Dear Parents & Students,
We have finished our second week of the program, and it was AMAZING!!!
Sunday began with internships in the morning followed by a session with our Academic Director, Daniel Rose, about academic lessons and the different classes we have to offer at Aardvark. The students then had some free time in order to clean their apartments and cook food for dinner. This was followed by individual apartment meetings with their relevant madrich or madricha.
On Monday we had our first Ulpan (Hebrew) seminar and everyone came out speaking more Hebrew than they did when they went in! On Monday evening, we had an optional night activity, bowling, and we had so much fun that the students already want to go bowling together again.
On Tuesday morning, everyone woke up bright and early and we went to the Old City of Jerusalem on a SEGWAY TOUR!!!!! For many of us this was our first time on a Segway and it was a little scary, but we got the hang of it and it was a novel way to see the Old City. We learned about the different quarters, such as the Jewish quarter, the Muslim quarter, the Christian quarter and the Armenian quarter. From there we rode our Segways to King David’s grave, and gave tribute to one of the Jewish kings. We also saw the Churva Synagogue that has been rebuilt 4 times over the years. We then had some free time to walk around the Mamilla Mall and go into town before Ulpan. Our madrichim have been making ulpan fun for us by bringing us daily snacks with a Hebrew quote attached. After ulpan, and after we cooked dinner, our madrichim called us all to the Ulam and split us into teams for a photo/video scavenger hunt in our neighborhood so we could get to know the area better and continue to get to know each other. The students had to do tasks such as singing the Israeli national anthem (HaTikvah) , finding our neighborhood sign, doing an Israeli dance at a bus stop, and finding Israel’s unofficial national animal (cats).
This week Selah began – our Jewish Identity track. On Monday we had our first Tanach Hike. We went to a place called Wadi Qelt, overlooking the Jordan Mountains and we hiked, splashed in water and learnt about Joshua and the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah who roamed the vicinity. Our guide challenged the group to go beyond what the eyes can see and to connect with our Biblical heritage. Thursday saw the group visit the Israel Museum. We were able to see a huge model of Second Temple era Jerusalem as well as the Dead Sea scrolls. We also hung out at the Israeli art exhibits, archaeology section and the Judaica display. While there, Rabbi Marc led a workshop about Jewish identity. Coming up next week is a visit to a religious film school, our first classes and study space as well as an uplifting Shabbaton in the mystical city of Tsfat.
This week we had our first Parsha and Pizza with Rabbi Marc. Each week all of our students are invited to come and study the weekly Torah portion, eat some pizza and have some great conversations about Judaism and Israel. This week’s portion is called Ki Tavo and is all about the Jewish people preparing for entry into the Land of Israel after wandering the desert for forty years. The people were commanded to bring an offering of the first fruits to the Temple. We watched a time-lapse video about fruit growing and did a mindfulness exercise whilst we ate a piece of fruit and savored its sweetness. Rabbi Marc explained the significance of offering the first fruits to God as a buffer against human arrogance. Sometimes we feel so proud of our achievements that we forget to recognize God’s role in everything. As one of the first commands given to people after entry to the land, perhaps the fear was that people would take Israel for granted and think the land was made bountiful only because of human hands and labor. Who knows, perhaps this is a lesson that can also be applied to the modern State of Israel?
An additional point: On Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), there is no programming. We encourage our students to go and explore Israel, if you have a host family please inform your madrichim and if you need help finding a place, please let us know.