Weekly Updates – Tel Aviv December 30, 2019
I feel very emotional writing this last email of the Fall Semester. This was a very significant semester for us, which makes it that much more difficult to say goodbye, but at the same time, we are taking a deep breath and look forward to the next semester. The students are preparing to move to Jerusalem and they couldn’t be more excited.
And now, for the last time, I will tell you about the past week:
On Sunday after internships, we started our first day of cleaning and packing. In the evening, our Madrichim met with their groups for a fun activity summarizing the educational and personal process the students went through over this semester. The groups went to eat in restaurants or stayed at home and ordered food, for their last dinner together. This dinner really felt like a family dinner due to the close bonds and relationships everyone has built in the last few months. Everyone laughed and spoke about meaningful experiences they had shared together, and some even told our Madrichim several secrets and gossip they didn’t know before. This was an extraordinary dinner and everyone got back home happy, full and satisfied.
Monday, was our last day of academics and internships. The students all went to their internships/ volunteer to summarize their 4 months of experience there. In the last several days, we have been receiving a large number of emails from the mentors of the internships, praising our students for their hard work and showing their true appreciation for meeting them and getting to work with them over these last few months. We are all extremely proud of our students for their hard work and their learning processes and we wish them all the best of luck and hope that this experience helps them in their future in whichever career path they choose to take.
On Monday evening we met for our closing activity in the Moadon – “Aardvark Oscar Night!” A few days ago, the students had to fill a Google form and nominate their friends for different categories, such as the most punctual, the best cook, the messiest and so on… The culture committee took their picks and put them on an online voting site so that they can choose on the spot one student out of 4 leading nominees. The students dressed up and two of our own students (Devorah and Nate) hosted the event with an amazing script that they wrote, which truly summarized our semester.
It was an exciting, funny evening with a great atmosphere. We could tell by the students’ reactions to the different categories and all the different inside jokes that they know each other so well.
On Tuesday, for our last tour, we went to a special place called Neot Kedumim. There we had the opportunity to have a leadership workshop inspired by bible stories. We had a blast working together performing different tasks (outdoor training style) and even had the chance of herding a herd of sheep and goats like a real shepherd. At the end of the day, we sat together and talked about the things we learned in the activity and how we can relate them to our experiences over the semester.
On Wednesday, we started the day early in the morning to drive to Haifa to meet up with the Jerusalem group. As we drove to Haifa, the rain started coming down. We were so happy to see the rain, as we know Israel needs the rain and we weren’t going to let the rain get in the way of our trip!
After arriving in Haifa, we walked around and saw some beautiful Haifa sites and learned some of the history. 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.
Arriving at our hostel in Akko, we all warmed up and settled into our rooms and got ready to go to our final dinner and ceremony for the Fall 2019 semester. We went to one of the most delicious restaurants in Akko and ate until we were stuffed. We then heard speeches from Jerusalem student Benji Pincus and Tel Aviv student Nate Swidler. Nate spoke about special moments during the program and about the deep conversations he has had with many different people. He told us how those conversations became his support system and the essence of his experience.
On Thursday morning, we journeyed through 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 learned about the history of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Jewish struggle for Independence. We gave the students some free time to wander around the Old City of Akko where they discovered the best Hummus place, and the prettiest alleyways, and more! From there, we went to The Tunisian Synagogue in Akko. One of the world’s most breath-taking tourist sites, The Tunisian Synagogue in Acre – known as the “Jariva” is the only one of its kind in the world. It is literally covered in mosaics – both inside and out. Each of its 4 floors proudly displays spectacular mosaics (from Kibbutz Eilon) – the outcome of 54 years of work. The Synagogue boasts 7 Torah arks and houses hundreds of millions of natural stones from all over Israel. The mosaics and stained-glass windows depict the history of the Jewish people and of the Land of Israel through bible stories, flora and fauna, IDF corps and more. Our students were in awe and couldn’t believe something so beautiful exists, and to see how much hard work and dedication went into something so breath-taking, left them speechless. It was an incredible two days full of laughter, tears, bonding and was the perfect trip to end the semester.
Sunday was our last full day together. We spent the day cleaning, packing, and saying goodbye to each other. We closed the day with a beautiful chanukia candle lighting service and pizza and salad dinner at the moadon.
On Monday morning, we held breakfast in the moadon and slowly said goodbye to the last students that were leaving for their winter break. It was very emotional to say goodbye to the students that were here for only one semester, we wish them good luck in their path. In one week, the rest of our students will continue their path in Jerusalem, and we can’t wait to meet them on our two day program trip.
I would like to say, that it has been an amazing ride here with your children. Seeing them grow and take part in the daily activities, succeeding in their internships and volunteering places, learning Hebrew and taking classes for University credit, touring around Israel and learning so much about our beautiful country from the trips and the lectures. And the best thing was, seeing them having so much good time together while dealing with all kinds of challenges in the program. Forming a great bond and becoming an amazing group that eventually became a family.
Thank you all for your care and involvement in your child’s gap year. It has been a pleasure to be a part of their educational staff.