The first month of our program has almost come to an end, and it has been a very successful month. The vibe here at Aardvark Tel-Aviv is becoming very family- like and a lot of fun. The participation of our students in the various activities, the challenges they face in their internships and the bonds they create amongst themselves are huge contributors to the success of this semester.
This last week has been great and it will be my pleasure to tell you all about it:
On Sunday, after internships/volunteering, we met at our Moadon for our first community talk. Each month we will meet as a group to talk about the schedule for the next month, to receive feedback about our previous activities, and to discuss how we can improve things in the future. In this talk, we discuss the different platforms that exist in the program such as volunteering/internships, the trips, the evening activities, etc. In addition, we opened a new platform, our committees. Starting this Sunday, three different committees will begin meeting and the students who have volunteered to be part of the committees will begin planning how they can influence the program and create more events and activities to benefit all of our students.
There committees are as follows: The Culture Committee – they will create and organize various events and activities for the students. The Promoters Committee – they are in charge of promoting events in the program and outside of the program, and getting the maximum amount of students to attend. The Newspaper Committee – their goal is to document the different activities throughout the semester and then at the end create something memorable for everyone to have. These committees are very important to us because we want to encourage our students to be active and be in charge of their own experiences in our program and in Israel in general.
Afterward, we had an orientation with the students who will soon be traveling to Ethiopia, they met with Shay-El, the leader of the trip. In the orientation, they went through the trip’s schedule, the packing list, safety rules, and so on.
In the evening apartment meetings, our team of Madrichim, led by Daniel, chose to do something a little different from usual. All of the students came to the Moadon for a interesting and important lecture about the environment, how humans destroy it and the importance of keeping it clean and healthy.
On Monday we had a karaoke night. It was really fun to just sing and dance with each other. We started with some modern hits in English, continued to some Hebrew hits, and before we knew it, everyone was standing up and dancing together. It was great to see the students joining in and forming such a great bond!
Becca Karin said, “Karaoke was a lot of fun. I think I lost my voice from singing so much and cheering everyone on.”
On Tuesday we went to Caesarea, which is located in the north of Israel. It was an awesome tour of one of the country’s most beautiful and historic cities. Our first stop was at the national park of Caesarea. The park contains ancient Roman ruins. We walked around the ruins with our tour guide and managed to gain a real understanding of the different buildings in the ancient Roman city. We saw the amphitheatre, the tavern, the bathhouse, and horse racing fields. It was interesting to learn about the history of the city, and to see the preserved ruins, which really helped us gain a sense of how the city was built and how people lived their lives.
After lunch, we went to Atlit to visit the “Mapilim Museum”. The Atlit detainee camp was a detention camp established by the authorities of the British Mandate for Palestine at the end of the 1930s on the Israeli coastal plain, 20 kilometres south of Haifa. The camp was established to prevent Jewish refugees from entering Mandatory Palestine. Afterwards, we went to a beautiful beach called “Neve Yam” where we just relaxed and lay in the sun. It was a great ending to a very intense and interesting day.
This week in Parsha and Pizza we discovered the joys of Jewish law through our study of the Torah portion Mishpatim. Rabbi Marc gave an overview of over twenty different laws stipulated in the text. It was incredible to see the huge range of areas of life that Judaism touches on. We took in agriculture, the death penalty, liability for damages and compensation, the legal system, corruption, sexuality, festivals, dietary laws, architecture, and more. The students had so many questions and the conversation was lively and deep. We ended the night with an overview of the laws of slavery. Amazingly, this is one of the first laws given to the Jewish people after their freedom from slavery. It is clear that the Jewish take on slavery is very different from our historical image of the slave trade from Africa in previous centuries. In fact, a large proportion of the laws are about welfare, debt relief and economic responsibility to the needy. Our tradition also marks out clear ethical and practical guidelines to protect the lives and rights of those people who end up being classified as slaves.
On Wednesday night, we had the privilege to hear from one of the founders of the organization, BKind.
BKind is a social enterprise that uses technology, education and unique tools to increase positive actions and interactions between people. They work with organizations, schools, campuses and families from around the world that wants to increase kindness in their communities.
Each student received a BKind Card, which helps increase kindness in the world. They are passed from one person to another each time an act of kindness takes place. People pass them as a token of gratitude or with an act of kindness that they carry out. After passing the card the student can keep track of where it goes and what good deeds carried out by those that passed it forward.
On Thursday evening we offered the students a screening of the movie the Green Prince. Next week our speaker on the Wednesday program will be Gonen Ben Yizhak, the Shin Bet agent who was handling the “Green Prince” and I can’t wait until next week to tell you all about it.
Next week we are also going on a tour to Jaffa where we will discuss coexistence. We will see different pieces of art inspired by this topic and we will visit a mosque where we will meet Eihav, a Muslim teacher who dedicates his time to explain the importance and challenges of coexistence.
This week we had a seriously good week of learning on our Selah track. On Monday we travelled by train to the city of Lod. There we met with representatives of Tzohar. Tzohar was founded in the mid-1990s to build a bridge between secular and religious Jews in Israel. It is primarily a rabbinic organization that offers important services and projects to the Israeli public. Recognizing that the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate in Israel sometimes does more harm than good in motivating people to connect with Jewish life, Tzohar offers a friendly face to people who are looking to get married, keep kosher or convert to Judaism. We toured their offices, met with different Rabbis and staff and had an opportunity to ask some difficult questions about the role of religion and state in Israel. Democracy, civil rights, religion, and politics were just a few of the issues we took on.
On Thursday we went even deeper with our weekly Learning Space. Some keen students woke up early and attended a Talmud study class. The group is learning about the origins of the laws of separating meat and milk. Later, Rabbi Marc taught the class about the 613 commandments (Mitzvot). We had a chance to read them and learn their sources, and then the group was challenged to make an art installation. We managed to create over 430 of the Mitzvot and place them on display in our offices. Later in the morning, there were different classes on relationships, the bible, happiness, Chasidut and prayer. The group is really getting into their Jewish learning and seem to be truly benefiting from having an intimate relationship with some great Jewish educators.
We have representatives coming to London, San Francisco, Vancouver, Detroit, LA, Denver and the BBYO International Conference over the next 3 weeks so if you know anybody who might be interested in our program in those areas, please have them contact us to arrange a meeting.Thank you.
The Madrich on call this week is Avia.
Until next week,