gap year in israel

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Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael

Shalom Parents and Students!

We are a few weeks away from the end of the semester (oh no!) and our weekly routine forms a solid basis for our students, interning, traveling, studying, and volunteering. This week, our students traveled to a few very different cities in Israel – each one representing a different segment in the Israeli society. The first one was Hebron – where our Jerusalem community went for thier Tuesday Tiyul. Nechama Bar-Chaim shared with us her experience from that day: “I had a really educational experience in Hebron this week. We had a really nice tour guide who showed us around, and we stopped on the way to learn about the history of the city. Then, we went to an observatory where we got a beautiful view of the city. We heard from a Palestinian man who spoke to us about his perspective living in Hebron under the IDF. It was really interesting, and I definitely learned a lot. We also heard from a Jewish woman living in Hebron, who spoke about the religious meaning of living there, and also a bit about what her life is like there. We got to visit Me’arat Hamachpela and see the gravesites of the patriarchs and 3/4 of the matriarchs, which was really special”.

Our florentin community in lod
Our Florentin community in Lod
Maila, ruby, sarah, lauren and sarah from our levontin community
Maila, Ruby, Sarah, Lauren and Sarah from our Levontin community

Our Florentin community traveled to Ramla & Lod, two mixed cities, with Jews and Arbas living together. They started their day in Ramla’s Great Mosque, where they met a man name Isham who explained what of Islam means to him. Later, they learned about the city of Ramla and its history, and went to the famous market there. Then they traveled to Lod and did a short tour of the city, which included a conversion with an Arab woman and a few young members of the Arab community in Lod. The students had a very interesting, fruitful discourse and got the chance to actually learn about the Arab culture, its difficulties and struggles in Israel.

Our Levontin community traveled to the beautiful city of Haifa, up north. Haifa is a well-known example of coexistence, with Jews, Muslims, and Christians living there. They went to the Bahá’í Gardens observatory and the Ahmadiyya Shaykh Mahmud Mosque, which is the visitor center of the Ahmedi community in Israel. Our students continued to the Stella Maris Monastery and had some free time to tour the city and visit Wadi Nisnas, one of most colorful neighborhoods in Haifa, right by the German Colony.

On Thursday, our Big Idea students went to Hebrew University to discover how they teach about innovation. Yoav Konstantino wrote about his experience: “Today we went to Hebrew University to learn at the Center of Technological Innovation. We learned about the university’s methods of teaching innovative thinking, and the ways in which they incorporate entrepreneurial skills into their classes. It was an interactive discussion, and I enjoyed exchanging ideas with my classmates. I had a great time!”.

Selah students visited the Jerusalem Haredi neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Before setting out, they prepared for the experience with a discussion about expectations and impressions about the community and how external observations should be balanced with understanding that there is diversity and complexity within every community. They discussed the challenges of encountering discomfort with the community standards, some of which the students usually do not follow. In Mea Shearim, they wandered the streets, visited a famous Jewish book store, Manny’s, that caters to a diverse audience. Then, they were treated to a walking tour by Manny himself! He shared his story of opening and growing his store despite not being Haredi himself, while giving the students a peek at the variety of lifestyles represented throughout the neighborhood.

Selah group's enriching tour in mea shearim, learning about israel's diverse communities
Selah group's enriching tour in Mea Shearim, learning about Israel's diverse communities
Big idea students at hebrew university, learning about innovative thinking
Big Idea students at Hebrew University, learning about innovative thinking
Hanukkah decorations

Hanukkah Decorations

Hanukkah is just around the corner, and some of our students made their own Hanukkiot. Gailen, you sure are talented!

Last but not least, our students learned about Thanksgiving and its connection to the Torah, with Rabbi Gabe, our Jewish Life Coordinator. The students enjoyed a special Thanksgiving turkey shawarma and all the fixings in a wrap! They discussed the original American Thanksgiving story, and how the Pilgrims followed a model from the Bible to make a special feast to give praise and thanks for passing through difficult times.

The Torah describes a service in the Temple, called a Thanksgiving offering. Rabbi Gabe and the students drew parallels between this kind of feast and many Jewish holidays – the opportunity to retell a story of salvation and express gratitude.
A ritual that Jews practice today is the Seudat Hodaya, where they host a meal to share their gratitude, usually after enduring some sickness or hardship. Even without the Temple, we are able to make a meal/feast/holiday that becomes a mitzvah meal, and is personally meaningful for the host, to share with the community!

From the Aardvark Israel staff, we would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to our US students and their families. May we always have things to be grateful for!