gap year in israel

Dear Parents,

Another week has gone by here at Aardvark Tel-Aviv and it was definitely an exciting and thrilling one. After our Nepal group came back and the Purim festivities ended, we returned to our normal routine and had another great week focusing on our monthly subject, the multicultural society of Israel.

On Sunday we had a meeting for all of our students who are leaving for Italy in a few days. The students are going to experience a lot during this trip, great food, beautiful scenery and lots of arts and culture. They will also visit the Jewish communities in Rome and Florence and will learn how Jews lived and live in Italy.

In the evening, in Tali’s apartment meeting, the group played charades. In addition to the fact that it was fun to play, the aim of the activity was to get the students to pay attention to and notice communication that is not verbal in their day to day lives.

On Monday, after classes, the students went for an enjoyable evening bowling! As you probably already know, on Mondays we offer an optional evening activity. We are very happy and proud to report that in every optional activity from the beginning of the semester, the vast majority of our students signed up and chose to come. This high attendance makes for a huge part in the activities’ success and I’m sure that if this continues, we will have many more great optional evenings. The bowling evening was very fun, and it included lots of food and snacks, the students had a really good time and came back with a big smile, a full stomach, and memories to be cherished.

Taya Kalman said, “On Monday night we had the option to take part in a bowling night. It was heaps of fun filled with so much laughter. One of my highlights from the night was when my friend Mia went to bowl and somehow she threw the bowling ball over the railing into the gutter. It was hilarious. Throughout the night, Tristen was coming last until he got three strikes in a row on the very last round making him win. We were shocked and in laughter, the chances of that happening are so small. I am loving all the minor and major opportunities that Aardvark has to offer as I am just about to embark on a trip to Italy, 4 cities in 5 days. I can’t wait!”

On Tuesday morning we headed out to Tal Afek and the Yarkon. The Ottoman Fortress, Binar Bashi, was built in 1571 atop the ancient mound of Tel Afek. The Yarkon (Rosh Ha‘ayin) springs are clearly visible at the foot of the fortress. On the eastern slope of the mound is the British Mandate pumping station, from which Yarkon spring water was once channelled to Jerusalem.

The ancient city of Afek controlled one of the most important passes on the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea). The Israelites settled in Afek at the beginning of the 10th century BCE following King David’s victory over the Philistines. In the Roman era, Herod the Great built the city he called Antipatris there; the Roman main street and the city’s commercial district were discovered south of the Ottoman fortress.

A trail along the upper Yarkon Stream begins near the mound and leads to the Yarkon sources.

Although the springs are capped and mixed with water from the National Water Carrier, a large enough volume flows to support aquatic plants, especially the beautiful yellow water lily, which blooms in summer.

After hiking, exploring and learning history, we cooked an amazing lunch, which included Pasta, rice, lentils, salads, and fruit salad. The students worked together, cooked, played Frisbee, listened to music, played guitar, and even played Shesh Besh (backgammon). It really was an AMAZING day!

Isaac Cremer said “I really enjoyed the Tiyul on Tuesday because it was relaxing and fun but at the same time informative and interesting. We arrived on the buses at these towering fortresses where a guide explained to us the significance of the landscape before us, as we gazed upon the picturesque scenes. We then hiked beside the Yarkon River and under train tracks to a picnic site amongst the eucalyptus trees where we cooked a healthy lunch. I loved playing soccer and games with my Aardvark companions as we ate with our reusable appliances beside the beautiful Yarkon River.”

This week in Parsha and Pizza we talked about the Torah portion of Shemini. We finally see the Mishkan, our mobile mini-desert Temple, being put to service. Aaron is dressed, anointed and ready to offer the first sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people. Rabbi Marc highlighted the power of his sacrifice being a young bull as a reminder or an atonement for his involvement with the golden calf. Tragedy then strikes and Aaron’s two eldest sons die while serving in the Temple. The portion continues by presenting a list of all the kosher and non-kosher animals, birds, fish and bugs and by which signs we can identify them. The group wanted a chance to review the different meanings behind the system of animal sacrifices and Rabbi Marc shared four different ideas that could perhaps help us make sense of a challenging area of ancient Jewish practice.

On Wednesday evening, we had the amazing opportunity to hold a panel with a Chabad rabbi and a very left wing Israeli journalist who came to tell us about themselves and their very different views on religion and politics. Haim Tvria and Shay Fogelman served together in the army in the armor unit. Today, Haim is a Chabad lecturer, rabbi, and a teacher. Shay is a journalist in Israel and a documentary filmmaker. In the panel, they both told us their very different and extreme worldviews, which almost reflect the extreme opinions of the left and right in Israel. The rising tension between the left and right and between the religious and secular was deeply felt during their discussions. We, the audience, were exposed to many real life dilemmas in Israeli culture such as Ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the army, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the feud between the religious and secular citizens, and so much more. I have never seen our students so mesmerized and passionate by a discussion, they were all sitting on the edge of their seats just waiting to ask questions and contribute their thoughts. The panel was very interesting and intense, and at the end I believe everyone walked off with a lot of unanswered questions and thoughts. All that is left for them is to digest all of the information and then decide for themselves what their own answers and beliefs are on these issues.

On Thursday we had a regular day of volunteer/internship and classes. During the break between the classes, we had a short cooking session in which we made delicious hotdogs and buns, which was a fun way to end the week.

This week on Selah we delved deep into a highly challenging but important subject in our Love, Sex and Romance Seminar. We began the day by splitting the boys and girls into separate groups with different facilitators and spoke about dating, compatibility and the pursuit of love. Each group tried to appreciate the importance of looking for someone with shared values and learned about the Jewish preference for committed relationships and marriage. Later on, we met a third facilitator, a sex therapist and couples advisor Rabbi who provided us with a framework for our thinking about the messages we are exposed to regarding sexuality from a young age at home, in society and among friends. The group was incredibly mature and open and the conversation became personal but sensitive. We ended the day by learning some Jewish texts about pleasure and intimacy. It was a challenging but inspiring morning. In our weekly Learning Space we continued our class on Midot (character traits) and what wisdom the ancient Rabbis had about self-improvement. We ended the morning with a Tefillah jam around the Ashrei prayer. This coming Shabbat we have a Shabbaton, locally in Tel Aviv. Some of the students are going to host families for Friday night dinner and everyone is joining Rabbi Marc for a sumptuous Shabbat banquet and activity for lunch.

On Sunday at 3:00am, the Italy trip will depart. We wish the students and the staff a safe journey and an amazing trip!

Next week, in honor of the approaching elections, we will have an activity called King Bibi. During this activity, we will watch a documentary about Benjamin Netanyahu (the current Prime Minister of Israel), which is currently showing in cinemas, and after the movie, we will have a fascinating discussion with the director of the movie.

Shabat Shalom!


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael