PURIM WAS HERE!!! Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire. Purim is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Israel, it is embraced by the entire country, from religious Jews in Jerusalem to secular Tel Avivians, and it is a time of festivity and celebration far beyond its original religious roots. Purim parties take place across the country, with street parties with carnival atmospheres taking place in almost every city, town, and village.
On Sunday evening, the Madrichim had apartment meetings with their groups and discussed the meaning of Purim. The students all received white masks and were asked to draw on the outside of the mask the way they think other people see them. After the activity, each group had an interesting discussion about the differences in perspective and point of views when it comes to the way we look at each other.
On Monday evening, our Madrichim held an extraordinary activity that dealt with different conspiracy theories. The goal of this activity was to encourage our students to think “outside the box” and not always accept things as they are. After an opening story about a conspiracy theory regarding the band “The Beatles”, the students were divided into groups and were asked to explore different theories and then present them to the rest of the group. It was a really intriguing evening in which the students learned really crazy and interesting theories.
On Monday night, our Nepal group came back from their long and exciting journey. They returned with millions of amazing stories and I have to say that it was a truly eye-opening experience for all.
On Tuesday morning, for our tour we went to south Tel Aviv to learn about another group and their conflict in Israeli society. We started the tour in Neve Sha’anan, proceeded to the Central Bus Station and ended at the BINA Secular Yeshiva. In Neve Sha’anan we learned about the neighborhood’s history, from the beautiful Menorah-shaped district the founders hoped to build, to how it ended up as the poverty-ridden neighborhood it is today.
At the Central Bus Station we explored the station’s unused lower floors and learned how similar to Neve Sha’anan, the station colossally underachieved its potential. As we learned, these two stories are intertwined. The 25-year building process of the Central Bus Station continuously disrupted and bothered the residents of Neve Sha’anan, driving those with money to find a new area to live in.
At the BINA Secular Yeshiva, we had the opportunity to hear from and engage with an asylum-seeker from Sudan. He told us his story and answered our questions about his struggles and successes.
This week in Parsha and Pizza, we got into the Purim mood with an overview of the major themes of the holiday. Rabbi Marc taught us about ten topics including feminism, anti-Semitism, heroism, alcohol, exile, and leadership.
On Wednesday, we gathered together with the Jerusalem group for an INCREDIBLE Purim party on a rooftop in Tel Aviv! The energy was high, the costumes were amazing, and the food was delicious!! Everyone listened to the Megillah and loved making noise every time they heard Haman’s name. We also had an incredible costumes contest and we were so proud to see how much effort the students put into their costumes. That was just the beginning of the Purim celebration and defiantly a great start to this amazing holiday.
Gina Lewis said, “The Purim party was so much fun, all of us in cool costumes and everyone got into the Purim spirit, dancing, eating and listening to the “Megillah”. Purim in Israel was one of my highlights of Aardvark so far.”
Elan Ganz said, “The Purim party was totally epic. We were on a rooftop in Tel Aviv and there were lights, music, and snacks. It was really fun to see everyone in their costumes but especially the counselors, their costumes were really awesome. The view from the rooftop was beautiful and it was a cool place to take pictures. To finish the Purim party we had a costume contest and I ended up winning best costume. I dressed up as an old man (shout-out to my dad) but there were a lot of other dope costumes. Overall it was just a really cool environment to start an awesome Purim.”
On Thursday, we met at a local old age home in Tel Aviv for another Purim Mitzva – volunteering and contribution. We started the volunteering with a great guitar and dance session along with the residents. We all cheered and sang and it was great to see how the music connected us all beyond age and language. Then we joined the residents for a traditional Megillah reading led by a local rabbi. To finish the event, we served some snacks to the residents and joined them for some more quality time talking and singing some old Israeli folk songs.
Selah this week spent the morning at the Tel Aviv Kabbalah Center. We had an introductory class to some of the mystical aspects of Jewish thought and were treated to a powerful session by a German former Neo-Nazi who found Kabbalah and converted to Judaism. He has just made Aliyah to Israel and has featured prominently on a few Israeli news channels. His story was so unique and it was inspiring to hear about the extreme shift from his world of hate and ignorance to his decision to join the Jewish community and his love for Torah.
The weekend was thrilling and a great opportunity for the students to enjoy all of the parties and Purim celebrations in Tel Aviv; it was definitely one of the highlights of this semester.
This week we are going to have a tour and do some hiking at a national park next to Rosh Haayin called Tel Afek, there we will also have a field cooking session together in which the students will have to cook their own lunches.