gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

This last week was a very special week. The excitement that grows towards the end of the semester peeked with our two-day trip to the Galil. In addition to the trip, we had a week full of fun and thought provoking activities that I am happy to tell you all about.

On Sunday evening, our Madrichim ran an educational activity that included lighting the Hanukkah candles together with a discussion about the process and development the students underwent over the last several months of the semester.

Tali’s group read Yoni Netanyahu’s (Z”L) letter in which he talks about how what you do and make of life is more important than how long you live for. After reading the letter, the students had a discussion and agreed that they need to make as many meaningful and lasting experiences as possible as they approach the end of the semester and that they should also plan for their future so that their lives can reach their full potential. Each of the students received a drawing of a Hanukkiah and every two candles represented one month of the program. Using this drawing, the students had to write on each candle what they had accomplished in the corresponding months of the program and they wrote the goals they still have for the remainder of the program on the Shamash.

This week the sea-sport group went on a thrilling ATV experience. The students paired up and drove out on the field with their ATV. It was an adrenaline fuelled and energetic experience and everyone returned super excited to tell their friends all about it.

On Monday evening, our Madrichim ran an extraordinary activity that dealt with different conspiracy theories. The goal of the activity was to encourage our students to think “outside the box” and not to always accept things at face value. After an opening story about a conspiracy surrounding the band “The Beatles”, the students were split into groups and then asked to explore different theories and present them to the rest of the group. It was a really intriguing evening in which the students learned some truly crazy and interested theories through a group activity that also called for self-exploration.

We left Tel Aviv early on Tuesday morning and made our way to the Carmel mountain range, near to the northern city of Haifa. We started our tiyul with a two-hour hike in the beautiful green Carmel Forest, a trail called Nahal Oren. Nahal Oren is an archaeological site on the northern bank of the Wadi of Nahal Oren/Wadi Fallah. The site comprises a cave and a small terrace in front of it, which descends steeply towards the Wadi floor. The site was first excavated in 1941. We continued to the Druze village of Isfiya, where local Druze guides met us. They told us all about their culture and religion, and then we had a very tasty traditional Druze meal for lunch. All the students found the experience very powerful, being exposed to a new religion and culture, and many were amazed at how many similarities there were to Judaism. From there, we journeyed to the old city of Akko, where we visited the site of the prison from the time of the British Mandate, housed on the site of a crusader fort. There we learnt about the history of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Jewish struggle for Independence. After that, we watched sunset on the Akko beach and then went on a walking tour of the walls of the old city of Akko and explored the shuk, before checking into our youth hostel. That night, the madrichim ran a fun game called “Aardvark Challenge”.

On Wednesday morning, we began the day at Rosh Hanikra. Rosh HaNikra is a geologic formation on the border between Israel and Lebanon, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Galilee. It is a white chalk cliff face that opens up into spectacular grottoes. We took cable cars down to the grottos, which – more simply put – are sea caves. The grottoes were formed in the wake of underground shocks that ripped open gaps in the bedrock. Slowly, rainwater penetrated these rifts, forming tunnels and caves that continued to expand due to the waves that slammed against the rock. After watching a light show in a cave, telling us the story of Rosh Hanikra, we walked around, took photos, and were sprayed by the waves. We then went to join Israel gap-year volunteers with the organization “Hashomer Hachadash” (The New Watchman). We split into two groups and visited Israeli students who are the same age as our students and who are dedicating a year of their lives to volunteering and connecting to the land of Israel through Hashomer Hachadash. It was fascinating to hear about their gap year, and their reasons for choosing to do this the year before they then enlist in the army for further service to the country. We then cooked lunch together with them and continued to hang out and have fun with them. All in all, the day was fascinating, powerful and fun. Certainly a day to be remembered!

On Thursday, the students requested that we hold a special session at a local café. The session focused on answering questions about Israeli politics. The students asked many different questions and through them learned about the difference between Israel’s democracy and other democracies around the world. It also gave them a little more understanding of the different political parties that exist in Israel and the meaning of the different protests that are taking place in our country right now.

Next week we will host a special panel that will include a rabbi from Chabad and a left-wing journalist from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. They served together in the army and they will be telling us the story of their unique and complicated relationship, as well as the complicated relationship in Israel between the secular and religious citizens.

The Madrich on call is Avia.

Until next week,



Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael