I hope this email finds you well.
I’m pleased to tell you about some of the highlights from the past week in Tel Aviv:
On Sunday, Mind and Body’s theme for the day was organic and healthy daily life. Part of the activity was to explore a vegan restaurant and to be exposed to different dishes. During our weekly apartment meetings, the students and the staff discussed different challenges and opportunities for each apartment.
On Monday, we had an awesome evening activity called “How to Build a Hike”. Part of a gap year is learning new skills and developing existing ones. Also, since we are getting close to spring break, we would like to encourage the student to explore more of Israel. Therefore, the students learned about safety and guidelines that go into planning a hike and/or camping trip. The speaker, who is a professional in the field, showed the students how to read a map and what they need to take into consideration when planning a trip, like water ratio, packing list, weather and different area to travel to. These skills will enable the students to be more independent and enjoy the beautiful nature around Israel.
On Tuesday, we participated in a nationwide effort called the “Day of Good Deeds”. We went to Gan Hasofer – a park in the area. We planted trees and cleaned it up to make it nicer for the whole neighborhood. The students took part in planting plants, raking the ground, filling the sandbox for the kids and painting the bins. It was a great experience and an important one. We all felt that we did something significant by helping the community. It was amazing to see what great results we achieved by working together for just three hours. The amazing Aardvark Tel Aviv group has proven once again that they are a powerful community.
This week in Parsha and Pizza we began the third book of the Torah – Vayikra – Leviticus. This week’s Torah portion introduces us to the world of sacrifices. Although sacrifices do appear earlier in the Torah, this is the first time that a uniform framework and rules are given over to the people. Rabbi Marc explained four different types of sacrifice that were offered during Temple times and we discovered through the details that most were animal offerings (Kosher only) although some could be grain-based breads. We mapped out some of the classic reasons given for Karbanot (sacrifices in Hebrew, from the root word karov – קרוב – which means closeness) and ended the session with everyone choosing their favorite type of sacrifice. The clear winner was the Shleimim, which was meant to bring Shalom – peace – between God and the person offering it or between the person and their guests. The rule was that this sacrifice needed to be shared with people and eaten together with priests, family, friends or the poor. Some students noticed that it is not too different from having a barbecue!
On Wednesday, we met Amos, an Israeli cartoon artist, who showed us his art and inspired us to create our own cartoons. Amos showed the group how Israeli humor can be used for developing the skill of thinking outside the box. We came up with pretty good stuff! The session was both hilarious and educational. While we all had a great laugh together, we were also able to understand a very important component of Israeli culture – humor.
This week on Selah, we went on a Social Justice and Judaism tour together with Bina – the Jewish Movement for Social Change. We toured the Levinsky Park that is near the new bus station, a few minutes’ walk from the Aardvark buildings, and we learned about the influx of more than 60 000 migrants from Sudan and Eritrea that made their way to Israel in the last decade. We debated Israel’s policy towards refugees and learned some Jewish texts about Tzedaka and the treatment of strangers. We argued about the nature of a Jewish state and whether we should prioritize helping our fellow Jews or people from different cultures. The morning ended with a meeting with Tej’ – an asylum seeker from Sudan who shared his story with the group. A highlight was when he gave his view on what he thought about the Jews. He said, “I love your Shabbat. It is such a special time to rest and be with family. I miss my family.”
On Thursday we had our weekly learning sessions. One of the classes focused on fast days in the Jewish tradition and we had a workshop on what we consider the most important aspects of our Jewish life.
Internship On The Spot – Vera Weinberger, “My internship is with Techelet. It is an art wall renovation company, founded in Tel Aviv. I’ve been working there to paint renovated houses of restored original paintings from the 1900’s. I also work in an office in Lod, where I restore and document original photos of residents in Tel Aviv. It is an amazing opportunity to be exposed to the history of Tel Aviv. Participating in this internship has allowed me to appreciate the effort put into interior artwork. I also gained office work experience and developing new relationships with my colleagues.”
In this weekly letter, I would also like to tell you about one of our academic classes: Introduction to Psychology with Dr. Mika Smith. In the course, the students are learning about memory and its function. Remembering things is a four-step process: items need to be encoded, put into a form that can be positioned in memory, stored, and retrieved or brought into awareness. Encoding means acquiring information and entering it into memory. Furthermore, there are additional steps to encoding: acoustics, visual, and semantic. Acoustic Encoding is the mental representation of information as a sequence of sound. Visual Encoding is the mental representation of information as images (e.g., memory games). Semantic Encoding is the mental representation of an experience by its general meaning such as an ambulance siren.
Next week, as a part of our “Multi Culture in Israel” theme we will go to Haifa – a great city that combines many different cultures in a very interesting way. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
The weekend, the Madrich on call is Ilay.