gap year in israel

Dear Parents,

I cannot believe that there is less than a week left of the program. I feel like I met the students just yesterday. They were a little confused and very excited, and full of questions:

“Why am I not alone in a bedroom?”

“Where do I do my laundry?”

“Why do I have to get up in the morning for volunteering?”

“What activities are mandatory?”

“How do Israelis clean the floors without a mop?!?”

WOW, they have grown up a lot since then! The students have formed amazing relationships with their roommates, they have no problem with laundry or cleaning their floor with a squeegee and a rag, and they feel so comfortable here that you’d think they were locals! The madrichim have seen the difference as well as they are no longer dealing with a lot of questions about “Where” and “How” and rather spend their time with the students talking about deeper, educational questions and ideas.

I have so much to say about the development of the students but I’ll save it for my final email that I’ll be sending you next week…

Now, here is what we’ve been busy with this past week:

On Sunday, the Aardvark staff along with the Ulpan Or staff hosted a Hebrew Graduation ceremony! Each student or group of students prepared a speech/show in Hebrew (which they all were graded for) and they presented it in front of the group, staff and teachers. It was amazing to see students that didn’t know a word in Hebrew when they arrived speaking in complete sentences, and to see some students who only had a basic command of Hebrew using a wide variety of words and even slang! The teachers of Ulpan Or prepared a short video for the students which we’re sure you’ll enjoy as well. (Click here to see it) Ian Korenfeld did an amazing job proving to all of us in Hebrew why the drink “Bitter Lemon” is the best drink in the world! Ian and I had some disagreement about it previously but now I am speechless!

On Monday evening each madrich gathered his students for an intimate closing activity. Shirli and her students made dinner together and sat in a small pool (that she bought for the event) on the Markolet Rooftop. Idan and Avi met with their students in their apartment and made dinner together. After having a closing talk, Idan then showed them their crazy “Guitar Hero” kit and they all sat down and played through the night!

On Tuesday morning the students went on a tour of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. Of course, this is a place they’ve been countless times, but this tour showed them what things that they had never seen… This is the biggest bus station in the Middle East and hiding within its walls is a story of what we call here in Israel “the white elephant.” The central bus station in Tel Aviv was planned to be enormous and house the bus station and a shopping mall. In the beginning, they called it “A City Under a Roof” and it was designed that way: thousands of shops, many platforms for buses from all over the country, a huge variety of food available, and more. But, after a while it became clear that it would take years to finish this monstrous building and they were running out of funds from the investors. It took more than 20 years to finish the building (which wound up being more “modest” then the actual plan) and many shop owners went bankrupt, not to mention many investors lost a lot of money. Hidden within the station are some fascinating things though – a clinic, a Yiddish Museum, and even a church! After a tour like this, you just can’t look at the station the same.

Later on that day, C.R.E.W (our culture committee) along with the Madrichim, arranged the “Final Event” of the semester in Tel Aviv. I’ve never seen such an emotional event as this in Aardvark. Everyone was dressed beautifully (there were even some guys wearing ties!) and there was a lot of energy in the room. We started with an activity called “Statistics.” While this may sound boring, it is actually quite a funny activity and a great way to summarize the semester! The Madrichim gave each participant an anonymous questionnaire and then tallied their answers. The resulting list told us what the students think about all kinds of different matters, significant and insignificant. We were happy to hear that 98% are happy they chose Aardvark.

Then the students presented a beautiful video that they had made and dedicated to the staff with pictures they stole from our Facebook profiles and shared some kind words with us. It was heart-warming for all of us! Afterwards we watched a video of the students which summarized everything that they have done so far and asked “What will you make of your last week on Aardvark?” I think they have learned something here 🙂 We ended the event with Pizza and dancing.

On Wednesday the students started packing! The staff also helped them to begin arranging the apartments for the big cleaning day (on Sunday). They all did great! In the evening those who chose to headed to Jerusalem to celebrate Lag B’omer with a bonfire with the Jerusalem group. Meanwhile, the Selah students headed to Tsfat to celebrate Lag B’omer with thousands of others at Har Meron.

On Thursday the madrichim invited the students to meet them at the beach to relax a little bit with some good Israeli summer fruits (watermelon and melons) and the good vibes of swimming! Then later on that day everyone went to the MASA Israel Culture event. It is a huge event which takes place in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem – one of the biggest buildings in Jerusalem. Thousands of MASA participants participate in the event which includes workshops with famous Israeli celebrities representing a wide variety of Israeli culture. Each one leads a small workshop of music, theater, cooking, dancing and film. One of the workshops is led by the author Amos Oz. Following the workshops is the main show of the event – a concert with Cafe Shahor Hazak (Strong Black Coffee) – one of the most popular bands in Israel of the last few years. (Click here for a taste of their music!)

That will be all for now.
And almost for the last time,
Shabbat Shalom!

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael