gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

We are one week away from the end of the semester and emotions are risings. Over the last week, the students have enjoyed some amazing activities that began the educational process of summarizing this almost finished semester.

And now, for almost the last time this semester, I will tell you about this week:

The program on Monday night provided a good opportunity to summarize the social experience in the program. After writing privately what they have learned about themselves over the course of the semester, the students sat silently with their eyes closed, with calm music in the background in a room lit by candles. Three at a time, the madrichim called for different students to stand up, walk around the room and touch their peer’s heads to show different types of appreciation. (Such as, touch someone who made you laugh/wish you knew better/you respect etc.)

After that, we spoke about the importance of giving and receiving appreciation from others at different moments in life. Everybody enjoyed the program and left with big smiles on their faces. 🙂

On Tuesday, we went to the “Ariel Sharon Park” previously known as “Heria Mountain”. This park is actually one of Israel’s major success stories. Up until 25 years ago, this mountain was just a huge pile of trash gathered from Israel’s entire central area, over time the growing pile of trash became dangerous and a health hazard for citizens in the area. In the year 2007, the government decided to establish the “Ariel Sharon” park right on top of the trash mountain using a unique ecosystem that allowed this park to exist and it is now one of the most beautiful places to visit and walk through. In addition to the fact that this park is a great educational location for the study of global warming and the promotion of environmental protection, the students learned about how their decisions now will affect them in the future and how we can all be more conscious of promoting a healthy environment around us. This day was a very fruitful and productive day.

This week we had our final Parsha and Pizza session. We concluded the book of Genesis by studying the portion of Vayechi. The portion focuses on the end of Jacob’s life and the blessings he gave his children before he died. It was a fitting end to our semester of study and discussion of the weekly Torah readings.

On Wednesday evening, we had the amazing opportunity to host a panel with a Chabad rabbi and a very left wing Israeli journalist. They came to tell us about themselves and their very different views on religion and politics. Haim Tvria and Shay Fogelman served together in the army in the armor unit. Today, Haim is a Chabad lecturer, rabbi, and a teacher. Shay is a journalist in Israel and a documentary filmmaker. In their panel, they spoke about their very different and extreme worldviews that sort of mirror the extreme opinions of the left and right wing in Israel. The rising tension between the left and right wing and between the religious and secular was very apparent during their discussion. We, the audience, were exposed to many real life dilemmas in Israeli culture, such as Ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the army, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the feud between the religious and secular citizens, and much more. I have never seen our students so mesmerized and engaged with a discussion, they were all sitting on the edge of their seats just waiting to ask questions and contribute their thoughts. This panel was very interesting and intense and at the end, I believe everyone left with many unanswered questions and thoughts. Now the students have the time to digest the information and form their own opinions about the issues that were raised.

Jacob Axelrad said, “I liked this program because often we’re presented a single person’s perspective and view on Israel issues and Israeli life in our classes and during other Aardvark programs. This was better because rather than having one person tell us the issues that plague Israel and how Israel works, we were shown two Israelis with drastically different views who could agree on nearly nothing, tell us their perspective on these things. Throughout the night, we were able to ask them several important questions relating to Israeli politics, religion and the Israeli way of life and the two of them gave very different answers for each question and they often fought intensely over their answers. It was very entertaining and really highlighted how difficult it is to answer the problems in Israel, how different everyone sees these problems and that there isn’t a clear answer to the issues in Israel and the Middle East.”

Anne Berg and Skyler Tannenwald said, “Wow what a week it has been! This week was our last full week in Tel Aviv and we ended it in the most amazing way. On Tuesday, we began the week by visiting the Ariel Sharon Park, which is a former landfill that was redesigned into a beautiful, eco-friendly park. This park has plans to become a community park that attracts people from all over Israel. On Wednesday, we met with a Hasidic Rabbi and a secular Jew. It was very interesting to hear their different opinions on a variety of topics that relate to everyday life. We were both very impressed to see how two very different people, with very different viewpoints, can maintain such a strong friendship. We are both very sad and excited for our last couple days in Tel Aviv and cannot put into words how meaningful this experience has been.

This week on Sea Sports, despite the rainy and windy weather, our students had some really fun activities. On Sunday, they went to laser tag and on Wednesday, they did an escape room with real live actors who contributed to the powerful experience they had while trying to solve the mystery and escape.

Next week is the last week of the semester.

In addition to the final cleanup and preparations, the week will be full of activities that will summarize and conclude the semester. They will include a tour through the Rabin Museum and then later, a goodbye ceremony in Jaffa together with the Jerusalem group.

The Madrich on call for this weekend is Idan.

I want to wish you all Shabbat Shalom



Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael