gap year in israel

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Shalom Parents,

I hope this email finds you well.

Natali is on leave so in her place I’m honored to share the highlights from this week:

At the weekly apartment meeting (on Sunday) the staff prepared a program where the students were given a taste of Ethiopian culture as they learned about the holiday of Sigd. This holiday marks the Jews acceptance of the Torah and was celebrated in Ethiopia with mass gatherings of the Jewish community.

Please click here to watch a video that we showed the students about the aliyah and experience of the Ethiopian community

Mikey Szabo mentioned that, “Even though the food tasted like soggy pancakes, I learned a lot about the Ethiopian culture and it was very interesting to learn about a new culture and its customs”.

This week we had Parasha and Pizza on Monday. The group learned about the portion of Toldot, which describes the birth of Jacob and Esau and tells the tale of Isaac and Rebecca’s lives. Rabbi Marc brought us the idea that in many ways Isaac’s life can be seen as unremarkable, a close repetition of his father’s Abraham – Abraham dug wells, so did Isaac; both sought refuge with Avimelech, the king of Gerar, when the famine broke. Isaac can also seen as passive – he is the object of the Akeida (Binding of Isaac) and Abraham’s servant chose a wife for him and brought her to him. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his book Biblical Images teaches that Isaac is the continuation of Abraham. If Abraham was the revolutionary iconoclast that brought ethical monotheism to the world then Isaac was the one who ensured the revolution was not fleeting but could take roots and remain. Isaac’s stability was crucial to the success of Judaism’s origin. Isaac was the only one of the forefathers to have had one wife whom he loved. Isaac also never left Israel. He is described (in Bereishit 26:12) planting seeds and growing crops. Perhaps there is a message here that we do not always need to innovate and to seek out the new and different. There is a place in our world for being the continuers – whether that be of technological innovations, our parents’ values or even, the chain of Jewish tradition.

On Tuesday we visited the unicameral national legislature of Israel – The Knesset. We went to hear a Knesset Member, Yehuda Glick, and have a tour of the building. Yehuda has been a member of the Likud party for the past few years. He is a Human Right Activist for Israelis and believes Israel should have freedom of religion by law. He mainly believes that Jewish people should have a place to pray. He shared his life story and his journey to the Knesset. After our conversation, we went on a tour around the hall. We were able to see some architectural features of the building, the painted tapestries by the well-known artist Marc Chagall and then we saw the conference room where all the big discussions take place. This is also where the prime minister or the president speak 🙂

That evening, we hosted Josh Hasten and learned about his life story. Josh was an all-American kid living in Indianapolis with a strong sense of Jewish identity, Josh was no writer by a long shot. However, in 1998, bothered by a seemingly endless barrage of negative media coverage about Israel, he took the time to send a letter to the New York Times explaining that the situation wasn’t the way it was made out to be. To his surprise, the New York Times published his letter the following day! Buoyed by his success and realizing the power wielded by the pen, Josh began to work more and more to respond to unfavorable media coverage of Israel in the media. Please click here to be inspired by one of his famous speeches. For the past five years, Josh has been active in media training, public relations, and speaking tours to inspire pro-Israel advocates around the world. He shared with the students the power of the pen, inspired them and showed them that all it takes is a passion for a cause to overcome challenges and make a difference.

Julianna Mallis mentioned at the end that, “Hearing the speaker’s passion for Israel was invigorating and inspiring. It really renewed my love for Israel! I’m enlisting tomorrow.”

On Wednesday, during our Zionism class, we invited a Palestinian speaker to share his narrative with the group. During the session, Firas Amad explained his experience of living in East Jerusalem as a Palestinian without Israeli citizenship. He brought up many controversial topics such as his hope for a two-state solution and his dissatisfaction with the current situation in the West Bank. Amad offered a different perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that gave the students the opportunity to hear another side of the story and enabled them to ask questions based on their own opinions. At the end of the discussion, many students were left thinking about what he had to say. Even though some students agreed while others did not, all agreed that having Amad speak was very beneficial in order to learn about different perspectives in Israel and about the conflict.

Maya Fox shared at the end that, “It was enriching to be able to hear the perspective that most Jewish teens aren’t able to experience. I’m glad that I was given this opportunity”.

That night we went to a basketball game, Hapoel Jerusalem versus BC Lietkabelis. For lots of the students it was the first basketball game that they attended in Israel and it was quite a cultural experience. What made it even better was that Hapoel won!

Daphne Wornovitzky shared with us, “I loved seeing basketball being played in a different country and seeing how into the game the Israelis get. It was crazy!”

Internship in the Spotlight:

My name is Alena Berkman, I am currently interning at Mikanmor, a leather design company. My favorite jewelry piece I have designed so far is a set of sterling silver earrings that I was even able to gift to one of my friends. I enjoy working there because Mikanmor is a small company so along with helping create pieces, I also get to observe what it is like to run a small business.

This week on Selah we began our week with a fun visit to Cinema City. Little known to many, but on the roof of the multiplex is Bible City, a series of 60 bible scenes made into dioramas with biblical quotes, scenery and models. A great educator, Rav Jeff, who gave us a 30-second summary of close to 30 scenes from the Torah as well as sharing with us some of the highlights of stories the Neviim (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings), guided us. We even had a chance to climb into Noah’s ark and meet some of his animals! It was a great way to remember some famous Tanach stories as well as becoming inspired to learn more about lesser-known ones. Later in the week, we left the building early to travel to the Tayelet, a boulevard with a great view over the Old City of Jerusalem, to join the Ethiopian community in celebrating the Sigd festival. Thousands of people flocked to the Tayelet to be led in prayer by their community leaders (Kesim) who also read portions of their Ethiopian Torah. It is a festival that comes 50 days after Yom Kippur and has themes of repentance and similar to Shavuot, it is about the receiving of the tradition. It is also a holiday of thanks and fulfillment of their years’ old prayers to return to Jerusalem. Later on, the group had a Shabbat workshop with Nilli and Keith, beloved teachers, where they meditated in the dark and burnt candles while learning about the significance of lighting Shabbat candles.

Over the weekend, we are going to Kibbutz Hanaton, a Conservative Kibbutz in the north of Israel for a Shabbaton about pluralism and spirituality.

Next week, we are looking forward to many great sessions including a tour of the city of Hebron and the palace of King Herod, Herodion is the second palace of the King of Herod after the palace at Masada.
This weekend the Madrich on Call is Ofek.

That’s all for the past week. We all are looking forward to next week! 🙂

Shabbat Shalom,



Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael