gap year in israel

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Shalom dear parents,

This week was special due to the upcoming elections next week, during it we focused on important topics such as the security situation and the political storms that are happening at present.

Now I would like to tell you all about the week we had.

On Sunday evening, after cleaning their apartments, the students met for their apartment meetings. This time the subject of the meetings was “persistence”. After watching a short and cute movie about a little girl trying to jump on a chair until she finally succeeds, the students spoke about their own personal struggles with challenges they’ve had throughout their lives and how they’re trying to stay persistent in overcoming them.

On Monday evening, we had a lecture about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goal of the lecture was to enrich the students’ knowledge of the conflict and to better their understanding of the current security situation in Israel. Another aim of this talk was to encourage open dialogue so that everyone can share their own opinion on this complicated matter. The lecture began with a brief explanation of the history of Israel in comparison to the history of the Palestinians. In order to emphasize how important and sensitive this topic is, we discussed the famous saying “Knowledge is Power” and we all agreed that the more we all know, the more power we have when discussing and attempting to solve difficult issues. Throughout the lecture we showed short videos explaining the conflict, some were more leftwing and others more rightwing, in order to show how diverse the range opinions are. The students then spoke about their own opinions and feelings about the conflict and we even discussed what it feels like to live in a country with such great security tension. It was wonderful to hear everyone share their opinions on this matter and it was very touching to see how much they care and how much they want to learn more and be involved. At the end of the activity, Tali and Eli (the madrichim who led this activity) spoke about their own personal experiences serving in the army, and how they felt and dealt with the conflict while wearing the IDF uniform.

Tuesday was the National Good Deed Day in Israel. Here in Aardvark Tel Aviv, we decided to go to a very special place called Keren Or Farm. The farm was established two years ago in order to save and take care of animals that have been abused, suffer from medical problems, have been saved from the meat industry, etc. We arrived at the farm in the morning, and after a short tour, we started our volunteer work.

When entering the farm we saw so many different animals, cows, horses, dogs, cats, ducks, and more. We have never seen such happy animals before. The cows were behaving like dogs, all jumpy and craving attention. It was incredible to see how some animals can act when not in captivity.

The volunteer work included taking care of the animals’ shelter, organizing the space for work tools, storage and more. However, our big challenge and project was building a fence in order to keep snakes and other predators out of the farm. In order to do that we divide into teams and cleared a large part of the land of broken trees, garbage and rocks. Follow that, we dug some deep holes in the ground for the fence poles. While one team did that, the other team mixed the cement for stabilizing the poles and filed the holes with the cement. After it dries, the farm workers will be able to complete the fence.

It was great to be able to contribute in that way. There was so much work to be done but the size of the group and the corporation between us made it possible.

Avi Bendayan said, “Tuesday was national good deeds day. To show our appreciation for Israel, we took this amazing day to volunteer at a vegan farm. Students got the opportunity to help out around the farm in a variety of ways, such as working with the animals, cleaning up the land and even building a fence to keep unwanted visitors out. Students also got to meet the remarkable staff and animals at the farm which made good deeds day even more enjoyable. I really enjoyed good deeds day because I got the opportunity to show my love for animals and have fun working with everyone on the farm. The best part was, knowing that I made a difference not only on the farm but, on the staff and animals’ lives as well.”

On Tuesday evening, we were very fortunate to be given the opportunity to attend a talk at the Dan Panorama Tel-Aviv Hotel with Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue & White party and running front man to be prime minister of Israel at the upcoming elections. The Blue & White party is the main opposition to Likud, which is headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. At the talk, Benny Gantz was asked tough questions from the audience and press, such as the BBC, CNN, etc., who came to this event from all over the world. Some of the questions that asked were very intense. There were questions referring to his mental health and the rumors of his own personal paranoia. It was an impressive to see how this man addressed all of these tough issues and discussed matters such as security, the cost of living, religion & state, and more. We left the talk wondering who will be Israel’s next leader, Benny Gantz or Netanyahu once again. We will find out very soon.

On Wednesday, the Mada track had their graduation ceremony after 6 weeks of volunteering in an ambulance. I would like to congratulate Tamar, Jaimi, Micha, Liad, Hannah, and Gina for their wonderful contribution during their volunteering experience.

This week in Parsha and Pizza we studied the Torah portion of Tazria. It deals with laws concerning purity and impurity and Rabbi Marc challenged us to understand and appreciate the ancient system of regulations concerning what people could and couldn’t touch. We spoke of significant moments in life and how to mark them with ritual, and we noticed that many of the laws are connected to life, death and health concerns. We spent the rest of the evening focusing on the laws relating to childbirth and circumcision, and had a fascinating conversation about gender and equality in Jewish thought.

In Hebrew class on Thursday, the students went on an outside tour in order to practice their Hebrew in daily life skills.

Tomorrow the Italy trip will be back. We are all awaiting their return, and can’t wait to listen to their stories, especially after receiving so many beautiful pictures from them during the week.

Last weekend Selah had a wonderful Shabbaton in Tel Aviv. On Friday night they ate with host families and we joined Rabbi Marc for a catered Shabbat lunch followed by a discussion about giving and taking based on an influential modern work called ‘Strive for Truth’ (Michtav M’Eliyahu). For our Monday trip, we went to visit the Ramada hotel in Jerusalem, Israel’s largest hotel, with the capacity to host thousands of guests. We met Rabbi Krakowski of the Orthodox Union Kashrut department (OU) who helped us gain behind the scenes access to the kitchens where we saw their chefs, waiters, health inspectors, and kosher supervisors all busily preparing food. We were given an overview of Kashrut laws and had the chance to see them put into practice on an industrial scale with impressive technology and architectural designs to separate meat, dairy and pareve as well as the Pesach food section. We ended the day with an opportunity to ask Rabbi Krakowski questions and he gave a short class on the benefits of observing the Jewish dietary laws. We also had time for our Learning Space in which we sang songs, designed a colorful Jewish identity fan, studied the Shema, wrote letters of appreciation and considered the meaning of loving our fellow man. It was a great week.

Internship under the spotlight – Noah Weil “For my internship in Israel, I’m working at Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish people. The idea behind the museum is to study how Jewish people live and practice Judaism around the world and to maintain a database of Jewish genealogy so that Jews can come and understand where they came from. My job there is to take interviews with rabbis from around the world and upload them to one of the Beit Hatfusot databases. I’m also helping out on a project called “My Family Story”, which is an outreach program run by the museum where they reach out to Jewish schools around the world and ask the students to interview their parents and grandparents to learn about their family history, and create an art piece that represents their story. The kids who make the best pieces are invited to come to the museum for an event displaying all the best works.”

Next week we will reunite following the arrival of the Italy trip students. On Tuesday, Election Day, we are giving the students the chance to take part and help the different parties’ final campaigns while Israeli citizens go to vote. In addition, this day is a great opportunity for our students to explore Tel-Aviv and all of Israel as the buses will be free.

The Madrich on call for this weekend is Idan.

Until next week,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael