gap year in israel

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Shalom Parents,

I hope this email finds you well.

We have had a great week here in Tel Aviv. During the week, we had another chance to deepen our understanding of Israeli culture with two main events, an Israeli elections panel and meeting with minorities, but before telling you more details, let’s start with the beginning of the week:

On Sunday, we started our week with internships and the regular routine, which included individual tasks and group tasks such as apartment cleaning and grocery shopping. We ended our day, as always with apartment meetings and discussed the upcoming week.

On Monday evening, we joined the Jerusalem group at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv for a night to learn about politics in Israel and experience what the Israeli election is all about. Jacob Perelman mentioned, “With a very exciting election approaching next month and all of the controversial issues surrounding the elections, it was fitting to hear more about it. The night started off with light food and drinks until we were ushered into the main hall where we heard from a MASA representative who gave us the general background to how the political systems run here in Israel. After the first part of the night came to a close, the stage was then occupied by opposing political representatives who proceeded to take questions, arguing their parties views. It was truly an eye-opening experience to learn about the intricacies of the major parties views and made following the intriguing election season all the more interesting.”

On Tuesday, we went on a day trip to Haifa to discover the multiculturalism the city has to offer. Upon arriving, our first stop was at the Bahai Gardens, Haifa’s best known destination. After a brief history of the significance of the Gardens as a place for the Bahai religion, which is known for its inclusivity of all kinds of people, we were given the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful garden and the ocean under the blue skies. After the gardens, we went to the Stella Maris Church, where we saw the intricate art and prayer spot. Continuing the theme of experiencing other cultures, we then went to a nearby mosque, where we spoke to a representative of the “Amadia”, an Islamic movement, who explained their unique prayer rituals and traditions and then invited us to ask questions. Before leaving Haifa, we walked around a small Arabic neighborhood/shuk called “Wadi Nisnas”, where our guides pointed out notable art, foods, and aspects of the culture.

We ended our day with the optional Parsha and Pizza session with our lovely Rabbi Marc. 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 why we give 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, two of our Zionism classes went for a tour of the HerzLilenblum Museum. This museum tells the story of the banks in Israel along with the founding of Tel Aviv. The museum has three floors and we visited the first two. There were original items that were used in the first bank that was in that building. We also learned about how the first pioneers used their own money to found Tel Aviv and Israel. Overall, it was an enriching experience that helped the students understand where they were. Becca Carin said, “The museum was very cool. I saw an original checking book and learned a lot about the first pioneers and how much they sacrificed for our country. It is nice to not just to talk about Zionism, but also see it!”

In the evening, we had an optional activity with the movie V for Vendetta – a political fiction movie that inspires viewers to engage with deep thinking about the political world. The film is set in an alternative future where a Nordic supremacist and neo-fascist regime has subjugated the United Kingdom. Hugo Weaving portrays V, an anarchist freedom fighter who attempts to ignite a revolution through elaborate terrorist acts, and Natalie Portman plays Evey, a young, working-class woman caught up in V’s mission, while Stephen Rea portrays the detective leading a desperate quest to stop V.

On Thursday, we ended our week with our regular routine of internships and classes. Our Business Management & Marketing class focused on principles and how they are applied in the real world. The students gave examples from their own experiences whether as employees in camps, selling Girl Scout cookies, and working in a yogurt shop. If parents own a business, we talked about management from the owner’s perspective. We exposed the students to every aspect of what makes management successful including writing vision and mission statements, and SWOT, i.e., strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. As for the marketing aspect, we studied marketing programs and strategies, branding, advertising, and public relations. Students wrote a business case, a resume for themselves, cover letter, interviewing techniques, and how to ask for a raise (an important skill for the future 😉 ).

This week on Selah we visited Beit Tzvi – Israel’s School for the Performing Arts in Ramat Gan. There we met Oleg, our drama instructor who took us through our paces warming up for our Masks Workshop. We began with a short introduction to the history of the theater before learning about the Commedia dell’arte – 17th-century Italian dramatics. We connected with masks and then improvised a performance. The workshop was intended to be a warm-up for Purim and Rabbi Marc ended the morning with a class on the history and symbolism of dressing up in Jewish tradition. We looked at the Megilla and other examples of disguise in the Tanach before we heard how the first mention of Purim costumes dates back to the 13th century. Later in the week, we had our regular Learning Space. Some of the classes were focused on joy and others on change. We had a workshop on improving our character and a jam session about Tallit and Tefillin.

This weekend, Idan, our Madrich on call for the weekend, organized Shabbat dinner with some of the students. Almost half of the community joined for a lovely dinner on the rooftop in one of our buildings. Each student cooked their favorite dish and shared it with the rest. What a great way to start the weekend and welcome Shabbat!

We all are looking forward to our upcoming events, especially celebrating Purim together!

Have a great week,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael