gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

Here are this week’s highlights:

During the week, the students began to think about their plans and goals for this month’s them breaking out of their comfort zones.

In Sunday’s apartment meetings we asked the students to prepare an inspiration board of all the things they still want to accomplish during the rest of their time here in Jerusalem and the rest of their year in Israel. It was a good opportunity for the students to reflect on the things they have achieved so far this semester, and the things they are looking forward to doing during their remaining time here. We spoke about stepping out of our comfort zones and what we can accomplish this month no matter how big or small.

On Monday we had a sushi workshop, where we taught the students how to make sushi. Afterwards Natalie Selvin said, “I just love seaweed, and for me to put seaweed with rice and fish is amazing! And it is so easy to make, and so easy to eat. I even heard it’s quite healthy too!”

On Tuesday morning we went on a hike in the Jerusalem mountains. We began the day by driving to the stalactite caves to see the wonderful rock formations that were created over millions of years and were discovered during works in a quarry around 50 years ago. Brandon Troy commented, “I really enjoyed seeing such a beautiful & natural wonder, along with being visually pleasing I also learned about the stalactites specific to this one cave.”

We then started our hike not far from Bar Giyora, which is south west of Jerusalem, and hiked down the Ktalav dry stream. Very soon after we began walking, we were surrounded by the area’s beautiful nature and all we could hear were birds and other sounds of nature. On our way down towards the old Bar Giyora train station, we spoke about the geology of the area and about the different trees that grow there. The train station is no longer in use, it was once part of the Jaffa – Jerusalem railway line that was built during the Ottoman period and at the time was the height of technology. The train was steam operated and used this stop to refill with water so it could complete the journey to Jerusalem. We had a picnic lunch next to the Soreq River and spoke a bit about mapping, topography and navigation.

For Tuesday night’s activity, we separated into boys and girls. The boys made a Mexican dinner with Ofek (the Madrich) and participated in an activity called, “What kind of man do I want to be?” In these times, we think it is important for our students to find good role models and influences in their lives. The boys entered a room with photos of different role models on the walls, from Moshe Rabbeinu to Thor (the Norse god and superhero). They were then asked what character they relate to and what character they want to be. Yaakov Bockian said, “I want to be like the Hulk, because he’s vulnerable but also strong at the same time.” I think the most beautiful part of the activity was the fact that the male students shared their feelings and opened up to one another about their struggles and fears and hopes.

For our ladies, to celebrate International Women’s Day (which is today), the girls started the evening by enjoying a dinner provided by Bagel Café. They then had an activity called “Who runs the world – Girls”; we watched a video of people explaining what makes them feel loved. Each girl was provided with a canvas and had to write something that someone else had done that made them feel loved on the other girls’ canvases. From there, we moved on to time someone gave to you, a lesson someone taught you, and someone’s best feature. We ended the activity by sitting in a circle and speaking about how they should appreciate that they are loved, that someone does care about them and how proud they should be of themselves individually and as a whole, and also how strong we all are together as a group of women, and how together we can change the world. Then, obviously, we had a disco dance party. Abby Hockstein said, “It’s nice to know I can count on my fellow girls here to have my back and to know they care about me as much as I care about them. I think with everything going on in the world (#metoo campaign), it’s more important now than ever for us to work together and be united and loving.”

This week in Parsha and Pizza on Wednesday, the group studied the Torah portion of Vayakhel-Pekudei. This double portion concludes a five-week study of the Mishkan – the mobile temple or sanctuary built by the Jewish people in the desert. We focused on the designer and builder of the Mishkan – an individual by the name of Betzalel. We tried our hand at following God’s instructions on how to build the Menorah and created some art of our own. The results were quite funny and it showed us how difficult it is to move from a design brief to a concrete plan. We then watched a short movie clip that helped us visualize the Mishkan. We continued with a more in-depth discussion about Betzalel and tried to understand why he was chosen by God to design the Mishkan. He was clearly a talented individual and a master craftsman adept at metalwork, precious stone cutting and fine embroidery, but the Torah describes him as having “Ruach HaKodesh” – divine inspiration. This led us to explore the notion of creativity and genius in human beings. The evening ended with the screening of Elizabeth Gilbert’s powerful TED talk on the creative process (Click here to watch)

Internship in the spotlight By Emma Segal and Ben Oken-

For our internship, we go to an elementary school called Zalman Eran and work with kids from grades 3 through 6. Ben and I have been paired with the two English teachers and either take out kids who struggle with the language itself or have advanced English skills and are looking to improve. With the kids who struggle, we help them with their bookwork, which involves grammar, vocabulary, etc. The kids who are at a higher level tend to have more advanced books or speaking skills and we tend to make conversation about their personal lives, Lionel Messi, and Israel. What makes our job so enjoyable is the energy and wild personalities each individual kid has. Whether they are trying to teach us Hebrew or their fascination with the fact that we come from America, they immediately welcomed us with open arms. All in all we love our internship, the kids, and teachers; which is going to make it that much harder to leave.

All the best,

And Shabbat Shalom,