gap year in israel

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Shalom and Happy Purim!

It has been an amazing, exciting and happy week here at Aardvark Tel Aviv, and while we are a bit busy celebrating, I would love to tell you about some of this week’s highlights.

On Sunday the students filmed parts of the megillah for our Purim party video contest. It was an important learning experience for them and it was so funny to watch their interpretation of the megillah story at the Purim party on Wednesday.

On Monday we had a community talk. We reviewed the schedule and mostly talked about new opportunities and the new energy that comes with the spring atmosphere. We are starting a process of breaking out, which means that every student is going to have a breakout plan of something he or she wants to achieve in the upcoming month.

On Tuesday we had one of the most important tours that Aardvark goes on. We drove to the area of Otef Aza to learn about the geopolitical narrative of the area. We met with locals and our knowledgeable guide pointed out physical landscapes that have shaped the existence of the state of Israel.

We started the day at a watch point from Israel into the Gaza Strip, we were able to see the houses there including some used as Hamas headquarters. We continued to Kibbutz Gevulot for lunch and a discussion about living under a constant threat. We proceeded to Netiv Hahasara a community well known as one of the closest settlements to the border with Gaza. There we had an opportunity to hear a speaker name Roni, a woman who has lived most of her life in Netiv HaHasara. It was fascinating to hear that despite the fear and the difficulties that arise from living there, she and the citizens of Netiv HaHasar are still very optimistic and hopeful regarding making peace with the Palestinians.

Afterwards Jacob Sukiennik said, “I really enjoyed the group’s Tiyul down to Otef Aza on Tuesday. Having the opportunity to meet with people who live in Netiv Ha’asara, a moshav just a few hundreds of meters away from the Gaza Strip opened up my eyes to the daily lives of people who are constantly aware of the dangers that surround them. Despite this, I was amazed at the true optimism that the citizens of the moshav hold for future peace between Israel and Palestine. As our guides took us to some ancient Jewish sites in Israel’s beautiful south-west, we were taught that understanding the history of the conflict is crucial in thinking towards the future. Seeing the mosaic walls built by the children of Netiv Ha’asara dedicated to peace really amazed us as we stood just meters from the border of Gaza.”

Micha Stegers said, “It was very special and intense to be right next to the Gaza border and to see the Hamas headquarters. It made me realize how close the conflict is and how grateful we should be that we have our own state.”

This week in Parsha and Pizza we learned about the Torah portion of Ki Tissa. Rabbi Marc focused the group’s attention on the story of the Golden Calf and through music and pictures, we discussed the idea of idolatry in Jewish thought and tried to understand why the Children of Israel specifically chose to worship a baby bull.

On Wednesday we were in full party mode. After the morning internships we headed to a beautiful rooftop in uptown Tel Aviv for the annual Purim celebration complete with costumes, carnival food stands, and the megillah reading. It was great seeing all of the students with their costumes dancing, singing and enjoying the party together.

Afterwards Daphne Wornovitzky said, “The Purim party was filled with many fun activities and was took place on a cool rooftop. I like it because the music was nice and I enjoyed just being able to be with my friends in the Purim spirit.”

Rabbi Marc said, “It was fantastic seeing all of our students, dressed in costume and holding their Purim Greggers huddled together on the roof listening to the Megillah being read to them from the scroll. We also collected hundreds of Shekels in charitable donations from the students for some worthy causes, and, and fulfilled the Mitzvah of Matanot LaEvyonim – Gifts to the Poor.”

On Thursday we brought some joy to the elderly of the neighborhood before partaking in the Purim feast together. I was so proud to see the students connecting with the elders in the community center; some of the students took some time to talk with the elders while others danced Rikudey Am and sang Purim songs.

We ended this amazing week with a feast on the rooftop. We ate some tasty food and talked about what is so special about this holiday here in Israel and Tel Aviv. It’s been a great week!

Lielle Agosin said, “The rooftop Purim feast was an amazing opportunity to get out of our comfort zones and get to know people a little more. We ended with a jam session that made this program feel a little more like home and strengthen our bond as a program.”

Last Shabbat on Selah we had our second Shabbaton of the semester. We drove down to the Negev town of Mitspe Ramon and stayed in a youth hostel. On Friday afternoon we went to an Alpaca farm where we hung out with 300 alpacas and llamas as well as more traditional farm animals like goats and horses. We got ourselves ready for Shabbat and then had a Kabbalat Shabbat service looking out over the breathtaking Machtesh Ramon crater. During the night we had a games Oneg and Rabbi Marc shared a Dvar Torah. Shabbat day we slept in late before having Kiddush and lunch with Shabbatagrams and then a Shabbat stroll around the nearby sculpture park. We ended with a light Seuda Shlishit and Havdalla with a moving Dvar Torah from Dina Newstadt. On Monday we set out for another of our monthly Tanach Tiyulim. This time we went to a place called Khirbet Qayaffa, which is an amazing archaeological site with remains of a palace and city gate from the time of King Solomon.

One last thing, Mada and Marva courses have both finished this week, I would like to congratulate Will Oken for completing the Marva (army training) course, and Lindsy, Elyia Sidney, and Lindsy for completing the Mada course.

The Madrich on call for the weekend is Sahar.

Shabbat Shalom,