gap year in israel

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Dear Parents

Shalom Parents! Happy Adar!

The Jewish sages say that from the moment Adar begins we increase in our measure of happiness. Here at Aardvark, we’re definitely lifting up the spirits as we prepare for the crazy and joyous holiday of Purim.

After a long weekend during which the Ethiopia trip students relaxed and recovered from jetlag, we jumped straight into Sunday with internships, committees meetings, and activities in the apartments.

On Monday, in the evening we took the students paintballing in Holon, which is about a 30-minute bus ride from their apartments, they had loads of fun bonding and chasing after each other on the obstacle course. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, which many of them have been waiting for.

Jared Suffet said, “This week on Aardvark we had the opportunity to participate in paintball. We had a huge turn out and it was a ton of fun. Our counselors Tali and Avia made the game really energetic and exciting. Bullets were flying and people were laughing, all in all, it was a fantastic experience and I hope we can do it again.”

On Tuesday, for our weekly tour, we went to Rechovot for a day focusing on modern and historical Zionism. We began the day in a place where the two types of Zionism meet, the Chaim Weizmann House. Weizmann was the first president of the State of Israel, a scientist and researcher known worldwide due to his discovery of a new way to create acetone, which is used to create explosive material. His connection with diplomatic contacts led him to engage in politics and to play an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel. At his home, we took part in an interactive game (a kind of Escape Room) where we had to move between the different rooms and answer riddles. The next stop was the MDA Garden located within the Weizmann Institute of Science. There the students saw how modern Zionism is expressed and how much Israel has been involved in promoting science and entrepreneurship from the establishment of the State up until today. In the garden itself, the students moved between different exhibits and were able to participate in different experiments. In one experiment, our guide taught the students some physics, and in another experiment, they learned about soundwaves and botany. The tour finished with another experiment that was very tasty. We were able to see how liquid nitrogen can help us make ice cream in five minutes. From the Park of Science, everyone continued to the day’s last station, the Ayalon Institute. The Institute is a great example of Zionism from the establishment of the State. In fact, it was a Kibbutz where a group of young activists from the Haganah resistance established a factory for machine gun bullets under the noses of the British Mandate. It was fascinating to learn about their story, to see how the factory worked, and how it was hidden and kept a secret. For example, the entrance to the factory was through the kibbutz laundry room, where a washing machine worked all day to cover the noise of the factory. In addition, the kibbutz built a bakery above the factory to hide the smell of the production of the bullets. It was a fascinating day in which we could see how Zionism in the past connects to Zionism today.

This week in Parsha and Pizza the group studied the Torah portion of Ki Tissa. It contains one of the most dramatic moments of the bible, when the Jewish people were waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai they conspired to build a Golden Calf and begin to worship it. God gets angry, as does Moses. The episode leads to the death of thousands of idolaters and a rupture in the relationship between God and the Jewish people. Rabbi Marc helped the group to understand the possible causes of the idolatry and why the people ended up worshiping a bull in particular. One lesson that can be learned from the episode is that of hubris. How surprising is it to think that the very people who saw God’s miracles, plagues and wonders, and who stood at Sinai and heard God speak, could fall from such great heights to such a historic low. Maybe the Jews felt that they had made it to the top. From their pinnacle of spirituality what could harm them? The Netivot Shalom commentary points out that it is often right when things are going great that the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) hits us. This is the time when we need to be most grateful and alert, and it is not the moment to bask in our own glory. This is a great chance to thank your children for making our weekly learning so special. Those that come each week do so voluntarily and choose to dedicate time to enrich themselves and connect to their tradition. Rabbi Marc hopes that you enjoy reading these weekly summaries and that you find a chance to talk with your children about them every so often.

On Wednesday everyone gathered in the Moadon for a fun and cool activity run by our Madrichim, the activity was called “Cafe Dilemma and Zionism”. The entire Moadon was transformed into a cafe with a menu on each 5-person table. If you want to see the menu and the dilemma, I have attached it with the photos below. Each item the students ordered from the menu came with a Zionism-involved dilemma, the students were asked to discuss the different dilemmas and try to reach a solution agreed by everyone at the table. At the end of the activity, each team spoke about the challenges they faced in solving the dilemmas. It was wonderful to see the students face difficult and controversial issues in a mannered discussion and debate.

Leon Sheplan said, “At cafe dilemma, I learned that Jews are moving to Berlin to avoid having to serve in the army. I also learned that it’s one of the most liberal cities in Europe and that antisemitism is outed in the whole country of Germany The activity was very informational and I liked learning about “who is a Zionist” about the military and I especially liked the chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows DELISH.”

On Thursday after internships and classes, we are offering an optional BBQ at Charles Clor Park. We will have an authentic Israeli grill and singsong.

Internship in the spotlight: My names is James Ellerine and I work for a company called Regulated. Regulated is a startup that aims to implement regulations into several different markets worldwide as well as within Israel, in order to ensure consumer rights are upheld. My day to day consists of market research and business identification as well as small daily tasks, such as logo design and editing. I like working there as it gives me the opportunity to experience the growth of the business during such a crucial time, which will help me in my business development and future.

Selah had an amazing Shabbaton last weekend in Mitspe Ramon. We began with a Friday afternoon tour of the Visitors Center where we learned about the life of Ilan Ramon and his family. Ilan Ramon was Israel’s first astronaut who flew on the NASA Columbia mission that ended in disaster in 2003. After a pre-Shabbat meal, we met with Rabbi Marc’s wife and children as well as our special guest family, Jeff and Naomi Schrager (originally from Dallas, Texas), who were there to run activities with the group over Shabbat. We prayed and sang in an immersive and interactive Kabbalat Shabbat service together before we had a delicious dinner. Later that evening, we had a crazy Oneg Shabbat full of incredible games (ask your children about the Chair of Doom!) and ended the evening with a deep discussion triggered by a recent piece of news about an Indian man who is suing his parents for giving birth to him. This led us to an amazing conversation about the meaning of life as we studied Talmudic texts at eleven o’clock at night! After a long sleep, we began the next day with Kiddush with Jeff who ran a session linking Ilan Ramon to the recent controversy over the Shalva band and the Eurovision to the meaning of Shabbat and Jewish Identity. Lunch was full of singing, Zemirot and Birkat HaMazon, followed by some rest and a walk to a gorgeous desert sculpture garden. Overall, it was a wonderful Shabbat of bonding, learning, fun, nature and Judaism.

On Monday we went for a visit to the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv where we spent the morning thinking about the Jewish value of Chesed and the practice of Bikur Cholim – Visiting the Sick. We met with representatives of Ezer MiZion, an incredible volunteer organization that works in Israeli hospitals and beyond offering care and support. Later in the morning, we met with a hospital chaplain, Aliza Pilichowski, from an organization called Kashouvot and we heard all about her work with the sick and the needy. She really gave us some perspective on our lives and inspired us with her practical tips about how to help people in hospitals when visiting the sick. Finally, this week we continued with our weekly Learning Space. This is an opportunity to give a big shout out to Gadi, Yoni, and Tristan for waking up early this last month to study Talmud with Rabbi Marc – they just finished their first Sugya (section of the Talmud).

Next week we are going to an ecological farm called Ein Shemer. There we will learn about Israeli developments in the field of agriculture and water engineering. We will even have the opportunity to build projects in hydroponic water systems.

The Madrich on call for this weekend is Avia.

Shabbat Shalom,



Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael