gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

Shalom parents!

We’re at the end of our second week of the spring semester and I’d like to share some of the highlights.

As a whole, the group is off to a great start. David, our internship coordinator, has been arrangin interviews and internships for each student and working really hard to make sure that each student is happy with the internship they will be doing. Feel free to check in with your child and see how the internship is going so far.

While we are still sorting things out, most students have begun working and are getting into the rhythm of the program.

Sunday began with a slew of students heading out for interviews at their workplaces. Those that did not yet have an interview scheduled came to the office for a workshop with Eyal and to watch an educational documentary. In the afternoon students had time to clean their apartments in preparation for the weekly meeting with the Madrich. Each week the counselors meet with their apartments individually and these meetings are dedicated to apartment dynamics and any other topics that the Madrichim choose to cover in a specific week.

On Monday the students went for group volunteering at a factory that employs the blind. The students learned about different physical handicaps and then lent a hand at the factory. In the afternoon students began their Ulpan (Hebrew learning) Marathon. The counselors handed out chips with the blessing “may learning Hebrew be like chips” – the Hebrew equivalent to something being a “piece of cake”. The evening activity was paintball, it was optional but many students joined for a chance to shoot each other with paint and have some pure fun!

On Tuesday we headed to the Olympic Experience – an interactive exhibit dedicated to the Olympics, to the championship, mastery, and of course, Israel’s own Olympic stars. When they returned to the Aardvark building the students continued with Ulpan. The Ulpan is split into 5 levels to best meet each students’ needs. Our teachers are all professional Hebrew teachers and are working hard to help the students learn as much as they can.

This week we held our first Parsha and Pizza. Each week Rabbi Marc comes to hang out with our students, eat a little pizza and learn about the weekly Torah portion. This is an optional evening program that regularly attracts good numbers of students who come highly motivated to talk about Jewish themes (and fill their stomachs too!). This week we heard about the Torah portion of Bo, which includes the last 3 of the 10 plagues – locust, darkness and the death of the firstborn. Rabbi Marc brought our attention to the night of the Exodus itself and showed how the Torah highlights that the Jewish people ate their festive meal (the first ever Seder night) while dressed and ready to leave in a hurry. We looked at how some commentators see the hurry as showing that the Jews were scared of the Egyptians and rushing to get away while other commentaries point out the eagerness of the Jews to make their way to the holy land to meet God. We had a great conversation about the push and pull factors in life. Just as some of the Jews were running from something and others were racing towards something, so we all have things in our lives that drive us away or draw us near. Rabbi Marc asked us to reflect on how we packed and prepared to come on Aardvark and what positive and negative motivations we came to Israel with.

On Wednesday students that still didn’t have an internship set up headed to the Tel Aviv Museum – a state of the art museum with exhibits from all over the world. In the afternoon we continued with Hebrew learning and at night we had a wonderful activity led by the counselors called the Peevan Workshop. Peevan (his artwork is available online) is an artist who plays with the world around him and creates artwork, mainly portraits from the objects at his disposal. Each object is chosen with thought and care as to how it represents the character. Students watched a short explanation of this art style before trying their hand at creating their own self-portrait. It was a fabulous activity that allowed students to express themselves creatively in a new way all while internally reflecting on who they are.

On Thursday most students headed to their internships. We have students working at app startups, event planning, dog shelters, kindergartens, and recording businesses. They are interning in areas of interest from business to food to fashion. The students that are still waiting for their interview on Sunday went as a group to the Ichilov Hospital Children’s floor and brought a lot of joy and energy to the children.

Thursday afternoon was the last ulpan marathon. Starting next week the students will learn Hebrew twice a week and will begin their academic classes.

This week on Selah (our Jewish identity track), we began our new semester with two incredible activities.

On Monday we went on our first Tanach Tiyul. Once a month we travel to a scene of a famous Bible story or character. This week we met up with Elijah the Prophet and walked around the foot of Mount Carmel before taking in a spectacular view from the top. We heard about Elijah’s dramatic standoff with 400 idolatrous prophets and learned about this important character who accompanies the Jewish people at Seder night, Brit Milah and each week at Havdalla. It was uplifting to feel such a connection to this historical character.

On Thursday we traveled to the Tel Aviv University campus where we got to visit the Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot). We began with a workshop exploring our countries of origin and histories. From the 15 people in the group, we traced ourselves to close to 30 different countries. We were guided through the museum’s exhibits – including ones on Bob Dylan, the rescue of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Moses as well as a moving exhibit on prayer and synagogues. The highlight though was the Heroes exhibit where we could play and interact with over a hundred inspirational Jews from fields as diverse as fashion, sport, politics, science, and film.

Next week we begin our weekly learning program and have our first Shabbat experience together as a group.
It’s been a great week and we are enjoying the time with your children. The madrichim have been making their rounds of phone calls to all the parents. If you haven’t yet spoken to your child’s madrich or set up a time to speak to your child’s counselor please do so. It is a way for us to hear from you if you have questions or concerns. Your cooperation helps the program run smoothly.

Wishing you a great weekend!