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Weekly Updates


Weekly Updates – Jerusalem November 8, 2019

Dear Aardvark Jerusalem Families,

Another busy, but good week! Here are just some of the week’s highlights:

On Sunday evening, the apartments met with their assigned Madrichim to have an activity about being a “Rosh Gadol”, a Hebrew term which means to take initiative and be proactive. The students were presented with different situations that they might face during the program and discussed how to be a Rosh Gadol in those situations. As part of the activity, the students had to pick one of nine famous people and they had to think how they would react in the various situations based on their characteristics, before discussing how they would act personally. They were challenged to think what the best thing was that they could do as well as the absolute worst thing. The situations covered work issues at the internship, self-care, friendship, and apartment dynamics. The students’ eyes were opened to new ways of approaching situations and they are already utilizing the idea of being a Rosh Gadol in their daily life.

Motti Sinitsky said, “In this week’s apartment meeting we were taught about being independent and taking initiative in certain situations. All 7 of the people in my apartment were given a piece of paper with a celebrity on it like Beyonce, Kate Middleton, Serena Williams, Marge Simpson, Adam Sandler and few others. The point of this was too see and think about how each of these people would react in certain situations. One of the scenarios we were given was how they would act if they got to their Internship and the person in charge wasn’t there. The best answer given was that people would call up their manager to see if there is any work for them to do or that had been set aside for them to do. The point of this exercise was to show us that in certain situations there is a way of doing things and that we should be able to rely on ourselves to find the solution rather than having to bother someone else with our problems like a child would.”

On Monday evening, we decided to be brave and to go with the students to the Crazy Mary Horror Maze. Personally, I am very afraid of these things. However, our students showed great courage and most of them made it to the higher leaves in the maze. The lowest level is 1 and the highest is 9. Most of us made it to level 6. It was a good experience for our students. Despite the concerns of some, they were there as a group and had to help each other overcome their fears. A truly horrifying experience. Luckily, all of us survived to tell the tale.

On Tuesday, the students went on a tour with StandWithUs. StandWithUs is a non-profit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization. StandWithUs describes itself as an international, non-profit organization that believes that education is the road to peace.

We started the day at the Armon Hanatziv Promenade, which overlooks most of Jerusalem and offers a beautiful view of the city. Armon Hanatziv means the Commissioner’s Palace. The name is a bygone of another era, when the British High Commissioner’s house was down the road. The house was later used, after 1948, as the headquarters for UN observers.

The promenade, which is about two-thirds of a mile long (one kilometer), is at the southern end of the city, viewing northwards, on the left (westwards) you can see new Jewish Jerusalem; straight ahead is the Old City, Mount Zion, and the three valleys which surround ancient Jerusalem, i.e. Tyroppean, Hinnom and Kidron.

We were then given a tour of Abu Tor, a neighborhood with mixed Arab and Israeli residents, and we were given a history of the Arab/Israeli conflict. We received a very clear understanding of why Israel is so important to each of the major monotheistic religions; Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We were then taken to Gilo and learned about the history of the Green Line and were told different stories and points of view of the narrative.

After breaking for lunch, we were taken to Rachel’s Tomb and were allowed free time to go inside. Rachel’s Tomb is the site revered as the burial place of the matriarch Rachel. The tomb has been considered holy to Jews and Christians for 2,000 years and to Muslims for 1,400 years. According to Jewish tradition, Rachel wept from her tomb as the Jews passed it on their way to the Babylonian exile, and it subsequently became a pilgrimage site for prayer and continues to be until this day, especially on holidays and the Hebrew date commemorating Rachel’s death.

Ella Newell said, “Today we went to Rachel’s Tomb. I have never seen people Davening (praying) with such passion. Women were not just crying; they were sobbing. Since I have been in Israel, I have seen religion being a beautiful and passionate thing for people. The emotional experience that people feel in inanimate objects that have the sole significance of the belief in Judaism is something I have never experienced before. Here, I feel a sense of belonging and connection to my Judaism. Despite the conflict we learned about, we still ended the day being able to experience the value of the Jewish religion. I found hope in this experience, and hope that this is what brings us together despite our historical struggles.”

