger (and often unexpected). The students then discussed certain scenarios and how we could interpret them differently (you walk into a bowling alley and all of your friends are already there. What would you think?). Everyone chose a small picture that had been cut out of a magazine and then turned it into a wider view by drawing around it on a larger piece of paper. We discovered who has incredible artistic talent, but Elishe explained that in her art class, it is more about the experience of creating than anything else. After everyone shared their creations, we summed up with a discussion about our ability to change our focus and instead of always focusing on the tiny details of our lives, to try to look at the larger perspective.

On Tuesday we went on a tour at the Menachem Begin Museum. We began by watching a presentation on the ancient burial caves just behind the museum, which date back to the First Temple period. The juxtaposition between ancient history and modern history is everywhere in Jerusalem. We continued the tour inside the museum. Amongst the exhibits we enjoyed the most in the museum were the collection of old videos and the model of Begin’s old safe house and apartment. A terrific guide who walked us through the different exhibitions led the tour. We learned about Begin’s life and the events that shaped his ideas and thoughts. We walked through his interesting journey from Russia, to Poland, and finally to Israel where he lead the underground organization, the Irgun (also known as the Etzel), prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and finally his work as the sixth Prime Minister of Israel. It was fascinating to learn about both the man and his legacy.

On Tuesday Evening, we had a Faces of Israel activity called Café Dilemma organized and run by our madrichim (counselors.) We were presented with different issues facing the Jewish community and Israel in the modern age and had the chance to explore these complex issues. Some of the topics included the government’s position on non-orthodox conversion in Israel, inter-marriage, politics, and the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Jake Silverman said, “This Tuesday we did an activity as a group call Caffe Dilemma, we were put in groups of 4 to 6, and the counselors gave us controversial topics in Israel to discuss in the groups. After about 5 minutes of talking in the groups the counselor would ask the big group of everyone for their opinions. Everyone was not only welcome to share but encouraged. The vibe was very supportive of everyone, so I got to learn a lot about my views and gain some new ones… Not to mention I got free hot chocolate and tea.”

The madrichim turned our Ulam into a coffee house, and served the students drinks and desserts. It was great to spend that time with our counselors and discuss these complex issues with them. We all came away from the activity with a deeper understanding of the topics and how they affect our day-to-day lives.

Selah has had a wonderful few days. After last week’s incredible Tanach Tiyul to Tel Bet Shemesh where we could see where Samson and Delilah roamed, we began this week with a nighttime trip to the Movies. We hired out a private cinema and met Ittay Fleshler, an inspirational teacher who combined screenings and discussions based around the hit TV series Orange is the New Black. Ittay told us about the show’s Jewish director and raised many questions about Jewish identity, kashrut, and conversion through scenes taken from the show’s third series. We also continued our weekly Learning Space. The Tel Aviv group continued their prayer-song workshop and concluded their two-week study of the Mitzvah of Tzedaka. We made charity boxes and each student was able to choose their preferred cause. The Jerusalem group had a trip to the Israel Museum where they visited the archaeology exhibit and saw reconstructed synagogues from around the world. We got to see ancient Megilla scrolls in advance of Purim and had a chance to see the original signed copy of Maimonides’ first book.

This week in Parsha and Pizza, we completed the book of Shemot – Exodus – the second of the Five Books of Moses. We studied sections from the Torah portion of Pekudei and thereby ended a five-week unit focusing on the mobile mini-temple that the Jews built in the desert, called the Mishkan. It was the perfect opportunity for Rabbi Marc to teach us some of the symbolism of the Mishkan and how some Jewish thinkers compared its structure and form to the human body while others likened it to the shape of the Universe. Clearly, the building itself was not just a focal point for religious worship and ritual, but also a symbol of the meeting point between heaven and earth, the human and the divine. We also heard about the making of the washbasin and how the women used their mirrors to adorn it. We studied an ancient legend around this washbasin that highlighted the amazing role of women during the Exodus. The evening ended with our discovery of how Moses and God actually set up the Mishkan. After weeks of gathering materials and donations and many days of artistic design and production, all of the parts were ready to be constructed. Moses struggled to set it all up alone, and according to one tale in the Midrash, God helps out by miraculously standing the whole thing up in an instant. The group chatted about whether they prefer God to take the lead, humans, or a combination of the two. It was a fascinating evening.

Next week, we will be having elections with Masa, a hike at Tel Azeka, and a right wing speaker will be coming to speak to the students. It is going to be a great week!

All the best,


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