Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Shalom Parents and Students!

Our students are keeping busy, and this weekend, we might even get our first rain here in Israel (finally!). On this week’s Tuesday tiyul, our Florentin community traveled to Beit Shemesh (a city where most of the people are Orthodox Jews). Zac Lovat told us about the experience:
“In an attempt to discover more about the religious areas of Israel, the Florentin community was taken to the city of Bet Shemesh. To start, we questioned individuals who lived there to hear their opinions on the city, of which many were mixed both in favour of and against the city. Afterwards, we attended a talk given by the deputy mayor regarding the politics of the area, describing the different types of people who live in Bet Shemesh, and the journey it took for the first woman to take the office of mayor, despite having a large part of the population who oppose such an idea.
Next, we attended a tour around Bet Shemesh and Ramat Bet Shemesh, analysing the differences between the more ultra orthodox areas and the more ‘secular’ areas. This included a stop at a health clinic that provides care for anyone who wants and needs when they don’t necessarily need the hospital.”

Our Levontin community traveled to Ramla and Lod, two dual nationality cities, where Jews and Arabs live together. They toured the local mosque and got to hear about Karaite Judaism – a religious movement which acts by the written Torah alone, its supreme authority in theology and halakha. The students then travelled to Lod, and heard from Muslim women about their experience, and the complexities of living in a city where Jews and Arabs live side by side.

Florentin (tlv) in beit shemesh, with the founder of 'yad lachaim'
Florentin (TLV) in Beit Shemesh, with the founder of 'Yad Lachaim'
Gabi, daniel, and benjamin from jerusalem having their own version of b'nei mitzva
Gabi, Daniel, and Benjamin from Jerusalem having their own version of B'nei Mitzva

Last but not least, our Jerusalem community climbed all the way up Masada at sunrise. A few celebrated a special edition of a B’nei Mitzva ceremony, and what place is more meaningful than Masada? Hannah Nahmias wrote about her experience: “Visiting Masada was challenging yet rewarding. We left early in the morning in order to watch the sunrise on the mountain. We took the Roman Ramp up and the Snake Path down. We had a great tour guide who explained to us the history of Masada. We visited an ancient Mikva, church, and synagogue. We also got to witness three of our friends have their bar/bat mitzvah on top of Masada. Overall it was really fun being in an old place with a lot of history and meaning connected with it.”

Daniel Matthys wrote, “I came to Israel to grow closer to my culture and heritage. The opportunity to have a Bar Mitzvah on top of Masada was another part of this journey, and one I am glad that I took. It was awesome being able to have this experience with my friends Benjamin and Gabi. There was something really cool about doing it at Masada, a very important place for Judaism. I am so thankful to be able to have these experiences in Israel.”

This Thursday Selah visited the Israel National Library, where they learned about its role as both a national repository and also a collection center for books from all of world Jewry. They visited the Gershom Scholem collection of kabbalah and Chassidus, were introduced to an incredibly unique collection of historical maps, and took in the stunning stained glass windows at the center of the library. It was no surprise that the underlying discussion centered around the topics of Israel and diaspora Jewry, as well as distinctions and meeting points between religious and academic study.

On Wednesday, our Tel Aviv communities met Oliya, a young Jewish woman from the former USSR, who told them about the struggles of the Soviet Aliyah back in the 90’s, and their integration in the Israeli society, from her point of view.

Selah students at the israel national library
Selah students at the Israel National Library
Tel aviv communities in a 'faces of israel' session
Tel Aviv communities in a 'Faces of Israel' session

This week in our Spotlight on internships and volunteering, we have Noa Isaacson, interning for the Ethiopian National Project. “I’m currently interning for Ethiopian National Project, a non-profit that works to integrate Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society and create equal opportunities for them in the workplace. As part of my internship, I’m working on ENPeople, a photojournalism project in which I photograph and document stories of different participants in ENP. My goal is to create a safe platform for Ethiopian Jews to share their experiences and highlight their strength and resilience. Hearing the stories of the interviewees have been so inspiring and I love all the new people I’ve been able to meet and new stories I’ve heard through this experience. I hope readers will be inspired to become more mindful about their actions and resources so they can do more to help Ethiopians in Israeli society feel welcomed, supported, and heard.”