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Weekly Updates


Weekly Updates – Jerusalem October 31, 2019

Dear Aardvark Jerusalem Families,

Another great week on Aardvark Jerusalem is ending, and as always, I have numerous experiences, pictures, and stories for you. Find yourself a comfortable spot on the couch and we will be ready to start.

On Saturday Night, the clocks went back an hour, and everyone was very excited to have an extra hour of sleep, after the jam-packed week we had in the desert.

Also on Saturday night, the students threw Amit Harir a surprise going to Marva Army Program party. The students decorated the Moadon, sang him farewells songs, ate lots of snacks and hung out in the Moadon for one last night before Amit left for Marva.

Marva is an 8-week military experience, and we can’t wait to hear about Amit’s experience, and for him to re-join us in December!

On Sunday evening for apartment meetings, we had a Boys & Girls Night!

The boys met with Madrichim Tomer and Rafi and went to Gan Sacher to have a special bonding program. First, they split up into pairs and led each other blindfolded through an obstacle course to practice trust. The pairs then described drawings to each other back to back to try to communicate the picture that they were looking at. Afterwards, they split up into groups of three and had to work together to collect objects that were scattered around the park. One person was blindfolded and had to trust his teammates who had to communicate between themselves and then to him, where to walk to try to collect as many objects as possible. They then rotated the groups of three so that everyone had the chance to experience the difficulties of communicating. They finally transitioned to the last challenge. The entire group of 16 boys had to work together to pass a “Spider Web” that was set up between two trees. Using the teamwork and communication skills that they had worked on during the evening, they worked together to help each other pass through the spider web and reach the other side.

The girls met with Tamar in the Moadon for an intimate activity on getting to know each other better and empowering one another as girls.

Rachel Egenberg said, “On Sunday, we had a bonding girls’ night. It was honestly so nice for us girls to be around each other without the boys and I feel like we all became a lot closer through this experience.  We got to talk to one another and enjoy each other’s presence along with being assigned to stare at each other’s eyes for four minutes. Yes, four minutes of full on starring. At first I felt very unsure about this task because A) I’m not close with this person and B) maintaining eye contact with someone can just be awkward and a little intimidating. As soon as the time came to stare at my partner I wasn’t sure that I could last, but that changed when she smiled at me and complimented my eyes. It made smile and I felt very chilled and less nervous. I really enjoyed sharing a small moment with that person because I already knew what good things I wanted to write about her and even though she and I aren’t close, I definitely felt comfortable around her. I think it’s a beautiful thing to share a small moment with someone else and to get away from everything around you and to focus on what’s in front of you. The bonding experience was a 10/10 and I would love to do it again with the girls.”

On Monday Evening, together with the Tel Aviv students, we went to the Masa Fellows Festival 2019! This year’s event was about the Masa Community, and for the very first time it included a wide variety of experiences that help to create connections between Masa fellows, both past and present, from different programs and backgrounds. There were many activities to do such as a chess tournament, building a bicycle for children, Krav-Maga, juggling and hula hooping, and more, that the students were able to participate in before the main event!

The opening ceremony finally began and the students couldn’t contain their excitement when Netta Barzilai (Eurovision 2018 Winner!) hit the stage! The students sang along to all of her songs! The evening continued with DJ Ami Kaisar and the students really danced up a storm!

Benji Pincus said, “We left at 3:30PM from Jerusalem to go to the MASA opening event at the amphitheatre in Ranaana Park where we were assigned numbers, which correlated to the group we were in. These groups were mixed with all different programs, which were tasked with building a bike. We were later told that in addition to aiding mingling and teamwork, the bikes would be donated to underprivileged children. From there we were invited to the stage where everyone raved to the 2018 Israeli Eurovision winner Netta where she sang her hit songs “Toy,” “Bassa Sababa,” and “Nana Banana.” The event was absolute craziness and full of fun. Unfortunately, we had to leave at 10:30PM but the party was going strong. This was the best introduction to the MASA family!!”

On Tuesday afternoon, we left Jerusalem to visit a Bedouin village outside of the city. We met a political journalist who lives in a nearby town who explained the situation in the area to us. As we were talking to him about the lives of the Bedouin, one of the older men of the village walked up to us and gladly answered any questions we had about their way of life. Afterwards, the students travelled to the Ein Mebua spring located not far from there. Travelling the road to Ein Mabua Spring is an adventure in its own right as you snake over, below, and around the desert mountains until you finally plunge towards the Ein Mabua parking lot. A concrete swimming pool met them, which is officially the Ein Mabua Spring. This pool fills and empties intermittently from underground rainwater seeping from the hills of Jerusalem. Some of the students took a beautiful short hike downstream through the large desert gorge. The students ended the day by enjoying a chill BBQ at Director Debbie’s house with her family and we had a very fun evening together, laughing, sharing stories, playing the guitar, and enjoying each other’s company!

