Weekly Updates – Jerusalem September 26, 2019
Dear Aardvark Jerusalem Families,
It has been an amazing week. We have had a great time traveling and running fun activities for your children and now I’m excited to tell you about the week’s highlights. Here we go:
On Sunday evening, the Madrichim met with the students for their apartment meetings. The Madrichim ran an activity about being a “Mensch”; they watched an inspiring video and talked about the meaning of being a “Mensch” and people in their lives who they think are “Mensches”. One student even said that he thinks a Mensch is an honorable title and one really needs to earn it. A few of the other student mentioned you, their parents, as Mensches in their lives.
The students then received a Periodic table with positive mensch qualities and chose five characteristics that they have. The Madrichim handed out little mirrors that the students decorated with their Menschly qualities. The mirrors went up in the students’ bedrooms so that they can wake up every morning, look in the mirror and be inspired by and embrace their amazing characteristics.
Each month we will hold a ceremony where students who have helped the community, their friends, and use their character to influence their surroundings positively, will receive a Limited Edition Aardvark Mensch shirt. We are looking forward to handing out the honorable and prestigious Mensch shirts in the near future!
On Monday evening, we went rock climbing at a local rock climbing gym. All of the students learned how to belay and had a really good time. We used this activity for team building and to aid group dynamics as well!
On Tuesday, we went on a trip to Gush Etzion located in the West Bank. We started the day with a visit to “Mitzpe HaElef”, the highest point in the area, a 1,000-meter high lookout with a view of Gush Etzion and the surrounding area. We heard an explanation about the geography and history of the area. From there we went on a hike of “Derech HaAvot”, The Road of the Patriarchs, a route that was used in ancient times to visit Jerusalem. We passed an ancient mikvah and a roman milestone and heard about their uses during that era. From there, we reached an observation point which was built in memory of the 3 boys who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014, and heard a recorded explanation of those events. We kept walking and we reached The Lone Oak, a 700-year-old oak tree, where we heard about the military operation “Protective Edge” that was launched because of the kidnapping, and the personal viewpoints of the Madrichim who were serving in the IDF at that time. After lunch, we visited “Roots”, an organization devoted to coexistence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank. We listened to two different people and heard their viewpoints, one is an American Jew that made Aliyah and came to live here and the other is a Palestinian who grew up in the West Bank. Hearing both of them opened us up to different perspectives and their ideas on how to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Leah Matthys said, “Living in Jerusalem is super complicated. There are so many issues, and living here every day you don’t always feel the conflict. Today, on our trip to the West Bank, you really really felt the conflict. The way the political issues affect everyday life for Arabs and Israelis living in settlements is so different than for me living in the Israeli part of Jerusalem. Today, we visited a place in the West Bank where Israelis and Arabs work together to educate and strive for peace. Amazing! Seeing the conflict is hard and can be scary, but it’s so cool to see the ways people are fighting against the conflict affecting our daily lives and perceptions of others. This is such a special special place!”
On Thursday, we met in the morning for our class followed by internships and volunteering. However, before everyone dispersed for the day, Rabbi Josh helped us put up the Mezuzot in the classrooms of our new building! We all said the blessing together and helped Rabbi Josh with this Mitzvah! What a great way to start the New Year!
For Selah Add-on: Our first Selah Topic: “Diving into the Blue” evolved around the color of Tchelet, and Spirituality. On Sunday we on our first Tanach Tiuyl, to Wadi Qelt and Nachal Prat, learning about King David, about the necessity of water, diving into water pools in the middle of the Judean Desert, playing games and working on our group dynamic.
Thursday was our first Selah Space in the new offices, we have a weekly song session, a weekly group dynamic game, we started our Chavruta learning and we went into deep discussion regarding the Talmudic story of the Tzitzit and the prostitute, through which we went into the topic of spirituality. Every week we enjoy story time from the world-renowned storyteller Hanoch Teller, who is intriguing, telling Jewish short stories related to our Selah Topics, and the students connected to the story on a deep level.
On Friday, we left early in the morning to Hof Dor where we learned about the Tchelet through diving in the sea and finding snails, creating the color ourselves using an ancient method of coloring, and learning from Mois Navon of the Ptil Tchelet organization. From the beach we continued to spend Shabbat in the holy city of Tzfat. There we had an incredibly spiritual time that included Challah Baking with Chana, a Haar’i experience with a spiritual musician/tour guide called Shalom, lectures, Kabbalat Shabbat dancing with hundreds of people and soldiers in the streets of the Jewish Quarter, Shabbat meals, singing, Stump the Rabbi, a picnic at the Fortress of Tzfat, a tour of the Singing Cave, and concluded with a great Havdallah party. Our next Topic is the “Calling of the Shofar” where we will prepare for the High Holidays in Israel.
Next week, is Rosh Hashanah, and we are resume classes and Internships Wednesday!
We are very happy and proud to say that many of our students have become close to each over these four short weeks together and have invited each other to spend the holiday with their family and friends across Israel. We are making sure that each and every student has a plan for the holiday and will not be left alone.
Shabbat Shalom & Shana Tova U’Metuka!