gap year in israel

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Shalom Dear Parents,

I hope this email finds you well.

This week Eyal has been leading our Aardvark International trip to Italy, so in his place I’m more than happy to tell you about this week’s highlights. We are getting closer to the end of the year, but we are glad that there are two more packed weeks ahead of us. Ready to read about this week? Here we go ☺ :

On Sunday, we began our week with our usual routine of internships, cleaning apartments, laundry, buying groceries and a meeting in the evening with the Madrichim. Most of the students are really sad due to the fact that the semester/year is almost over (however, as we love to say, “but it is not over yet!”). Our goal is to make sure they are not focused on the sadness, but rather focusing on the bright side – they have two more weeks to enjoy their time in Israel with their Aardvark friends. It is also an important skill to learn for life – we should see the cup half full.

On Monday, our Selah track had a God Workshop. Rabbi Marc’s wife is an academic who lectures and writes articles and books about Theology and Jewish Philosophy. Dr Miriam Feldmann-Kaye gave a masterclass in the history of the development of the idea of God throughout time, taking in Jewish and non-Jewish sources. It was amazing to see the students have a real mental workout as they reviewed Plato and Socrates, St Anselm, Kant, Kierkegaard and Sartre to name a few! Selah students had an opportunity to ask questions and reflect on what God means for them in their lives and how to reconcile living with doubt while being a person of faith.

The other students went to their internships and all of the community started ulpan and other courses throughout out the day. For our weekly elective activity, the students had asked us to include a fun evening at a trampoline park, so we did! It was amazing to see their excitement and the energy they had.

For our tour this week on Tuesday we went to a fascinating place called “Atachlit.” One of the objectives of our month is to get to know different cultures in the Israeli community so that we can give the students a better understanding of the variety and diversity of Israeli society. “Atachlit” is a place that offers an Ethiopian experience to the Israeli community. The placed was established to give the elders of the Ethiopian community a place to work the land and deal with agriculture. The idea was to give the elders the opportunity to feel more significant and valuable in society. When we arrived there, we were met with nice traditional hospitality. We were given “buna”, Ethiopian coffee, and “Injara”, an Ethiopian bread. We had a lecture about the struggles of the Ethiopian community and the idea of the “Atachlit” village. Later we had two different workshops. One was a personal “Aliya” story told by a man name Eitan. He told us about his amazing and fascinating journey to Israel. The second workshop was a clay art workshop. We had the chance to make dishes and instruments in the traditional Ethiopian manner. We also discovered that many of our students are talented sculptors. We ended the tour with a traditional Ethiopian meal, and yes, it was spicy!

The students had a great time, and they were given a glimpse of one of the most interesting communities in Israel.

Parsha and Pizza this week concentrated on the Torah portion of Bechukotai. It contains one of the most challenging texts of the Torah as it lists the consequences of the Jewish People not sticking to the covenant with God and not following the Mitzvot. The passage is often called the ‘Tochecha’ – which is Hebrew for rebuke, but many people translate it as curses. It contains many detailed and gory threats of punishments – real fire and brimstone. For some this passage reminds them of the great disasters that have befallen our people throughout history, for others they represent a childish model of a divine punisher. Rabbi Marc engaged the students in a moving conversation about God and God’s involvement in human affairs – personal, communal and global. One of the memorable phrases from the portion is when God calls for us not to treat life like a series of coincidences and accidents. In the Bible it is called ‘Keri’ – קרי – translated as ‘happenstance’. Jewish tradition has regularly called for us to see the guiding influence of a power greater than ourselves and the Torah portion ultimately encourages us to declare that the way we live matters to God and so it should also matter to us. If nothing matters, then we do not matter either. Sobering thoughts!

On Wednesday the students had their academic classes.

This week on the Introduction to Psychology course, the students are learning about psychological disorders. Specifically, they are learning about bipolar and its related disorders (Bipolar II, Cyclothymic, etc.). For a person to be diagnosed with bipolar I, they have to meet the criteria for a manic episode. A manic episode can be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. One of the diagnostic features of a manic episode is a distinct period during which there is an abnormally, persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood. Bipolar is a common co-occurring mental disorder that tends to present with ADHD, anxiety disorder, and medical disorders (metabolic syndrome or a migraine). Conventional treatment for bipolar disorder is mood stabilizing pharmaceutical drugs or atypical antipsychotics, plus psychotherapy.

As we draw to a close, the Intro to Business class is finishing examining the infrastructure, legal structure, organization and service delivery of business. The students wrote a business plan for a car wash. Now we are learning about the essence of building a business: marketing, advertising, branding, positioning and public relations. We also took a detour from the usual and spent time on learning how to write a resume (several wrote outstanding resumes), a cover letter, and how to interview. We also reviewed investment language and instruments: cds, savings accts, stocks, bonds, checking accounts, student loans, and bank loans, etc. Thank you for the opportunity to work and learn with your kids and best of luck to them all.

In the evening we tried to do something unique and special! These days, there is an interesting discourse over how to integrate technology and education. There are a lot of features, apps, and software that bring education to a higher level. Therefore, we decided to introduce Virtual Reality technology to our program! An essential part of processing experiences in Israel, especially for students who lived in Israel, is to think and map the meaningful places they visited. Places which they might have heard of in the past at school and/or at home, and visited for the first time, or maybe new places they have never heard about and felt connected to on the spot. The task of the students was to map these places and create their own Israel story using VR technology. So cool! Each student received special glasses to take home so that she/he can share their own story and take family and friends for a virtual tour. Here are some examples of stories the students created (and some are still working on their creation):

Please click here to view Jacob Sukiennik’s story
Please click here to view Kate Nasan’s story
Please click here to view Riana Schaff’s story

On Thursday, the Selah track made their way to Beit Guvrin, a national park in the center of the country where they took part in an Archaeological Dig. Rabbi Marc acted as the guide as we dug in 2100-year-old caves and pulled out over 120 buckets of dirt which we then sifted and sorted the finds. The group worked hard and got to go on a cave crawl through ancient tunnels and caves. They learned all about the Hanukkah story and saw some archaeological evidence found at the site. It was a great way to summarize the students’ experience of digging and compare it to the digging and searching they have all been doing this semester, looking for connection and Jewish meaning.

As we getting closer to the end of this email, we would like to share with you Jacob Sukiennik’s experience carrying out his internship in the political field in Israel:

“I have had the amazing opportunity of working for the Director of Foreign Affairs for the Likud Party as my internship during my experience on Aardvark. This has been such an incredible internship because I have always been interested in diplomacy and politics – I am able to meet with and sit in on important conferences and meetings between foreign dignitaries and ambassadors from across the world, while simultaneously attaining a nuanced insight into the inner-workings of the Israeli government. I am so glad that I am able to experience Israel in this way!”

The Madricha on Call this weekend is Sahar.

Next week we will have our closing ceremony. Please find the invitation below.

Shabbat Shalom and have a great weekend,