gap year in israel

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Dear Parents,

It has been an exciting week. We had many activities and the real highlight was our overnight trip to the north on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, before giving you more details about it, let’s start from the beginning of the week. Here we go:

On Sunday we had the Add Ons’ activities. The Sea Sport group went to an amazing place called “I Jump”, a trampoline park. The students had a blast jumping and playing on the trampolines. The activity allowed them to let off steam and return to their early childhood.

The Entrepreneurship group had an interesting session about the technical methods of application programming. Although it is a very complicated process, the speaker managed to give them a taste of the technical side of start-ups.

In the evening’s apartment meetings, the Madrichim ran a session of “My Israeli Journey” which, as you may remember, is designed to help the students process their experience in Israel. The session was about strength methods psychology training, the students had to recognize their unique strengths and think about ways to apply them.

On Monday, the optional activity was a gameshow and it was absolutely amazing!

The students met in the Moadon for a contest full of trivia questions and tasks. The Madrichim were the hosts of the gameshow and the students were divided into two groups. Everyone felt like they were really on a TV gameshow. During the activity the students displayed a lot of knowledge and resourcefulness answering the questions and completing the tasks. In the end, the winners received a prize and everyone got an ice cream. A perfectly sweet ending to a great activity.

Noa Kurz said, “I had a really fun experience. Each group came up with a funny name and then competed against each other. The funniest task, in my opinion, was the pantomiming. Everyone had a great laugh, even though the pantomimes were slightly too hard…”

On Tuesday we embarked for our third overnight tiyul of the semester, this time back to the north, but not as far north as our first tiyul which was in the Golan. This time we were based in Akko, in the Western Galil, and spent the two days in the Lower Galilee despite the somewhat wintry weather (it is relative, but for Israel it was rainy and pretty cold towards the end of each day).

We left Tel Aviv early on Tuesday morning and made our way to the Carmel mountain range, near to the northern city of Haifa. We started our tiyul with a two-hour hike in the beautiful green Carmel forest, following a path called “Little Switzerland“. While the views were stunning and we all enjoyed climbing the tree-covered hills, our European students all agreed that it didn’t really look like Switzerland!

Next we went to the Druze village of Isfiya, where we were met by local Druze guides. They told us all about their culture and religion, and then we had a very tasty traditional Druze meal for lunch. The students found the experience of being exposed to a new religion and culture extremely powerful and many were amazed at how many similarities there are to Judaism.

We then continued our journey to the Old City of Akko, where we visited the British Prison from the time of the British Mandate, housed in an old Crusader fort. While there, we learned about the history of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Jewish struggle for Independence. This was especially powerful as we were visiting the day before the 70th anniversary of the UN Partition Plan, on 29th November 1947 the UN voted to establish a Jewish State in our homeland.

After that, we watched the sunset on the Akko beach and then took a walking tour of the walls of the old city and explored the shuk, before checking in to our youth hostel. That night the madrichim ran a fun improvisation game based on the TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”

We spent the entirety of the next day volunteering and meeting with Israeli gap-year volunteers with the organization “Hashomer Hachadash” (The New Guard). It is an organization that helps farmers and agriculturalists protect and farm land that is often at risk. We helped the adorable Shalom, an 80-year-old olive farmer who made aliya from Yemen in 1950, harvest his olive trees and the olives will ultimately be pressed to make olive oil. Shalom was deeply grateful to us and we just wanted to take him home with us. Sadly the heavens opened while we were picking olives and we all got quite wet and muddy. However, this was all part of the fun and added to the experience!

We then split into two groups and visited Israeli students the same age as our students who are dedicating a year of their life to volunteering and connecting to the land of Israel through Hashomer Hachadash. It was fascinating to hear about their gap-year and their reasons for choosing to do this in the year before they enlist in the army for further service to the country. We then cooked lunch with them and continued to hang out and have fun. All in all, the day was fascinating, powerful and lots of fun. Definitely a day to be remembered!

Tamir Cohen said, “I really enjoyed the olive picking; it was a great opportunity to interact with friends, have fun, and help out the farm. The rain made it even better because we all scrambled to get as many olives as we could; we all got so muddy. After that, we had an activity with the Israelis volunteers on the farm and ate lunch. It was very fun and I am happy to say that god willing I will be working on the farm during the time between semesters.”

On Thursday the students got back to their routine schedule of internships volunteering and academic lessons.

We are entering the last month of the semester, and it seems that everything is going well. Over the last month, through our tours and activities, we have experienced all sorts of different aspects of Israeli society. From Ethiopians to Israeli Arabs, Bahia’s, Druze and more. Meeting these groups helped the students to get a better understanding of the complexity of Israeli society.

Next week we are going to the Entrepreneurship Center of Taglit (Birthright), to take a look at another aspect of Israeli society.

The Madrich on call for the weekend is Daniella.

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael