gap year in israel

Check out our social media to see what our students have been up to this past week!

Shalom Parents,

We hope that you have had just as fantastic a week as we have had here in Israel. It was a great week full of fun and educational activities.

Ready to read about it? Here are some highlights:

On Sunday, after internships, all of our students gathered in the “moadon” for the very first lecture of an enrichment program about internships and volunteering. In this lecture, the students heard from Assaf Luxembourg, an entrepreneur and a business consultant who specializes in business development and the promotion of Israel through the startup industry. The subject of the lecture was “How to Hack Your Internship,” the students heard some very helpful tips and practical advice on how to make the most of their internships/volunteering. After the session ended, our sea sports group went for an enjoyable paddleboat session in the Yarkon Park in the city.

In the evening, our madrichim met with the students in their apartments and ran an activity about group dynamics and self-awareness. We practiced some professional methods from the field and challenged ourselves with tough questions. The activity went really well and it contributed to the roommates’ friendships and communication. It is really interesting to see how our students have developed over the past (almost) two months and are willing to learn more about themselves.

On Monday, after classes, the students had an enjoyable bowling evening! As you probably already know, on Mondays we offer an optional evening activity. We very happy and proud to report that for every optional activity since the beginning of the semester, the vast majority of the students have signed up and chosen to come. This high attendance is key to 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 full of jokes, it included lots of food and snacks, the students had a really good time, and everybody came back with a big smile, a full stomach, and memories to cherish.

On Tuesday, we all boarded the bus to go to Haifa. It was a beautiful sunny day and we stepped off the bus and entered the Bahai Gardens, Haifa’s best-known landmark. During the tour, the students heard a brief history of the significance of the Gardens for the Bahai religion, which is known for its inclusivity, and we had the opportunity to enjoy a view of the beautiful gardens and the ocean under blue skies. Continuing the theme of experiencing other cultures, we then went to the Stela Maris Church, where we saw the intricate art and praying spot, and our tour guide told us about the story of Elijah the prophet. From the Church, we walked along a trail with an amazing view all the way to Elijah’s cave.

In Elijah’s cave, our tour guide continued the story of Elijah and we had the incredible privilege of seeing the cave in which he hid from ancient Israeli kings. Before leaving Haifa, we walked around a small Arabic neighborhood/shuk called “Wadi Nisnas”, where our guides pointed out notable art, foods, and aspects of the culture. The tour of Haifa taught us how a variety of religions and cultures, despite the obvious differences between them, can happily co-exist in one city in full harmony.

After a packed day, the students had the option to participate in Parsha and Pizza with Rabbi Marc. This week we learned the Torah portion of Lech Lecha. It is an action-packed Parsha about the early life of Abraham and Sarah. We read of their leaving home in Mesopotamia and journeying to the land of Canaan. They encounter famine, war, and rivalry. Sarah is also barren and jealous of her handmaid Hagar who has had a child with Abraham called Yishmael. The portion ends with God making a covenant with Abraham, promising him descendants greater in number than the sand or the stars. This covenant is affirmed through the act of circumcision, which Abraham performs upon himself, his son and his servants. The group had a lively conversation about the reasons for Jews having Brit Milah – a central ritual for most Jews. We also spoke about the role of women in Judaism and the Bible’s attitudes to female characters. We ended the evening listening to two very different songs about going on a journey – emulating Abraham and Sarah’s journey and thinking about the spiritual, social and personal journeys the students are currently going through. One song was from the inspirational Reform musician Debbie Friedman and the other was an Israeli rock duo called Fortissacharoff.

On Wednesday evening, we watched a film called Beneath the Helmet. It is about a paratrooper unit in the Israeli army. It displayed how difficult yet rewarding the army can be. After watching the film, we had an American/Israeli speaker, originally from New Jersey, come in to talk about his time in the army. After he spoke about his experience training to be a paratrooper, he answered any questions we had. Ranging from how he felt when he got his first gun, to had he ever been shot at? The most interesting yet terrifying story he told was how every day he would travel to the border while on patrol and along the road, about 15 feet away from him, he would see Hamas members sitting outside of their posts drinking coffee and laughing with each other. He explained that seeing this every day was eye opening as it made him realize that they are people just like us. Even though they are the enemy and have a different and more violent approach, they believe they are the good guys, just as we do about ourselves.

Last but not least, this weekend the students have the option to participate in a Shabbat service with the Chabad community in Florentine. After the service, the students will have the chance to meet members of the community and participate in a discussion about Judaism in the world. We would like to expose our students to different communities in the city, and this is one of our ways. If you are familiar with small communities in Tel Aviv that would like to host some of our students, please feel free to let us know!

Next week we will finally reach one of the program’s peaks – the Ketura seminar. In the seminar, we will learn about life in a kibbutz, modern agriculture, global warming etc. I will tell you all about our experience next week.

The madrich on call for the weekend is Idan.

Shabbat Shalom and have a great weekend,