Also on Tuesday, some of our students participated in the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Conference. Lana Stern was one of the participants and she said the following:

“I went to the Anti-Defamation League of Israel 2019. This convention has only happened three times and I was honored to be a part of it. There were many seminars on a range of political topics with a diverse set of opinions. Political leaders such as Benny Gantz (Leader of Kachol V’Lavan) and Ayelet Shaked (Leader of the New Right) delivered speeches about their plans and beliefs and a myriad of other important figures spoke to us as well. Women’s rights were debated along with issues regarding Ultra-Orthodox communities and Israeli government elections. Panels on topics such as the protests going on in Israel and the values of shared living were discussed at length. This convention was truly eye opening and has given me an intense amount of information to think on as well as many different facets to each political argument that I will be contemplating. This opportunity was definitely one worth taking.”

Tuesday Evening, we hosted the Women of the Wall (Neshot Hakotel  הכותל נשות in Hebrew) representative Yochi Shapira. Women of the Wall is a group of Jewish women from Israel and abroad who strive to achieve the right to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty, and Women of the Wall works to make it a holy site where women can pray freely. Women of the Wall is comprised of women from all denominations of Judaism – Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Masorti, Renewal and Reconstructionist.

Women of the Wall not only seeks empowerment in group prayer and Torah reading at our most sacred site, but also strives for recognition of our prayer service by the legal and religious Israeli authorities, for the sake of all Jewish women. Our group, with a membership that is not only multi-denominational but spans the political spectrum, embodies a message of tolerance and pluralism.

For information about joining them at the Kotel for Rosh Hodesh services, click here to a video of the Women of the Wall.

Aliya Markowitz said, “We had the privilege of listening to Yochi, one of the incredible leaders from Women of the Wall. During her presentation, we learned about the ongoing struggles for women in Judaism with particular regard to women’s rights praying at the Western Wall. We learned that until very recently women were bared from wearing Talit or wrapping Tefillin at the wall and still struggle to have a single Torah from which they can pray from.  This was one of the most meaningful programs we’ve had this year as it truly forced us, as Jews, to reconcile the fact that there are aspects of Israel that are blatantly sexist and discriminatory. I personally am inspired to join Women of the Wall at their next Rosh Chodesh group because I fully believe in their mission to fight for the right of women being able to pray freely at the holiest site for the Jewish people.”

This week on Selah: This week on Selah, we started the two-week topic of Jewish warfare. Studying about Maimonidies and the laws of Kings and wars, we learned the song Vehi Sheamda by Yonatan Razel and had a great class with Rami Budow about the civil war between the 11 tribes and Benjamin. This Thursday we went to the Maale Film School for a workshop where the students created their own short films around the Jaffa gate, getting into the shoes of moral questions and dilemmas, while directing, acting, filming and editing.  To end this week we saw the movie “Barriers” about dilemmas at an Israeli Check Point in Judea and Samaria.

This week in Parsha & Pizza: In this week’s Parsha and Pizza with Rabbi Josh, we had a lively and informative discussion on a variety of topics that relate to Judaism in the Modern Age. We specifically explored the concept of Feminism in the Jewish tradition, which led to a broader discussion on tradition and innovation in Jewish practice. The students brought up a lot of good points and discussions from their Tiyul on Tuesday and Women of the Wall, and were really able to connect all the topics this week and hear many different points of view.

Internship in the Spotlight: Hey, I’m Michael Sanders and I’ve been working for Prop Tech 360 by HLC Equity, a company that runs the largest and only property/technology conference once a year in Israel. I’ve done a lot of work at this internship, expanding my range of abilities and learning quickly. I’ve created presentations, found sponsors and media partners for the conference, researched accredited investors and helped community managers set up events. This internship has given a new importance to my day; I leave feeling productive and accomplished, as if what I’ve done is actually impacting the company and helping the business. I appreciate how this internship will give me work experience for a career in business and possibly real estate or investment. Aardvark has really given me a fantastic opportunity for growth and learning, and this internship has really made a difference to my time here on Aardvark’s Program.

In addition, over the next month, our recruiting team, Simon, Shani and Gal, will be travelling around North America and London recruiting for next year. If you know people who might be interested, then please ask them to contact us to set up a meeting.  See attached fliers for the cities we will be visiting in the USA. In addition, Simon will be visiting Vancouver at the end of November and London at the beginning of December.

Next week, we will be touring different spots in Jerusalem with Ir-Amim. Ir-Amim is an organization that envisions a city that ensures the dignity and welfare of all its residents and safeguards their holy places, historical and cultural heritages – today, as well as in the future.

We will also be attending a pottery painting class and an activity remembering Yitzchak Rabin, z”l. Yitzhak Rabin was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77, and 1992 until his assassination in 1995.

Shabbat Shalom!

Natali Basel





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Jerusalem 9462503

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