gap year in israel

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Hello Parents,

It has been an amazingly sunny week here in Aardvark Tel Aviv. Here are some of this week’s highlights:

On Sunday, we had a routine day with volunteering and internships. During the apartment meetings the madrichim ran all kind of different activities. Ilay’s group discussed the Break-Out March program: each student wrote their goal for the month on the board and then discussed how to achieve the goal with the other members of the apartment. Daniela’s group and Sahar’s group discussed some of the current events in Israel – the Ultra-Orthodox army recruitment law and other things. Rebecca group had a fondue (melted chocolate and fruits) night, which served to build a stronger bond between the students.

On Monday, we had an evening activity called Cafe Ivrit. The students met in a local coffee ship for a nice and relaxing evening where they could speak ONLY Hebrew (challenging, right? That’s the point! ) . The students ordered hot drinks and each one received a menu with some Hebrew vocabulary. The Madrichim walked between the tables and helped the students to start their conversations. It was a great experience to practice some simple everyday Hebrew words including slang and all kind of funny terms. The activity was a great extension to the Ulpan classes and the students had a wonderful night together.

On Tuesday, we got onto the bus to go to Haifa. It was a beautiful sunny day and we stepped off the bus and entered the Bahai Gardens, Haifa’s best-known attraction. During the tour, the students were given a brief history of the significance of the Gardens for the Bahai religion, which is known for its inclusivity. We were also given the opportunity to enjoy views overlooking the beautiful garden and the ocean under blue skies. Continuing the theme of experiencing other cultures, we then went to a nearby mosque, where we spoke to a representative of the “Ahmadis”, an Islamic movement, who explained the religion’s unique praying rituals and traditions, and then invited us to ask questions. After the Ahmadis visit, we went to the Stela Maris Church, where we saw intricate artwork. Before leaving Haifa, we walked around a small Arab neighborhood/shuk called “Wadi Nisnas”, where our guides pointed out notable art, foods, and aspects of the culture.

Anabel Ben David said, “The highlight of my week was definitely the tiyul to Haifa. I found it extremely interesting to see so many different cultures in one city. My favorite part was our visit to the Baha’i gardens – not only because of its beauty but also because it was a great opportunity to learn about another faith.”

In the evening we welcomed back our students who had been on the trip to Nepal and then joined the rest of the group for Parsha and Pizza. This week we read from the Torah portion of Tzav. It continued the theme that we began last week of sacrifices and the temple. This week we focused our attention on the Biblical prohibition on eating blood. Rabbi Marc led a lively introduction where he surveyed the position of blood in human culture and history. We took in vampires and bloodlines, leeches, cocktails and idioms before zooming in on Judaism. We noticed the irony that for many centuries, blood libels have been thrown at Jewish communities and yet the Torah explicitly tells us to not eat blood. We connected this to Pesach and the blood of the paschal lamb that was daubed on the doorposts (giving us the origin of our Mezuzahs) and we also mentioned the blood of Brit Milah as only circumcised Jews could eat of the lamb. We also spoke of the blood of the first plague in Egypt. And that was just the introduction! Rabbi Marc then gave the group some insights into why blood is banned – primarily because of the connection between the power of life that blood symbolizes and the respect we are meant to have towards life itself.

On Wednesday evening, we had a “Faces of Israel” activity at the Moadon. As I mentioned, this month’s topic is “Multi Cultures in Israel” and this week we met with a speaker who shared her personal experience of what it is like to be both religious and LGTB. She also spoke about her involvement with the Israeli government and how she is fighting to legalize gay marriage. Her story was fascinating, inspiring and through it, we were able to realize some of the difficulties involved in being a part of the pride community in Israel, for both good and bad.

Maya Fox said, “Being in a religious country, not everyone would be willing to speak so beautifully about their religion and sexuality clashing, and getting to hear the speaker’s story was incredible.”

Tonight (Thursday), we are having some quality time together at the local park. We will be having a BBQ, playing the guitar, singing and having an all-round fun time together as we prepare to welcome the Shabbat tomorrow.

I would also like to remind you that we are offering an opportunity to help prepare for your Passover Seder. You can join a webinar given by Dr. Daniel Rose, our Director of Education, on March 25th 2018. If you haven’t yet registered then please use this link to do so:

This week Selah had a memorable trip to Kfar Chabad – a village of several thousand Lubavitch Hassidim. We took the train, walked the streets examining the road signs (all of which are connected to Hassidic Rabbis and their books) and counted pictures of the Rebbe. We visited a replica of the Rebbe’s house from Brooklyn, known as “770” and we had a chance to learn about Chabad’s influence and success. We made our own Matza as we geared up for Pesach and had a tour of one of Israel’s largest hand-baked Shemura Matza factories. We were even given packs of Matza to take to Seder night!

Later in the week we had our final Learning Space. For the last two months, the Selah students have been sitting in classes from 8:30 until 12:30, learning, debating and discussing all things Jewish with our fantastic roster of teachers. They seem to have really enjoyed getting to know their subjects and their teachers and have had some deep conversations, learnt some central Jewish texts and asked important questions. We ended with a preparation session for this weekend’s Shabbaton. This will be our third Shabbat experience with Selah and we are going to Kibbutz Revadim to join an Israeli Mechina program. Mechina is a pre-army gap year program for Israelis who want to develop their leadership and their Zionist and Jewish values. As a warm-up we learnt about a recent study comparing Israeli and American attitudes to Jewishness and shared our perspectives. You can read an infographic summary here.

Intrenship In The Spot: Akiva Goldsmith:

“Over the course of my semester in Tel Aviv I have been able to curate a unique volunteering experience with opportunities that allow me to explore my interests and passions every day.
Firstly I have enjoyed the privilege to continue my Jerusalem internship working in the office of Knesset MK Yehuda Glick. As one of the only English speaking members of his staff I am responsible for correspondence between Mr. Glick and his English speaking supporters around the world; I work on his website, public newsletter, and assist Mr. Glick in his meetings with visiting groups.
This opportunity to partake in the world of Israeli politics is not my only internship, however.
My volunteering experience within the Tel Aviv area has been at an incredible organization for the prevention of cruelty to animals, where I spend hours every week with abused and neglected animals of all kinds in an effort to improve their quality of life. These opportunities have been a huge part of my experience in Israel thus far, and I hope to continue working in the fields of politics and social activism even once my gap year is completed.”

The Madrich on call for the weekend is David.

Shabbat Shalom,