gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

We have enjoyed another great week with beautiful hot weather. Here is a bit more about some of the experiences that we have had this past week.

Every Sunday evening, the students have an apartment meeting with their madrich/a. This week, Shahar made refrigerator magnets with her apartments. Chaya spent her apartment meetings checking in with the students about their impressions of the program so far. Reuben and his students spent time reviewing the schedule of the week and talking about the highlights and low-lights of the last week.

On Monday, those who were brave enough went to the Crazy Mary Horror Maze. I personally am very afraid of these things, but our students showed great courage. And most of them also made it through the advanced levels in the maze. The lowest level is 1 and the highest is 9. Most of us completed level 6. Believe me, it was scary and we heard plenty of screams and “aaaaaahhhhh!!!! Mommy I’m scared!” There was also a lot of hand holding, huddling together and reassurances among the students. They certainly were there for each other to help overcome the fear. And, there was of course a lot of laughing throughout the maze as well!

On Tuesday our field trip was to the City of David archaeological site just outside the walls of the Old City. During our visit, we walked through water in the ancient Hezekiah’s Tunnel which was dug in the 7th or 8th century BCE. One of the students said it was amazing to think that this tunnel was built thousands years ago and yet it has never collapsed – a true representation of Jerusalem.

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 64 years old, she is a teacher of Jewish spirituality and lives as any religious woman in Jerusalem might. Yiscah shared with us that her desire to be “honest with God” compelled her to give up her old life as a man, but her struggle to accept herself took five decades. In addition to sharing her story with us and answering questions, she also read to us 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, Asher Goldberg really moved us all and Yiscah commented as well on how his question really touched the heart of why she speaks to groups. He asked “What do you think we should take from your life story and what advice do you have for us at this early stage in our own lives?” Her answer, that she “hopes that everyone will live a life of authenticity and will have the courage to live according to their own truth and passion.” If you would like to hear from Yiscah yourselves, check out her TEDx talk online by clicking here.

In this week’s Parsha and Pizza we learnt about the Torah portion of Ki Teitse. This portion is famous for having the most amount of commandments of any other Torah portion (74 Mitzvot!). Among the all the different laws we focused on the laws of war and taking prisoners as well as the limits of using force. A 15th century commentary from Spain, the Akeidat Yitzchak, teaches that war is not just something that soldiers do, but in actual fact we are all embroiled in conflicts and battle between our different values and wishes, our bodies and our souls.

This was an exciting week for the Israeli Military Track as they headed to the shooting range to learn a skill that they were all looking forward to… how to shoot a gun. At Israel’s Olympic Shooting Range in Herzelia, they learned first and foremost about gun safety and then how to actually shoot correctly. They had the chance to practice on 6 different weapons. Later in the week, the group viewed a movie called “Waltz With Bashir” that deals with the first Lebanon War. After the film, the group talked about dilemmas that soldiers deal with during war.

This week also was the start of our academic courses so now the students are busy learning about the Arab Israeli Conflict, Israel Advocacy, Jewish Medical Ethics, the Art of Reading and Writing, Midrash, and more!

Next week in Jerusalem will include a Graffiti Tour of Jerusalem and Challah Baking as well as much more!

Selah is off this weekend to on amazing Shabbaton in Judean Desert.
Raabi Marc will update you with more details ,on a separate e-mail next week

Shabbat Shalom,

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael