gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

We are approaching the end of the fall semester here on Aardvark Tel Aviv. The past week was a lot of fun, full of holiday spirit and emotions about the end of the semester.

It is so lovely to see the strong connections that the students have made. Every time that a student flies home early, it becomes apparent how much they care about each other. Over the past week all the students have been busy saying goodbye and getting ready for the next semester. The excitement is in the air and we are putting all of our efforts into the final tests in the academic classes and the final activities next week.

And now, I would like to tell you all about the past week.

On Sunday the Entrepreneurship Group enjoyed an interesting session run by Presentensegroup about Design Brief. They discussed topics that are valuable when designing a business plan such as brand language, target audience, inspiration of the business, scheduling and monitoring progress. The Sea Sport Group had an amazing activity this week. They went to ride ATV’s. The students have been waiting for that kind of activity and from what I heard, it was even better than they expected!

For the apartment meetings on Sunday, the Madrichim ran an activity about the students’ “Personal Story”. The activity involved drawing a personal story according to the madrichim’s guidelines. This way of drawing helps the unconscious part of each story to appear on paper. Then the students told each other the meaning behind their drawings. It was a nice activity to do as an apartment as the students felt comfortable sharing with each other.

On Monday the Culture Committee hosted the Chanukah Party. The students prepared a wonderful activity. We played a game called the White Elephant during which students exchanged gifts. Each student drew a number from a hat and could choose a gift according to the number. All the gifts were wrapped and it was impossible to know what was what. Once the students chose a gift, they showed it to everyone. The gifts ranged from a “souvenir” of a broken skateboard to a full hummus meal with pita and chickpeas. The catch: other students could “steal” the gift you chose! We wrapped up the Chanukah Party with a traditional candle lighting and doughnut ceremony and a tournament of air hockey, ping-pong, and foosball.

On Tuesday we headed to the Israel Museum where we met up with the Jerusalem group. At the Israel Museum we saw an exhibition called “Faces of Power”. The exhibit contains 75 gold coins that are decorated with the portraits of 40 Roman emperors — and three usurpers — as well as the likenesses of 13 women who were members of the imperial family. These coins tell the story of the Roman gold currency for a period of more than 300 years, from the end of the first century BCE to the beginning of the fourth century CE.

We also saw an exhibition about different types of menorahs from various different countries. We saw menorahs from Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, Poland, Syria, and more. We were in awe of how beautiful they were and how incredible it was that even in places where there aren’t many Jews, they still lit the Chanukiah and celebrated the miracle. We then had time to walk around the Museum and we saw exhibits on Modernism, Design, French Art, and an exhibit by an artist called Ai Weiwei.

Afterwards we walked together to a local café called Nocturno where we had dinner with the Jerusalem group. After the lighting of the last candle of Hanukkah, we heard two speeches. One from a student from Jerusalem, and another from Tel Aviv’s very own Sarina Abramowits. Sarina spoke about her experience on Aardvark and how much she has learnt and grown while on the program. She also spoke about the way that her apartment became a family, it was very touching to hear. Although a large number of the students are continuing in Jerusalem next semester, there are a few who will not be there, and this was an emotional night where the group had the opportunity to say goodbye to all the friends they made from both cities and say thank you to the staff for everything they have done for them.

Lastly, both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem headed on over to the Old City of Jerusalem to enjoy the Hanukkah festival. There the students were able to walk around with their friends to see the decorations and explore the Old City’s streets all the way down to the Kotel. Eden Buzaglo said, “Being able to walk down to the Kotel late at night was one of the most beautiful moments for me because I usually go every summer with my family, but being able to be independent and walk up to the wall myself was extremely moving.”

On Wednesday the students heard from Josh Warhit from the Israeli education organization StandWithUs. The program focused on discussing challenges in Israel activism, especially those emanating from the BDS Movement. The students gained an insight into why BDS – which rejects the very legitimacy of the State of Israel and Jewish self-determination – poses a threat to a just peace. They learned about BDS’ strategies on university campuses and how the pro-Israel community is combating them. StandWithUs is known for its efforts to expose and defeat BDS threats across the globe, and Josh brought this knowledge to the group. As BDS tries to show a narrow, oversimplified portrayal of the region and its challenges, Aardvark students can bring their first-hand experience and knowledge of the region’s complex reality back home to help defeat the de-legitimization of Israel. By doing so, they can create more meaningful discourse on important issues and positive programming on campus and beyond.

Next week is the final week of the semester and we have many great things planned.

The main event will be on Monday. We are planning the end of semester “Oscar Party” and it is going to be very exciting. The students will nominate their friends for an Oscar reward in several categories, it is going to be a great summary of an amazing semester.

The Madrich on call for the weekend is Ilay.

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael