We have enjoyed another jam-packed week here at Aardvark Jerusalem:
On Sunday, the Madrichim sat with the students to do an activity as part of the program “My Israeli Journey”, a special program that we run on Aardvark. The goal is for the students to learn how to process their experience from Israel in a fun, interactive and educational way. This time the students were given a task to arrange puzzle pieces according to what they see, starting from a small blur to a big clear picture. Then we talked about how to look at their experience from the inside as a participant and from the outside as a process and why it is important to process the experiences we undergo during the year.
On Monday, after our regular routine of internship and academics, we visited the amazing Tower of David Light Show and saw the history of Jerusalem played out in front of our eyes on the walls of the Old City. It was an exciting and new way to see the history we had learned about all our lives.
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 that was dug in the 7th or 8th century BCE. Sydney Feldman said it was amazing to think that this tunnel was built thousands of years ago and yet it has never collapsed – a true representation of Jerusalem. Walking through the water tunnels, some of us turned off our flashlights and held onto one another to figure the way out. Mikey Szabo really added to the fun atmosphere with his red speaker and music blasting throughout the tunnel.
During the afternoon, some of the students attended an annual ceremony sponsored by the Association of Canadians and Americans in Israel (AACI) in a nearby forest in Sha’ar Hagai. The ceremony was dedicated to American-Israeli and Canadian-Israeli soldiers who fell defending Israel and victims of terror. It was a very special ceremony and we were proud to be a part of it. The woman in the photo below is the Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Deborah Lyons.
On Wednesday night some of the group went to the neighborhood of Nahlaot for a “Selichot” tour with Rabbi Marc. We walked around while listening to different songs about forgiveness and changes. We even sang together some of the Yom Kippur chants. 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 led to the students opening up and sharing some their own thoughts. They had meaningful insightful and thoughtful conclusions regarding Yom Kippur and their own personal challenges. It was an exciting and powerful experience.
On Thursday, all of us were preparing for Yom Kippur, drinking lots of water and eating lots of food. We are all looking forward to spending a meaningful and spiritual Yom Kippur together in Jerusalem.
On Selah this week we had an amazing experience on Monday doing a Yom Kippur Preparation Workshop. We went to three different stations around the city and met three different teachers who each focus us on the different Jewish themes of the holidays. We started sitting around an enormous ladder sculpture in Givat Mordechai where we learned about Jacob’s Ladder as a metaphor for prayer in general and the quest for spirituality. We then dipped our toes in the Lion’s Fountain, read the prayer ‘Ashamnu, Bagadnu’, and spoke about our relationships. Finally, we went to visit the Great Synagogue where we ran through the prayer service order for Yom Kippur and thought about how best to connect to the prayer book on the day itself. Thursday saw us continue our classes and go deeper with our teachers and Chevruta studies.
Yesterday (Thursday, September 28) marked our first full month on Aardvark, we can’t believe how fast the time is going and can’t wait to continue learning and growing and having the most incredible year. Micha Stegers told us today that he thinks he does not ever want to leave! We are excited for the future and looking forward to the upcoming meaningful moments.
I want to wish you all G’mar Chatima Tova and a meaningful fast. May you be sealed in the book of life.