gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

It has been an eventful week full of diverse activities, a large number of which were arranged and lead by our very own students. The week was all about education, starting with our community talk on Sunday and ending with our Shabbaton this weekend.

Now I’m happy to tell you about everything that happened this week:

On Sunday, after volunteering/internships we had a meeting of the different committees. Our newspaper committee is currently working on a unique website for our students where they can view photos and videos of themselves from different activities, read weekly briefs, read articles about various current events and even read articles written by our madrichim. Our culture committee is currently working on our “Purim Party”, but the last meeting was about an activity they ran this week.

After our committees’ meetings, we met in the Moadon for our community talk. In the talk, we went through the schedule for the next month and summarized the educational content we covered this month. In addition, we talked about procrastination and then watch a short TED video about it. The students were asked to name a few things that cause them to procrastinate on a daily basis so that they can acknowledge it, try to get it done efficiently, and no longer “save it for later”. Next month each student will need to name a goal that they plan to accomplish in April and fulfill it by the end of April.

In the evening, the students met with our madrichim for their apartment activity. Avia’s group had an activity called “The Mailman”, in this activity the entire apartment was blacked out and lit by candles. The students were asked to write short letters to their friends and the madrich was the “mailman” delivering the anonymous letters to each of them. The students were very excited by the activity as it gave them a direct channel to communicate openly and deliver positive and supportive messages to one another.

On Monday evening, our culture committee organized an activity named “Trivia Crack” for all of our students. While it was an optional activity, it was really exciting to see the large number of students who came to participate and support their friends on the committee. The activity involved a spinning wheel that was divided into different categories and the students had to answer questions from these categories. It was a really fun and funny activity, and it was extra special for us, the staff, as we were able to witness how our students have learned from our past activities and used this to put together their very own successful and interesting activity.

On Tuesday, for our tour, we chose to focus on a very important subject in Israel, the challenges of water and agriculture. We traveled to an eco-farm in “Ein Shemer” where we had an educational day during which we were even allowed to plan on our own hydroponic watering system.

At the beginning of the day we toured the farm, there we learned that the main purpose of the eco-farm is to educate different parts of Israel’s society on how to improve agriculture in Israel and how to minimize the amount of energy used. After the tour of the farm, we heard a fascinating lecture about Israel’s water challenges. The lecture was interesting and important, as we did not know that a small country, such as Israel, could have so many different challenges in obtaining clean drinking water, water for crops, etc. We also learned how Israel developed a wide variety of technologies to deal with the different water challenges.

After the lecture, we began the hackathon. We divided our students into 7 small groups; each group was named after a different city from around the world. The groups’ challenge was to create, using the eco-farm’s counselors, a hydroponic system to match the climate of that city. The students worked together, sawed and drilled until they had built with their very own hands a miniature model of a hydroponic system. In addition to building the system, each team created a poster that explained their system’s method. The project was a great way for the students to recreate with their own hands everything that they had learned at the beginning of the day.

On Wednesday, in our academic classes, some of the courses had their midterms. The rest of the courses will have their midterms next week. We wish all of our students the best of luck!

In the evening, we met in our moadon for an activity with the madrichim about gender. It is an important, and highly relevant, subject for all, but particularly for those in our students’ age group. We began the activity by dividing into two groups, boys and girls. The students were asked to find different notes that were hidden around the room. The notes contained different subjects such as parenting, nail polish, crying, violence etc. After the notes had been found, the students were asked to place each note in a category: boys, girls or neutral. It was a pretty difficult challenge and a number of arguments arose regarding different topics. After the exercise, we gathered and compared the different ways the boys and the girls categorized the topics. The activity continued with a number of short videos and pictures to help us understand how gender stereotypes follow us from a very early stage of our lives, through the different toys we played with, and all the way through the “social acceptance” of what men and women can or cannot do. We summarized the activity by acknowledging the fact that it is very hard to break social stigmas but if we become aware of them and work together, we can help each other feel more open and secure regardless of our gender.

This weekend, the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem groups joined for a Shabbaton in Modiin. We began the weekend with a Bubble Tournament! All the students (and staff!) strapped themselves into giant inflatable balls, giving us the freedom to bounce, flip, roll over, and bump into other participants while playing games like Bubble Soccer or racing down the field. It was an incredible way to begin such an amazing weekend.

Shabbat celebrations started with a musical Kabbalat Shabbat complete with dancing and singing. It was an incredible way for all of us to bring in Shabbat as one program.

From there, we separated into four optional prayer groups: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Secular. We are so lucky to bring Jews from all different walks of life together and to learn about their different perspectives on Judaism and customs. We enjoyed a very festive dinner filled with song and ruach (spirit). We ended the night with an Oneg Shabbat filled with snacks, games and a lot of laughter.

We woke up on Shabbat morning feeling refreshed. We split into alternative Tefillah prayer options: Limmud, Art as Prayer, Finding God in Nature, Jewish Meditation and Yoga, and the Army and Prayer. In our groups, we learned how Tefillah doesn’t necessarily need to come from a prayer book but can come from other places and inspirations as well. Following that, there was a session called “My Jewish Passion” with some of our head staff. Pirkei Avot, My Jewish Identity, Jewish Story Telling, and Relationships, were some of the topics that our students had the pleasure of enjoying and learning a lot about.

During lunch, our students were given lists of questions and had a discussion about important life questions in small groups. Following lunch, the students were given some time to relax, play games and nap.

After we finished Menucha (rest) time, ten students were asked to prepare 10-minute talks about different topics relating to their time in Israel. The topics included food, army, religion, the Holocaust, Women of the Wall, Israeli sports, happiness, relationships, Hebrew, and more. It was insightful to hear from the students, their perspective on these subjects and their time spent in Israel, and to see them take a leadership role during our weekend away.

We concluded our afternoon with Chugim (relaxing fun and games) and the students were able to choose between Ultimate Frisbee, board games, slackline, and much more. Our Shabbat concluded with Seudah Shlishit and a musical Havdalah led by our students.

Next Week we will summarize our monthly topic of Zionism at the Palmach Museum.

On Tuesday, I will be leaving Israel with the group going to Nepal. We’re going to have an amazing experience! While I’m away Shay El, the assistant director of the program, will send the weekly updates.

Shavua Tov,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael