This is a unique time now in Israel. The summer is about to end (although it is still hot outside..). The fall is just around the corner. The energies around are changing. People here starting to plan the holidays (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot), preparing their houses for the holidays and guests, sync their calendars for vacations, etc. This time also encourages people to do some inner work (sometimes on purpose and sometimes it’s not planned). According to Judaism, the fall is a time when each person needs to do a lot of introspection with himself and with the people s/he loves. There is a lot of educational values in each holiday and we are trying to take the most from them.
The first preparation we are doing for the holiday season is launching an educational curriculum we call here “My Israeli Journey”. Through this program, the students will have a lot of opportunities, platforms, and experiences. My Israeli Journey will provide the students that will participate an opportunity to process, reflect and consider their journey here, in Israel, on Aardvark.
The first session of MIJ (My Israeli Journey) was led by the madrichim last Sunday during the apartment meetings. The session gave some new concepts to the students in order to rethink and talk about how they want to spend their time here and what will they do with it.
By the end of the first session, the madrichim asked the student to do a personal mission statement as homework. They received specific instructions of how to do this. Their madrichim will also help them with this task, but it’s crucial that each student will write his or her personal mission statement by Rosh Hashana so he or she will be able to move on to the next chapter of the holidays (Yom Kippur). Please encourage your child to craft their thoughts and to consider sharing their ideas with you. It is a great opportunity for you to gain some insight into your child’s journey here in Israel.
On Monday, right after Hebrew classes, the academic classes began. Each student chose their classes and met the teachers for the semester. We give the students an opportunity to move between classes until the start of next week so they will be able to find the classes they like and the teachers they best connect to. In the coming weeks, we will also share with you a bit of what they are learning in each class.
In Introduction and Social Psychology courses taught by Dr. Mika Smith, the students are learning that psychology is a huge umbrella that encompasses many subfields such as developmental, clinical, education, social, forensic, etc. Introduction to Psychology the students will be learning how psychology overall is a science that seeks to understand behavior and mental processes and to apply that understanding in the service of human welfare. Whereas social psychology is the scientific analysis how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by real or imagine presents of other people.
In the evening Monday, the group went to Charles Clore Park, right next to the beach, to do a Light Painting Photography Workshop. The students were asked to make drawings with a flashlight in the open air and instructed on how to adjust the camera correctly so you can actually see the writing! According to the students, it was really cool! And I promise to send you the photos when they’ll be sent out by the instructor.
On Tuesday, the students went to the beautiful ancient Port of Caesarea, with its yellow brick theater and hippodrome, that looks out to the vast blue ocean. The students listened to ancient stories about horse races and gladiators. However, the best part of the tour was when Josh Cohen went on the big stage of Caesarea theater and sang a happy birthday song for Asa Jungreis. The students also enjoyed an experience that sent chills down their spines, not only from the cold water but also from the very marks of chisels on stones in the underground water systems of the ancient world. They walked in the footsteps of Romans from two thousand years ago and through tunnels which still carry water today.
In this week’s Parsha and Pizza we learnt about the Torah portion of Ki Teitse. This portion is famous for having the most amount of commandments of any other Torah portion (74 Mitzvot!). Among the all the different laws we focused on the laws of war and taking prisoners as well as the limits of using force. A 15th century commentary from Spain, the Akeidat Yitzchak, teaches that war is not just something that soldiers do, but in actual fact we are all embroiled in conflicts and battle between our different values and wishes, our bodies and our souls.
On Wednesday, we held our annual Aardvark Master Chef competition. The competition started with the participants choosing their ingredients from a variety of groceries purchased by the madrichim. The students went head to head when selecting their ingredients. In order to avoid a situation where apartments will be fighting over a scoop of sweet chili, the madrichim developed a new system to hand out the groceries. Each group was presented with a trivia question that was based on our previous tours and activities, if the apartment got the answer right – they got the ingredient. Is preventing food from the hungry mouths of our participants a moral way to get them to learn more about the country? Probably not, but it sure works like a charm! Anyways, the participants got really into it and some amazing dishes were created that evening! Since the madrichim wimped out, they did not declare a winner yet, but the competition is between a group of boys that made a Latkes, pasta with tomato sauce and sfinge (a Moroccan doughnut) and a group of girls that prepared pasta with tomato sauce, tempura vegetables and chocolata for desert. Obviously, the rest of the food didn’t go to waste, it was devoured in a matter of seconds.
On Sea Sports Track, the students almost finished their surfing class. In the last class each of everyone succeded to stand on a surfing board – according to the instructor this is an amazing result at this point of their class – Well done team!
Throughout the week, Maya, one of our great madrichim met a group of students who identify themselves as “Facebook/Google monsters.” They met for an hour or so to search through online networks to find some cool events, festivals, galleries and shows that are happening soon in Tel Aviv and are also free (or almost free). This promoters committee decided to meet every other week in order to give the Tel Aviv group the extra opportunities it deserves.
The students are busy with their volunteering and internships nearly every morning. One student, Peter Wallace, started his internship in a bike garage. He started to learn to how to operate tools and mechanical elements of bikes and of course the Hebrew words for all these items. Peter’s supervisor called Elad, Peter’s Madrich, to say that he is an excellent intern and he is very happy with him. Great job Peter!