We have just finished our third week, and things are going pretty great around here. There’s so much I want to share with you! So let’s start:
It seems that the students are starting to get used to the program’s routine. While they’re enjoying new experiences and making new connections, we can see that they are starting to become a big and happy family
We had a good and busy week. The academic lessons have finally started: History of Zionism, Middle Eastern politics, Social Psychology and An Introduction to Business are a few examples of the courses that the students are taking. The beginning of the academic classes was a success and it appears that many of the students came here to learn and that is a great contribution to the atmosphere in the classes.
On Sunday, everyone went to their volunteering activities and internships, they are really starting to get the hang of it. For the add-ons the sea sport group did water-skiing, it was great and they a huge amount of fun. The entrepreneurship group had a tour of a very interesting business in Tel Aviv; they went to a social pizza place to learn about social entrepreneurship and to enjoy a nice dinner together.
On Monday, we had a special Master Chef activity! The Madrichim divided the students into four groups and every group had to make a different dish according to the theme that they were assigned: Italian food, Mexican food, American food and Asian food. Every group received the same amount of money to buy ingredients. The Moadon (our big room) was filled with tables and kitchen equipment and each of the groups made wonderful dishes for the communal dinner at the end of the activity.
On Tuesday, we had a day trip to Zikhron Ya’akov. We started the day with an educational tour at the Nadiv garden, a place full of beautiful gardens in memory of Baron Edmond Rothschild. Our second stop was at the Tishbi winery for a tour and tasting of wine and chocolate. Zikhron Ya’akov is well known for its wineries that played a key role in Israel’s economy in the country’s early days (and even the days before the state was established). Later that day we went to the Aharonson family house that is now a museum. The museum tells the story of the “Nili” underground organization which worked with the British in WW1.
We ended our day with Parsha and Pizza. The group discussed the double Torah portion of Nitzavim-Vayelech. The Jewish people gathered for one last time before entering the Land of Israel and they renewed their relationship with God. Everyone was present – men, women and children, rich and poor – and even the souls of all future Jews. Rabbi Marc picked out one of his favorite lines from the Torah (Devarim Chapter 30, Verse 19 if you are interested!) and led a discussion about choice and the freedom we have to decide how we live. Having the power to choose still means that we have to choose wisely and the group talked about how hard it can be to make meaningful choices in life and not to default to laziness, convenience or peer pressure. We also read in Verse 12 that the Torah is “not in heaven” and explored how close or distant we all feel to Jewish life, values and practice.
On Wednesday, we had our first community talk in the Moadon. We went through the past few weeks and discussed what we’re going to do next week. I also presented the monthly topic, “Me and My Community”. Our goal for the month is not just to create a community together, but also to start an individual process involving self-goals for the upcoming month and to define the tools we need to do so. We would also like the students to explore their connection to the community and places around them: it could be the Aardvark community, Florentine as a neighborhood, Tel Aviv as a wider community or even Israeli society as a whole. It is a big task but we will get there in the end. To make a start we dedicated the second part of the community talk to discussing the inner journey and the outer journey that the students will undergo on the program and we finished the activity with a personal mission statement. Each student had to write a personal mission statement that will define what he or she wants to achieve by the end of the program. When you talk to your children please ask them about it and discuss their personal mission statement.
Before we finish, a small note about next week: we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah together on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the students will leave to their families and friends’ homes. We would appreciate your help in finding arrangements for the students during the holiday; we will assist anyone who can’t find an alternative plan. We believe that an important part of their experience is to participate in the holiday with locals and reconnect with their families here in Israel.
Have a great weekend and Shabbat Shalom,