gap year in israel

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Shalom Parents!

We have had an exciting week!

On Sunday evening we had an activity about social media. The activity focused on the effects of social media on our lives and the ways we choose to use it.

On Monday we had our monthly community talk. We started with a game that saw us form a circle and pass a ball of yarn around. Each person had to say something positive about the person they passed the yarn to. We also reviewed the schedule and spoke about a number of important topics in relation to the student’s educational process.

The highlight of the week was our 3-day Ketura Seminar. On Tuesday morning, bright and early at 6:00 am, we departed to Kibbutz Ketura, located in the south of Israel in the Arava desert about 30 minutes from Eilat (Israel’s southernmost city). Click here to see the kibbutz’s exact location. It took us nearly 4 hours to get there and from an Israeli perspective, that is a lot!!

Our first day at Ketura began with a walking tour around the Kibbutz followed by a delicious lunch in the Kibbutz dining room. Then we gathered (both the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Aardvark groups) for a glimpse of what life is really like for a member of a communal kibbutz. The students split into small groups, each group was appointed as a committee and were given a scenario to discuss and find a solution for.

Committees such as Education, Finance, Culture, Food, and Ritual govern communal life on the kibbutz. The scenarios the students were given were based on actual situations that had arisen at Ketura and neighboring kibbutzim. The discussions were interesting and several of the groups came to the same conclusions as those reached by the real committees.

Sarah Broomberg said, “The tour of the Kibbutz was really nice. It was interesting to see and walk around the Kibbutz and learn how it has changed through the years. It’s amazing to see such an interesting and unique lifestyle alive today in the Kibubtzim.”

Our next session was a panel discussion with students from Ketura’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Aside from being a top-notch place of learning, the Institute is unique because their student body includes Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans, and students from other countries as well. It was enlightening to hear about the dialogue between them not related to politics.

After sunset, the Kibbutz staff arranged a BBQ for all of us next to the pool. We had good meat (and good options for vegetarians), great music and amazing people to hang out with.

Late at night Rabbi Marc offered a Parsha and Snacks session outside under the night sky. The Torah portion of Lech Lecha tells the story of Avraham and Sarah’s journey to the Holy Land. We heard about how God took Avraham outside and made him look at the heavens and count the stars. God promised Avraham that his descendants would be as many as there are stars in the sky. Rabbi Marc led a discussion about Brit Milah (circumcision). This week’s Torah portion gives us the origin of this ancient practice. Finally, we noticed that Avraham appears to be scared on a few occasions in the portion. We found it interesting and surprising that the founder of Judaism would feel this way. We went on to talk about the raw power of fear, insecurity, and doubt. Avraham begins his journey this week and receives his mission to be a ‘father figure’ to the world and to lead us all towards ethics and monotheism. That’s quite a responsibility! Little wonder Avraham felt scared.

On Wednesday morning, some of the group woke up very early, at 6 o’clock, to hike up the mountains neighboring the kibbutz; they enjoyed a great view of the kibbutz and valley from above with the tour guide Bill.

Ben Oken said, “The hike was amazing because we got an amazing view of the valley that Kibbutz Ketura lies in. We got to see the desert and the Jordanian mountains and we even got to do some rock climbing during the hike.”

For those who got up later, there was a choice of desert art options including decoupage, filmmaking, and oil painting. Later on that day, the students presented their artwork to the rest of the group. We discovered that we have some talented artists among us.

In the afternoon, after having time to relax and chill out together, we headed out to the Kasui Sand Dunes. The students went crazy when they saw the opportunity waiting for them in the sand! They were jumping, digging, wrestling, rolling, and running in the soft sand. Some of the group did backflips and surfing – it was fun to watch.

After everyone ran out of energy, we had time to pick a spot to be alone and reflect on our experience in the desert. Each student received a pencil and a paper to read with some text and questions relating to their experience. After twenty minutes of complete silence in the sandy wilderness, the Madrichim gathered their students to share together some of their writings and reflections.

Halley Cooper said, “It was amazing to run around in the sand and take in how incredible nature is. I have never felt so mindful of myself, my surroundings and the holy land.”

Back at the kibbutz, we were treated to a fun Middle Eastern dinner. This was followed by a memorial ceremony for Aardvark’s founder and former director, Keith Berman z’’l. Keith passed away suddenly and tragically four years ago immediately after the Ketura seminar. Keith loved Israeli dancing and so we continued with an evening of Rikudei Am (Israeli folk dancing). In tribute to Keith’s memory and legacy, we danced and danced until it was so late that we had to shut down the music so people could sleep.

On Thursday, some of us once again got up super early for a fun bike ride around the kibbutz and through the date orchards. Finally, we finished seminar with a fun game focused on knowledge of Israel. The competition was intense but everyone had a great time whether they won or lost.

The Madrich on call for this weekend is Daniella.

What awaits us next week?!? We’re going on a tour to Caesarea and to the “Masa mega event” in Jerusalem.
Best regards

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael