Weekly Updates – Jerusalem September 10, 2019
Dear Aardvark Jerusalem Families,
It has been an amazing week! We have had a great time meeting your children and I am excited to tell you about all of the highlights from the past week. Here we go:
As you know, the students arrived throughout Monday and started to get to know each other and the staff and settle into their apartments. For lunch, we went across the road to a local falafel shop called Shalom Falafel. Later on, we had our first activity. Each madrich together with his or her apartment members had the chance to have a session that included icebreakers and the opportunity to get to know each other better.
Afterwards, all of the students headed to Nocturno, a café and restaurant up the road from the apartments, and enjoyed their first dinner together as a family!
On Tuesday, we started the day with breakfast together and then split up into apartments to have an activity on 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, such as where to do their laundry, where to shop and the local hairdresser. The last stop was Machane Yehuda Market (the Shuk) which is just a 5-minute walk from the apartments, where the students were able to buy groceries and ingredients to cook their first meal together.
Later that day, we went into the City Center to get bus passes and to have a tour of Mahaneh Yehudah Shuk, using a very cool App called BiteMojo, where we had a taste of Israeli culture and food. We returned to the apartments, cooked dinner together, and then packed for our two-day trip to the Kinneret and Eastern Galilee.
Joining the Tel Aviv group on Wednesday, we all drove up north for our first overnight Tiyul (hiking trip.) Our first stop was a hike through the waters of the “Nahal HaKibbutzim.” It was hot outside so everyone enjoyed the refreshing dip in the river. Many of the students used floats to float down the river and splash each other and they all used this opportunity to continue getting to know one another. The next site we visited was an amazing viewpoint called Har Shaul where everyone took advantage of the stunning panorama to take photos and where we held the official Aardvark official opening ceremony for the semester and year.
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!
On Thursday, we hiked up Mount Arbel it is located in Israel’s Lower Galilee region and stands sharply and prominently over the Sea of Galilee. Its graceful stature and steep slopes, particularly on the eastern side, provide magical views across the Sea of Galilee and beyond, to the Golan Heights, and Israel’s tallest peak, Mount Hermon. Designated as Mount Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, the mountain has beautiful observation points, hiking trails, archaeology and Biblical history!
Dug into the slopes of Mount Arbel are caves that were the hideouts for the Jews who fought against the Greeks and Romans. The Druze extended them in the 17th century, but the original caves are documented to date back to the second temple period. As well as the cliffs, Arbel houses an ancient synagogue, the ruins of which can be seen today.
After hiking up and down Mount Arbel, we cooled off with a swim in the Kinneret!
After a stop at the Kinneret Cemetery, where we learned about some famous Israelis who are buried there, we headed back home to Jerusalem!
On Friday morning, we had an activity that focused on the way in which often fail to stop and think about our daily routines and how busy we are until Shabbat begins. Then splitting into apartments, we spoke about the atmosphere we would like during Shabbat in our surroundings. We were then given free time to check out the Shuk on Friday and cook for our potluck Shabbat lunch.
On Friday night, we all went to the Kotel (Western Wall) and for some of us it was our first time seeing the holy site. We danced and sang in front of the famous wall, and even went and placed notes inside and had the chance to pray.
We had an amazing dinner filled with song and lots of laughter, and an inspirational talk from the head of Selah, Daniel Yehuda. He spoke to us about taking advantage of this moment and this year, and to enjoy every step and challenge that we will experience in the City of Gold. We walked back to the apartments and had a lovely stroll with the Jerusalem breeze cooling us down; at the same time we had the opportunity to get to know one other even better!
On Shabbat morning, some of the students went to the Great Synagogue for services, and then we had a delicious potluck lunch that the students had cooked themselves(!!!!!). After a Shabbat rest in the afternoon, we gave the students the choice of three activities – yoga, a basketball game, or an historical walking tour in the neighborhood with Daniel Yehuda.
As Shabbat came to an end, we had a Seudat Shlishit (third meal) picnic in Gan Sacher and a musical Havdalah.
One of our students, Ben Newman, summarized his first week in Israel with the following:
“On Monday, I met up with the Aardvark program people and moved to Jerusalem to settle into my apartment. We are centrally located in Nachlaot – a 5-minute walk from Machne Yehuda Market. I live with 3 other boys, only one of whom knows how to cook… we have lots of learning to do regarding living on our own in addition to living in a foreign country. The past few days have been orientation; we’ve been on explorations of the shuk; in the day when the vendors and commotion are exciting and in the night when the nightlife and music give the place a wholly different face. For two days, we took a trip to the North where we hiked and got to know to each other.
Back in Jerusalem for Shabbat, we went to the Western Wall and prayed – a moving experience full of song, dance, and spiritual energy. The collective passion and prayer creates a power in the air unlike any other. The western wall is the holiest spot for the Jews because it is the closest place we can get to the Holy of Holies – the rock where the Temple once stood. This rock is the rock from which we believe the earth was created. I pressed myself against the wall and spent a moment feeling the connection between body and spirit. Soon, we will start classes and internships – so much excitement and new experiences await!”
What an INCREDIBLE first week!! Next week is looking even better!!!
All the best,