Hi! We have just finished another amazing week here on Aardvark Tel Aviv and things are going great!
Although Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar, it can sometimes be a challenge for us to make it into something meaningful. At Aardvark, we dedicated this week to preparing for the special day of profound connection and transcendence that is Yom Kippur. As most of the students are experiencing Yom Kippur in Israel for the first time, we encouraged them to participate and feel the difference in the country.
Most of the activities were centered on the idea of “Cheshbon Nefesh”, the Hebrew phrase used for the process of introspection regarding forgiveness and the changes we want to make in our lives.
As usual, we began the week with volunteering and internships. The Madrichim visited the students, and were lucky enough to witness the meaningful experiences and challenges the internships and volunteering activities give our Aardvarkians every day.
Our add-on groups also started their week well! The sea sports group had a picnic by the sea and had loads of fun surfing. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurship group had an amazing tour at “WeWork”, a communal working space for startups. At “WeWork” (which was founded by an Israeli), the students were given the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and learn a lot about the startup world.
To start our transition into the Jewish period of reflection we had a “Tashlich” activity on Monday evening at the beach. “Tashlich”, which literally translates as to “cast off” in English, is a ceremony where one “casts off” or throws away their sins and asks for forgiveness.
We started the “Tashlich” activity with a game in which the students were split into different groups. Each group had to put as much paint as they could on the people in the other groups in order to represent the sins we have all accumulated throughout the year. Next, the students stood in a line in front of the sea and closed their eyes. They were questioned about the deeds they may or may not have performed in their lives. With each question, depending on their answers, the students took another step closer to the water. For example, “What kind of change do you want to make this year?” or “Have you ever made fun of anyone?” When the students finally opened their eyes, they found themselves one-step away from the water. They then entered the sea, and the water washed the paint from their bodies, representing the sins that were washing away with it. Naomi Terracina said “It was an amazing experience, very touching because we had to think about ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be”.
On a lighter note, we spent Tuesday morning having an “Olympic Experience”. At the museum, we learned about the achievements of many Olympians, raced on the treadmills, measured our strength on the hand dynamometer, and tested our concentration with a digital game. We journeyed all the way from the Games’ origins in ancient Greece through to the most recent competition in Rio last year. Although we had fun “training” as Olympians, the museum made sure to pay tribute to the eleven Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches that were murdered in the 1972 Munich Olympics. We were even shown a touching first-hand account from one of the athletes that survived.
All in all, each student learned a lot, had fun, and had a meaningful week each in their own, unique way.
On Wednesday night we had our final activity for the week. We all went to the old city of Jaffa for a “Slichot” tour with Rabbi Marc. We walked around Jaffa while listening to different songs about forgiveness and changes. We even sang some of the Yom Kippur chants together. Jaffa is a magical place, epically at night. The special atmosphere created by mixing music, amazing architecture, and meaningful and interesting explanations by Rabbi Marc, led to the students opening up and sharing some meaningful insights, thoughts and conclusions regarding Yom Kippur and their own personal challenges. It was an exciting and powerful experience.
I want to wish you all G’mar Chatima Tova and a meaningful fast. May you be sealed in the book of life.
Until next week….