gap year in israel

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Dear Parents & Students,

We have enjoyed another jam-packed week here on Aardvark Jerusalem.

Here are some highlights from the week:

On Sunday afternoon, at our apartment meetings, we discussed how the organs in our body work together to help us function. We used this as a metaphor for our apartments and each one of us chose which organ or body part we thought represents us in the apartment’s dynamic. We also learned about Yom Kippur, specifically how it is a time for us not only to repent but also to work on ourselves as individuals.

On Sunday evening, we met our neighbors and toasted the New Year.

Rachel Popky said, “It was really nice meeting the people who live next door to us. They were so sweet and invited us for Shabbat and Holiday meals and they even offered some of us babysitting jobs! I’m going to take them up on their offer and go over for a Shabbat meal and really make the most of living in in Katamonim.”

On Monday night, some of the group went to the Nahlaot neighborhood for a “Selichot” tour with Rabbi Marc. We walked around while listening to different songs about forgiveness and changes. We even sang some of the Yom Kippur chants together. Nachalot is a magical place, especially at night. Thousands of thousands of people go every night to see the synagogues and hear the prayers. The special atmosphere created by mixing music, amazing architecture and interesting explanations by Rabbi Marc, enabled the students to open up and share some of their own thoughts. They had meaningful insights, thoughts, and conclusions regarding Yom Kippur and their own personal challenges. It was an exciting and powerful experience.

Avi Bendayan said, “It was such a unique and alternative way to do selichot. Rabbi Marc really was able to connect to each one of us through the music.”

Tuesday had all of us preparing for Yom Kippur, drinking lots of water and eating lots of food. Liad Zafrani said, “I began the holiday by going to a Moroccan synagogue with my friend Elan. The service was wonderful, the tunes were familiar to me from home, but still different and thoroughly enjoyable. The next day I woke up at 9AM and walked to the Kotel with Simon Schiller. We left the Kotel at around 1 and relaxed for a bit. I then returned to the Moroccan synagogue (where I began the holiday) for the rest of the services. Then I had an incredible break fast at Ethan Havarkey’s Uncle’s house. It was a very unique Yom Kippur unlike any I have experienced before.”

On Wednesday night, after the fast, we went outside and built our Sukkah. It is a mitzvah (good deed) to build your Sukkah after the fast. Many of the students showed up and we played music and had a really great time while putting it together.

“Every year I look forward to building our sukkah with my family so we can welcome all of our guests that make the holiday very special. It is also a time to bond as a family and to grow closer and have fun building the sukkah. This year was no different when I helped to build the sukkah with my Aardvark family. It was a fun bonding experience completing the mitzvah of building the sukkah for our community”, said Yoni Ben-Naim.

Internship In the Spotlight by Ethan Harkavy:

My internship is at the Jerusalem Aquarium. The aquarium’s exhibits are based upon the four major bodies of water in Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Kineret, and the Dead Sea. My job is to take care of and feed the fish. I’ve been learning about all the different types of fish here in Israel. I also really like how my supervisor speaks to me in Hebrew, and my Hebrew is definitely improving because of that. The other workers have already invited me to go on a fishing trip with them and have really made me feel welcome. This is the best internship for me because I really love fish.

This week on Selah:

Saturday night saw us return home late from our amazing opening Shabbat experience in Tsfat. We stayed in the Ascent Center for Kabbala and Hassidism where we had a moving and spiritual weekend of prayer, song, food and fun. The group really bonded and had an opportunity to eat one of the meals with some local Lubavitch families. The Shabbat ended with a raucous Havdalah ceremony together with musical instruments, dancing and over 100 people on the rooftop.

On Monday morning we had a guided tour of Yad Sarah, Israel’s largest volunteer organization that assists hundreds of thousands of Israelis each year. We learnt about the foundation of Yad Sarah in the late 1970s and saw first-hand the incredible range of services and help they offer. As it was the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it was an appropriate time to think about the charity we give and the kind acts we all can do.

The morning after Yom Kippur, we went to visit the Shuk Arba Minim, one of a number of centers in Jerusalem for purchasing the Lulav, Etrog, willow and myrtle as well as all things Sukkah related. We had a great time hunting for the biggest Etrog and the most expensive Lulav! We ended the week late on Thursday morning with a trip to Maale Film School, Israel’s only school dedicated to Jewish filmmaking. We met Emanuel Cohn, an actor and screenwriter who showed us his incredible movie ‘The Little Dictator’. We had a go at writing our own movie plots and a chance to talk film theory and Jewishness in a truly innovative way.

This week in Academics:

The class on the Art of Reading and Writing focused on both personal writing and academic writing. On Monday the students wrote their own poems and journal entries and discussed them in a peer review format. On Thursday, we explicated a poem and the students wrote a thesis statement defending it with text-based analysis. The students are learning how to recognize and use the poetic devices in their own writing.

The Madrich on call for this weekend is Shalhevet and the Madrich on call for Sukkot is Maia.

Chag Sukkot Sameach,