gap year in israel

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This week on aardvark israel

Shalom Parents and Students!

Our semester is officially over and our students are on their way home, to all parts of the world. This week was especially emotional, as our students reflected on their life-changing experiences, packed, and said goodbye to their new best friends. Scroll down, for the very last time for this semester, to see what their week looked like! >> 😊

Hannah, jonathan, jacob, and noa from levontin at the hatzbani river
Hannah, Jonathan, Jacob, and Noa from Levontin at the Hatzbani River
Dayna, sam, ofir, daniel, cooper, nina, and inbar at the golan heights
Dayna, Sam, Ofir, Daniel, Cooper, Nina, and Inbar at the Golan Heights

Our students started their last week with an overnight Tiyul in the beautiful Golan Heights. Each community traveled on a water hike – Florentin and Jerusalem communities went to the Majrase, Levontin traveled to the Hatzbani River, and the Rothschild community hiked Ein Tina. Then, the students from our Florentin and Jerusalem communities went to Rosh Pina, where they heard from our counselor Zehava about growing up there. Levontin and Rothschild communities traveled to Tel Faher’s lookout, where they heard the story about one of Israel’s toughest battles in the Six-Day War. They learned about heroism, never giving up, resistance, and they learned the Israeli term ‘lying on the fence’, which is a symbol in the Israeli society for sacrificing everything you’ve got, for your friends and for your country.

At the end of the first day of the tiyul, all the students arrived at the hostel in Tel Hai, where they had dinner and a final closing ceremony. One student from each of our four communities went up on the stage, summing up their experience and their year in Israel. Here’s a taste of Caroline Press’s speech: “Aardvark, more specifically Tal, was a major contributing factor to my growth here. Her ability to recognize when I actually needed her to get involved versus when I was just lacking confidence in my ability to do something independently is something I am eternally grateful for. I now feel a lot more confident in my ability to overcome challenges in my life and I feel so lucky to be able to say that. The most beautiful part about my growth is the way it has opened my eyes to the importance of my Jewish identity. Here, it was not only “cool” to be connected to Judaism, but it was also normal. I felt that every single one of my friends made an effort to fully and proudly immerse themselves in Israeli culture and Judaism as a whole. It made us feel more at home, more part of a community, and strongly bonded us.”

The ceremony continued with an inspiring speech by our co-founder and CEO, Debbie Goldsmith, and an emotional, yet funny video, reminding our students of the best moments from their year in Israel.

Jared, the levontin mensch, with his madricha raz
Jared, the Levontin Mensch, with his Madricha Raz
Yoav and samuel at the closing ceremony
Yoav and Samuel at the closing ceremony

On the second day, each student picked his or her own hike, from light to challenging. The light hike took place at Odem Forest and the students saw the new wind farms that were recently stationed in the Golan Heights, in order to produce more energy from wind and make Israel a more eco-friendly country. The medium was at Jilaboon River, where our students got to see the beautiful waterfall and walked by the river, and traveled to the Bental Mountain and observatory, where you can actually see the border with Syria!

They learned about the famous battle at the Valley of Tears, one of the hardest in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, which was featured in the recent award-winning series ”Valley of Tears.’
The hard trail led to Nimrod’s Fortress, on the slopes of Mount Hermon, built by the Ayyubids and Mamluks. The fortress is named after Nimrod, the great warrior from Biblical times, who was also rumored to have built his own castle up on the mountain.

After hiking, all the students traveled to Kfar Bloom Kayaks before they said the last goodbye to all their new best friends, hopped on the buses, and rode back to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Zac, yifat, and emily at the jilaboon waterfall
Zac, Yifat, and Emily at the Jilaboon Waterfall
Gila's group from jerusalem
Gila's group from Jerusalem

That’s a wrap, everybody! We leave you with a few last pictures of our amazing students from the final ceremony and saying one last goodbye.

We would like to thank you all, our devoted readers, for staying in touch and reading the newsletter every (we hope) week, and for being a part of our program. We wish you all a wonderful summer and the best of luck in your endeavors. Remember that Israel, and more specifically Aardvark Israel, will always be your home and will always be here for you.

The Aardvark Israel Family

P.S: We would love to stay in touch! We are waiting for you in our Aardvark Israel alumni Facebook group. 🙂

Emma, nitzan, alex, and raz from levontin at the oscars!
Emma, Nitzan, Alex, and Raz from Levontin at the Oscars!
Josh and ido share one last goodbye
Josh and Ido share one last goodbye