Marcy Gurspan said, “Visiting the Bedouin village was such a fascinating experience and I really enjoyed it. The trip started off with us walking through their neighborhood and listening to a journalist who lives nearby speak about their lives and how they live. As he was speaking, two little Bedouin boys were running around laughing and yelling and it was so adorable to watch. Even though they may have been “distracting”, to me that added to my experience because I liked seeing the children playing together and being so happy and content at their home. They were able to run around on all of the rocks barefoot because they clearly adapted to their environment, which was really cool to see. I also had the opportunity to support them by buying a little doll that was handcrafted by the Bedouin girls. I’m very glad I have it so I can look back and remember being there. We walked around more after that and got to see more of the village, some art on the walls, speak to some people who live there, and see a lot of goats and other animals. The whole experience was so incredibly interesting and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to go there. So many people only get to see life through their own lifestyle, so it was great getting to see an entirely different way of life.”

This week in Current Events class: In class, we learned about the case of Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old American-Israeli being held in prison in Russia over 9 grams of marijuana that was found in her bag during her connecting flight back from India. She’s being tried for smuggling, which is an absurd accusation considering her situation. Naama is also being used as leverage by the Russian government who want the return of a Russian prisoner in Israel, Alexei Borkov, who allegedly stole credit card information from thousands of Americans.

October in Review by Eli Klausner

The month of October was full of great memorable moments. We had a blast rolling down the Sand Dunes at Kibbutz Ketura, witnessed the musical sensation that is Netta Barzilai at the infamous Masa annual event in Park Raanana, built a Sukkah and danced our little hearts out on Simchat Torah during the holidays, and had an amazing BBQ at the head of Aardvark’s house. We spent an afternoon in a Bedouin village and went on a graffiti tour in Nachlaot! 

While spending our previous week in Kibbutz Ketura near Eilat, we went to the incredible Sand Dunes. Everyone was given free time to go exploring and complete freedom to roll, flip, and surf down the dunes. After that, we split up to individually understand the desert by dissecting a quote from a book called Honey In the Rock, by Lawrence Kushner, reflect on our time in Israel, and later met as a group to further understand its meaning and share what the time alone at the dunes meant for each of us.

Once a year Masa has a huge opening event, where participants in their different programs can meet and friendships can be created. This year, Israel’s latest winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, a singer known as Netta, performed her hit songs. There were over a thousand Masa participants at the event and each and every one of them were having a blast. 

Aardvark gave us a very relaxed schedule during the week of Sukkot so many of us left to go see friends for the first and last days. For the first few days, I travelled to Karnei Shomron to spend time with my extended family. On Wednesday, Aardvark took us to the Kotel to witness the blessings of the Kohanim. During the holiday of Simchat Torah, I went around the corner to the Great Synagogue and danced with the Torah. Others spent their time at different synagogues and some went to the incredibly crowded Kotel. This past week, we hiked to a Bedouin village and learned about the struggles of their inhabitants. We learned how Israel wouldn’t support them and the Palestinian communities wouldn’t assist them because each believes they are collaborating with the other one. Later on, we went to Yishuv Alon and had a tasty BBQ with Debbie, a co-founder and Director of Aardvark, and were educated on how settlements work in Israel. It’s crazy that just with one person having the idea, a library, community watch and garden are created. 

The month of October was full of Holidays, educational trips, and unforgettable experiences, such as Netta’s performance, rolling down the Sand Dunes, and dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah. There’s no telling what next month may hold, but if it’s half as good as October, it’ll be awesome!

Internship in the Spotlight: My name is Yael Seaman and I’m from Baltimore, Maryland.  I work at a Gan (preschool) called Toddler Town. Going there is the absolute highlight of my day on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Everyone there, including the children, is so warm and welcoming. In addition, all of the teachers treat me like an equal, which has helped me learn many new skills already. I have built such strong connections with everyone within a short amount of time that I feel like we’ve been friends for a really long time when in reality it’s only been a short while. I’m so grateful for Toddler Town for giving me the opportunity to work with them and for Charlee for finding me this amazing and life changing internship.

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 the 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 visiting a Haunted House, learn about the Separation Wall in Jerusalem, and meet with the Women of the Wall! Its going to be a LEGEN-DERY!

Shabbat Shalom!

Natali Basel





Aardvark Israel Tel Aviv:
39 Levinsky Street, 2nd Floor
Tel Aviv 6610910
Aardvark Israel Jerusalem:
3 Ezrat Yisrael Street
Jerusalem 9462503

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