gap year in israel

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Dear Parents and Students,

On Sunday evening Simchat Torah began. Simchat Torah is the holiday that celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle.

On Monday night the holidays ended and we finally returned to our regular schedule!!

On Tuesday afternoon, we went on a Graffiti Tour of the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem and learned all about the city’s fabulous street art. Through the art, we learnt more about the political situation in the country and the different opinions of the people in this diverse city.

Barri Miller said, “The graffiti was so colorful and vivid. It was so beautiful to see art on the streets of Jerusalem and hear the stories and history behind the graffiti. We also got to know one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the city – Nachlaot. There was one piece that stood out to me in particular and it was a split picture. On one side, there was a materialistic world that was more on the secular and nonreligious side while the other side had heaven and all the values of Judaism. In the centre of the picture was a man confused and deciding which side to choose. I feel like this specific piece of art resonated the most with me because we are her to better connect with our Jewish faith and the graffiti perfectly described that.”

On Tuesday evening, we heard a fascinating lecture by Yiscah Smith, a transgender woman who previously lived an ultra-orthodox lifestyle and fathered six children while living in the Old City of Jerusalem. Now 65 years old, she is a teacher of Jewish spirituality and lives as any religious woman in Jerusalem. Yiscah shared with us that her desire to be “honest with God” compelled her to give up her life as a man, but her struggle to accept herself took five decades. In addition to telling us her story and answering questions, she also read key selections from her book “Forty Years in the Wilderness: My Journey to Authentic Living.” It was fascinating to hear the sensitive and thoughtful questions asked by our students at the end of the lecture. In particular, if you would like to hear from Yiscah yourselves, check out her TEDx talk online by clicking here.

Yoni Ben-Naim said, “It was amazing to hear about her transformation in life and to realize that we are all going through some transformation and we need to live a life that is authentic to our real selves.”

Internship in the Spotlight by Becca Carin:

I intern at Yad Vashem. I really like my internship for two reasons. I’ve been learning how to work in an office setting, how to be presentable, and how to communicate with my co-staff and boss. Also, part of my job is to take photos and assist in tours for the VIPs and donors that come to visit the Museum. I love this part because I get to use my talent and my passion for photography.

This week we had the first Parsha and Pizza since the holiday of Simchat Torah. The holiday marks the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of a new one. This meant that this week we got to study the very first part of the very first book of the Torah – Bereishit (Genesis). Rabbi Marc summarized the story of the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, the snake, and the tree in the Garden of Eden. Reading the first chapter, which describes how God created the world in six days, was a perfect opportunity for a frank conversation about science and religion and the clash between evolutionary theory, the Big Bang, and fundamentalist readings of the Bible. We also listened to a moving song by the Icelandic musician Bjork about the wonders and myths of the origin of the universe and human beings. The final part of the evening was spent talking about Cain and Abel, the first brothers, and the first act of murder. It was amazing to think about the origins of morality and Rabbi Marc showed us how the great American novelist John Steinbeck connected his great work East of Eden to the story of Cain and Abel.

Selah returned to action this week. We began with a Mexican-themed breakfast at Rabbi Marc’s house followed by an intensive Jewish identity activity. Each student was asked to respond to prompts about their Jewish lives. They spent close to an hour writing their replies on different colored strips of paper before we made our very own art-inspired Jewish identity fan. This was a warm-up exercise for the students who this week will have their first one-on-one Jewish coaching sessions with the Rabbi. Each month the students will have a fantastic opportunity for some regular personal reflection, to work on their Jewish learning and their growth goals for the year. After a deserved break, we began our Learning Space with a class about the book of Tehillim (Psalms) and another class about ‘Revolutions in Jewish Thought’. We ended our day with a song session with our beloved teachers Nili and Keith who focused our attention on the rhythms of the week and where Shabbat fits in.

We asked one of our teachers to talk about the academic classes and this week we will focus on ‘Contemporary Israeli Politics’ taught by Rabbi Marc. He said, “As this was the first class back after the Jewish holidays we did a quick catch-up on recent events in and around Israel. We began to focus on our end of semester assignment. Each student will be giving a 10-minute oral presentation about a subject of their choice concerning Israel’s domestic or foreign affairs. In order to help the students research their topics we surveyed the different newspapers and online news outlets in Israel and heard about the different ideologies, readerships and biases of each one. We ended the week with an introduction to next week’s unit of study – Israel’s 2011 Social Justice protest movements. We will be studying the causes and impact of Israel’s largest ever mass demonstration and talking about Israel’s economy.”

This coming Sunday I will be meeting with all of the students for our monthly community talk. At the community talk, I will go over the trips and events from the last month, and also tell them about this coming month’s activities and schedule. I will also be introducing a health style workshop on how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. As the Rambam said, “A healthy body, is a healthy mind.”

All the best,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael