gap year in israel

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Dear Parents and Students,

Our first week in Jerusalem was a busy, eventful and exciting one. Here are some highlights:

The week began on Monday with the students arriving, beginning to settle into their new apartments, and meeting their roommates and their madrichim. They have been enjoying getting to know one other and acclimating to their new environment. We had a lovely welcome dinner and spent the evening playing some icebreaker games.

On Tuesday, we started the day by eating breakfast together and then we split up into apartments for an activity about how to budget as an apartment and learn how to live together as roommates. The madrichim took the students on a tour of the neighborhood, showing them all the essential places in the area, such as where to do their laundry, where to shop and the local hairdresser. The last stop was the local supermarket where we had our first shopping trip. We then went back to our apartments and cooked our first meal together!

Later that day we went into town to get bus passes and to have a tour of Mahaneh Yehudah Shuk (market) where we had a taste of Israeli culture and food. We then returned to the apartments and cooked dinner together before packing for our two-day trip to the Golan.

After joining the Tel Aviv group on Wednesday, we drove up north to the Golan Heights for our first overnight Tiyul (hiking trip.) Our first stop was a hike through the waters of “Nahal HaKibbutzim.” It was hot outside so everyone enjoyed the refreshing and cooling dip in the river. One of the hike’s highlights were the slides that connect portions of the stream from one end to the other. The next site we visited was an amazing viewpoint called Mitzpe Ofir where we took advantage of the stunning panorama to hold our official opening ceremony.

After checking into our guesthouse for the evening, we had a safety and security talk with Debbie and a health session with Shay-El. We enjoyed a lovely dinner together, followed by a night activity planned by the amazing madrichim. It was called ‘Games of Aardvark’ and we had to complete different tasks to save Rabbi Marc from the dragons.

On Thursday, we went to the Mitzpe Gadot viewpoint. There we learned about the history of the Golan Heights particularly during the times of the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. We understood what a privilege it is to have this amazing piece of land as part of the country of Israel, and how strategically important it is to Israel. We then hiked through Nachal Chatzbani where we walked through water and were able to escape from the hot sun and go for a swim. We learned about how the water was actually snow and ice from the Hermon Mountain, and that during the summer it melts and becomes the Chatzbani River. Even though it was hot, our troopers did the hike with enthusiasm and helped each other during the tough parts. To end our time in the Golan we went to the Kinneret where we had time to swim and relax. On the way back to Jerusalem no one could stop talking about how much fun they had and the new friends they had made.

On Friday morning, we had an activity that focused on the way we usually do not stop to think about our daily routines and how busy we are until Shabbat. Then, splitting into apartments, we spoke about the atmosphere we would like during Shabbat in our surroundings. We were then given free time to visit the Shuk on Friday and cook for our potluck Shabbat lunch.

On Friday night, we went to the Kotel (Western Wall) and for some of us it was our first time visiting the holy site. We danced and sang in front of the famous wall, we went and placed notes inside and had a chance to pray.

Afterwards we had an amazing dinner filled with song and lots of laughter, and an inspirational talk from our campus Rabbi (Rabbi Marc). He spoke to us about taking advantage of this moment and this year, and how we should enjoy every step and challenge that we will experience in this City of Gold. We returned to the apartments on foot and enjoyed a lovely walk with the Jerusalem breeze cooling us down, as we all became even better acquainted with one another.

On Shabbat morning, we had a delicious potluck lunch that the students cooked themselves (!!!!!). After a Shabbat rest in the afternoon, we offered the students the choice of three sessions – yoga, a basketball game, or a historical walking tour in the neighborhood with Rabbi Marc.

Following that, we had seudat shlishit (the third meal of Shabbat) and a musical Havdalah.

What an INCREDIBLE first week!! Next week is looking even better!!!

Below you can find next week’s schedule.

In two weeks, the Jewish world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah. We encourage our students to go out and experience Rosh Hashanah with family or friends. Please be in touch with your children if you can suggest host families for them. We, the staff, will help the students make the most out of this holiday season and of course help to find host families.

All the best,