How are you? I hope you are well. We have had a wonderful week during which the students have learnt some new and interesting concepts regarding their journeys here in Israel.
Last Sunday, during the Apartment Meetings, the madrichim were proud to launch the educational program called “My Israeli Journey”. This program will give the students many opportunities, experiences, and platforms through which they will be further integrated into Israeli society. My Israeli Journey will give the students that choose to participate an opportunity to process, reflect, and consider their journeys here in Israel with Aardvark. The first session of MIJ (My Israeli Journey) was led by the madrichim. The session introduced some new concepts to the students to make them think about and discuss how they want to spend their time here.
At the end of the first session the madrichim asked the students to write a personal mission statement as homework. They received specific instructions on how to do it and the madrichim will be helping them with the task. It’s crucial that each student writes his or her personal mission statement so that they will be able to move on to the next phase of the semester. Please encourage your child to shape their thoughts and to consider sharing their ideas with you. It is a great opportunity for you to gain some insight into your child’s journey here in Israel.
On Monday evening the whole group hopped on a bus with their brand new Rav-Kav (a smart card used for public transport) for a 25 minute bus ride to Bnei Brak, a small city which is the centre of the ultra-orthodox community and located on the central Mediterranean coastal plain, just east of Tel Aviv. The group split into boys and girls lead by tour guides who took them through the community exposing them to the political views and perspectives of another side of Israeli society.
The students went through the streets of Bnei Brak and even tried one of the best places for Kugel! Towards the end of the tour Rabbi Joseph Cohen sat with us and spoke about his way of life. The discussion quickly became very engaging and intense with many different opinions shared by students and some conflicting views expressed by Rabbi Cohen. After 45 minutes of back and forth conversation the group concluded their tour of Bnei Brak, and they came away with much greater appreciation and understanding of the way that many ultra-orthodox Israelis live in small communities. Overall, it was a very eye-opening and educational experience for the students that was met with a lot of positive feedback.
On Tuesday everyone went together to “The Olympic Experience”. It is the center of the Olympic committee that was founded by the government after the windsurfer Gal Fridman became the first Israeli to win a gold medal at the Olympics. The Olympic experience is an interactive museum that tells the stories of Israeli Olympic champions with videos, holograms and other interactive displays (it truly is a must see!) The Museum also tells the story of the massacre of the 12 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. At the end of the tour the guide showed us some of the tools athletes use in the Olympic Games, such as “explosive power”, a mechanical tool used to understand the amount of pressure a person can exert with the powerful hand muscles. What a revelation…
This week is the Torah portion of Bo. Rabbi Marc taught the group about the plague of darkness and why it was that the Jewish slaves (who were not struck by the plague) did not take revenge against the Egyptians. The group focused on the eating of the Paschal lamb during the exodus and the origin of the Mezuza. It was interesting to note that the Jews were instructed to eat the lamb quickly. Was this because they were scared the Egyptians might chase them or were they simply excited to start their journey towards Israel, freedom and God? The session finished with the group learning about the ‘Mixed Multitude’ (ערב רב) who joined the Jewish people leaving Egypt.
Yesterday the Madrichim decided to do something a little bit different with their students. The boys went with Elad (the male madrich) and the girls went with Naama and Daniel (our female madrichot). The sessions were not conventional boys’ and girls’ activities. Some important concepts were discussed, such as gender, acceptable behaviour between the sexes, relationships, etc. The madrichim reported that the students handled the discussions maturely and that based on how engaged they were, more programs on these topics should be developed and included in the next few months of the program.
In Dr Smith’s social psychology course the students are learning about judgment heuristics. According to Robert Cialdini judgment heuristics is a theory that human beings have a tendency to accept, without much thought, the statements and directions of individuals who appear to be authorities on the topic. That is, rather than accepting or rejecting an expert’s arguments after due consideration, we frequently ignore the arguments and allow ourselves to be convinced by the experts’ status. Cialdini goes on to say that judgment heuristics tells people what to believe or do simply because an expert said so and in a way it is just a mental shortcut.
Selah had a great Shabbaton in Tel Aviv last weekend where they were hosted by families for Friday night and had a communal meal over lunch with InspiredTLV. This week on Selah the group went to an Italian restaurant for ‘Lunch and Learn’ where they read a text about Jewish ethics. We began to try answering the question of whether there is a need for commandments telling us to be nice people or whether we should just be nice of our own accord. On Tuesday night at the Bet Midrash the group explored the Judaism of their grandparents and clarified their Jewish commitments for the future. They also learnt that the secret of being a Jew is to be grateful. Thursday saw the group travel to Herzliya to meet an amazing couple for a Jewish Music workshop. Ariella Zeitlin Hoffman was a recent participant on The Voice Israel reality TV show and together with her husband Chezi they gave the group a violin-guitar concert to remember!
That will be all for now,
Until next time,