gap year in israel

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Dear Parents

Shalom Shalom!

What a week it’s been! With what feels like a third of our students in Ethiopia, Aardvark Tel Aviv has noticeably downsized. However, what we lacked in numbers this week we made up for in spirit and activities.

On Sunday for the apartment meeting, the students met with the Madrichim for a night that was all about group dynamics. Each group had an activity to break the ice and then they went deeper into meaningful conversations about their experiences in Israel. The students in one of the apartments even decided to build a tent indoors to make the atmosphere even more special, they sat in there for hours and just spoke about life.

On Monday for the optional activity, we had a wonderful game called The Golden Cage. The students were divided into four groups and given trivia questions to answer. Each correct answer awarded them more time in the Golden Cage, which was a room full of boxes containing prizes. The two rooms were connected with a webcam and the students could see what was happening in the Golden Cage at all time. Just like a reality show. In order to get the prizes out, they needed to accomplish some missions, such as dressing up in numerous items of clothing, or being tied together and navigating in the room. The most challenging mission was to get into the cage blindfolded and listen to the instructions from a fellow group member from the other room using only the webcam. After two hours, the student managed to win almost all of the prizes in the room. They were so thrilled by it that they didn’t want to stop.

We had a blast that evening and it was so rewarding to see the students open up their prizes at the end of the night. The smiles on their faces were just priceless.

On Tuesday for our tour, we went to Gadera to a place called Beit Ambosa, as a part of our education bout the different cultures in Israel. There we met with the Ethiopian community and learned about their culture and their challenges in Israel. We started the day with a lecture at the Shapira neighbourhood given to us by a man called Malaco. We heard about his Aliya story and about life in Ethiopia. The most amazing part of the lecture was the fact that these days the Ethiopians in Israel are protesting about racism and police brutality. Malaco was able to tell us about this conflict as his day job is being a police officer. It was very interesting to hear how an Ethiopian police officer gets in the middle of this protest and still get the support of his community in Gadera.

After that, we found two different ways to connect with the culture. One was by learning their traditional dancing style and the other was by doing a pottery workshop with clay.

At the end of the day, we split into three groups and went to three separate apartments belonging Ethiopian woman in the neighbourhood. There we received amazing hospitality and had the chance to taste some Ethiopian food and treats. We took part in the “buna” ceremony, which involves drinking three cups of coffee, tasted the “Dabo” and “injara” which are types of bread with different kinds of vegetables on them.  It was great to connect with the culture in so many different ways.

Jacob Perelman said, “It was so interesting to learn about the Ethiopian Jew’s experiences. Inviting us to their homes and drinking homemade “boona” (traditional Ethiopian coffee) revealed their warm hospitality.

This week in Parsha and Pizza we studied the Torah portion of Tetzaveh. We learned about the clothes worn by the priests in the Temple. Rabbi Marc gave a masterclass in fashion as we commented on the textiles, colours and shapes of the outfit worn by the Kohen Gadol – the High Priest. We even compared his clothes to some of the fashion worn at recent award ceremonies (like this week’s Grammys) and talked a lot about branding and celebrities. Interestingly our Jewish priests were also interested in marketing and promotion but in their case, the brand was God and spirituality. We also learned about the 12 stones and gemstones that made up the breastplate of the High Priest (called the Hoshen – חושן) and we explored some old commentaries on the cosmic powers of sapphire, ruby, amethyst and emerald.

On Wednesday evening, we watched the film Beneath the Helmet. It is about a paratrooper unit in the Israeli army. It shows how difficult yet rewarding the army can be. After watching the film, we heard an American/Israeli speaker, originally from New Jersey, talk about his time in the army. After telling us about his experience training to be a paratrooper, he answered any questions we had. The questions ranged from how he felt when he got his first gun, to if he had ever been shot at. The most interesting yet terrifying story he told us was how each day he would travel to the border on patrol. Along the road, about 15 feet away from him, he would see Hamas members sitting outside of their posts drinking coffee and laughing with each other. He explained that seeing this every day was eye opening as it made him realize that they are people just like us. Even though they are the enemy and have a different and more violent approach, they believe they are the good guys just like we do.

Today (Thursday), February 14th, is the anniversary of the school shooting in Florida. This afternoon some students gathered to light candles and pray for their families in memory of their lives. Along with the 17 candles, we also lit one for Ori. She was a religious 19-year-old living in Tekoa. She was doing volunteer work and on her way home was raped and stabbed to death by an Arab terrorist. Today we remember the lives of people who were taken too soon

This week on Selah we began as always with our weekly outing. We set out to the Old City of Jerusalem where we met a scribal artist – Kalman Delmoor – in an ancient Sephardi synagogue. Kalman taught the group about the power and symbolism of the Alef-Bet and gave an introductory workshop on how to write with ink and quill. After some practice writing our names, we concentrated our efforts on writing the word – ואהבת – And you shall love – which famously appears inside the Shema prayer when talking about us loving God and in Vayikra 19 when talking about us loving our fellow person. We did a great job overall and learned to appreciate not only the holiness of our Hebrew script but also the patience, skill, and concentration needed to write out a Mezuza or Torah scroll. Some of the group took advantage of being in the Old City and went to visit and pray at the Kotel. Later in the week, we had our Learning Space. We began with a class on the idea of Bracha – Blessings – and learned some of the different types of blessings there are in Jewish tradition. Later we gave the group two options: some of the group learned about the story of Noah and the ark with our teacher Esther Senderovitch, while others learned about modesty and humility in Rabbi Eli Naiditch’s class on happiness. Friday sees the group head off for a Selah Shabbaton. This time we will be staying in the town of Mitspe Ramon, right on the edge of the stunning Ramon crater.

Internship in the spotlight – Daniela Kaplan:

My internship is with the goldsmith Noam Nadiv. She teaches Anabelle and me about jewellery production. Noam is a lot of fun! She teaches in a lively, interactive way. I am really enjoying being able to engage with my work and use my hands. Having the ability to transform a metal plate into a ring or to create a professional level fastening is incredibly rewarding.

Next Week we are going for a tour in the area of Rechovot, for a day dedicated to learning about both historical Zionism and modern Zionism.

Until next week,



Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael