gap year in israel

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Dear parents,

It has been an amazing week. We have had a great time meeting your children and I am excited to tell you all of the highlights from the past week. Here we go:

As you know, the students arrived throughout Monday and started to get to know each other and the staff. For lunch, we went across the road to a local falafel shop. Later on that day, we had our first activity. Each madrich together with his/her apartment members had the chance to have an intimate meeting that included icebreakers and the opportunity to share information about one another.

Michael Wolman said, “Our Madrichim are incredible Israelis and great conduits for the rich culture we have embedded ourselves in. Whether mediating contact with locals, encouraging us to try new stuff, or just hanging out in the apartments with us, they feel like friends and we all looking forward to developing our relationship with them.”

Following that, we had a tour of the Florentine neighborhood. We showed the students all of the essential places around the apartment buildings and office. We ended the day with a nice dinner at a restaurant and followed dinner with a community talk run by myself about the upcoming semester, its goals, main topics, and expectations.

On Tuesday, we began the day with a tasting tour at the Levinsky market (Shuk). The tour was based on an interactive app and the students had the chance to explore the Shuk without the madrichim and enjoy some of the best food the market has to offer.

Afterwards, we had breakfast followed by an academic session. Later on, we divided into our apartment groups for an activity on how to build and handle a budget as an individual and an apartment. We continued the day with an elective session, a bike tour around Tel Aviv and a street art tour around the south of Tel Aviv. We ended both tours in the historic train station with a final activity. The students had to write a letter to themselves that included their expectations, thoughts, and wishes for the upcoming semester. The letter will be returned to them at the end of the semester.

Sam Leopold said, “The Graffiti Tour was a remarkable journey through the mind of a professional street artist. It was a great way for the Tel Aviv group to begin the year and learn about a part of Israeli culture.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, we had our first overnight trip together with the Jerusalem group. We went to the north of Israel and focused on the area of the Northern Galilee and the Kinneret. On the first day, we went on a short hike in Nachal HaKibuzzim. The entire hike was inside the river and it was great to escape the hot weather in the chill of the cold water. The students were splashing one another and they appeared to love it! We continued from there to Mitzpe Ofir for an opening ceremony. We spent that evening and night next to the Kinneret with a beautiful view over it. We ended the day with an awesome evening activity that included some funny missions and challenging games in small groups.

On Thursday, we went to the Mitzpe Gadot viewpoint. There we learned about the history of the Golan Heights particularly in relation to the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. We learnt what a privilege it is to have this amazing stretch of land as part of the country of Israel and how strategically important strategically this area is. We then hiked along Nachal Chatzbani, we hiked through the water and were able to escape the hot sun and go for a swim. We learned that the water was actually snow and ice from the Hermon Mountain, and that during the summer it melts and becomes the Chatzbani River. Even though it was hot, our troopers did the hike with enthusiasm and helped each other during the tough parts. To end our time in the Golan, we went to the Kinneret where we swam and relaxed. On the way back to Tel Aviv, no one could stop talking about how much fun they had and the new friends they had made.

Nicci Brinkman said, “I loved swimming in the Kinneret. The water was so nice and refreshing. It was the perfect end to an amazing first Tiyul.”

On Friday, before Shabbat prep, we had two activities. The first was a session about how the students can make the most of their time in Israel. We talked about special events the students can attend, hikes, useful applications for information on what Tel Aviv has to offer, and more. Our second program was a bit different and focused on a very important life skill in Israel – how to negotiate and get the best price when shopping! ;-). We all went to Shuk HaCarmel and had a competition; the students had to follow a set of instructions and buy a number of items while spending the least amount of money possible. The prize for the winning group was a juicer for the apartment!

After we finished, we had some time to rest and prepare for Shabbat. We met at the office for Kabbalat Shabbat. The student dressed up and we sang some Shabbat songs together. At the end of Kabbalat Shabbat, the students gave blessing for the upcoming semester.

Jordi Sachs said, “I can’t believe what a breeze it has been getting to know people. I’ve already made friendships that feel as though they’ve lasted a lifetime. Trips and activities have been unbelievable and so surreal – and I can’t wait for more!”

After a touching Kabbalat Shabbat, we went for a walk on the beach together and went all the way to the synagogue to join a Shabbat service and dinner. We saw an amazing sunset on the way, and in the synagogue, the students had the chance to interact with the local community in Tel Aviv.

Aaron Davis said, “Well, for me the experience was to be in an Ashkenazy synagogue with a Sephardi-style environment. The rabbi and his wife were extremely hospitable towards me and the others in my Aardvark group. They made us feel like we were a part of their congregation by feeding us and sharing personal stories. Truly a terrific experience.”

On Saturday, we started the morning with an optional Shabbat Kiddush and a discussion about the weekly Torah portion.

Later, the students split up into groups and had a duet potluck together at their apartments. They made omelets, eggs, all different kind of salads, and pasta. The madrichim brought a food called Jahnun, a Yemini food, and they had a lovely breakfast together.

At noon, we offered the students the choice of two different walking tours in Tel Aviv. One was about the “Secret Behind the City” and the other was about the “Path of Independence”, which was created last Independence Day. When were done, we had a few elective workshops: Drum Circle, Yoga, Frisbee, and Arco Balance. It was really fun! As the day ended, we finished with Havdalah and blessed each other with blessings for next week.

Below please find the schedule for the upcoming week alongside some great pictures from last week.
We all are ready and excited for the next week.

Have a great week,

Eyal Haim
Tel Aviv Community Manager
Aardvark Israel