19th February 2015

From Itai Franco (Australia), Rose Pollack (Netzer Australia) and Alex Littaua (NIFTY)

To say that the feeling of being on Shnat for close to a month is bizarre would be a grotesque understatement, and calling it the “experience of a lifetime” does not do the program justice even in the slightest bit. This week, Shmichael volunteered me, Itai Elizabeth Franco, to write up our weekly report – the first time I have actually had the chance to properly sit down, write, and reflect upon this incredible journey. So I’m going to do my best in the next few hundred words to recount the past week not only for the benefit of you, our parents, in order to give you naches/relief in the fact that we are having an amazing time,  but also for my own personal reflection and introspection.

Our opening Machon seminar last week finished on Thursday with our Machzor (the whole Machon group) visiting the Diaspora Museum in the Tel Aviv University. The University was incredibly interesting as it tracked the history of the Jewish people and the diaspora, however many people felt the exhibition to be quite outdated and having portrayed the Jews as a solely victimized people. Our chavura (family group) therefore used the museum as more of a case study to understand what we enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, and what we would have changed and why in order to make the museum more relatable to us as part of the contemporary diaspora.

From the museum, we had free reign to go wherever we wanted for our first free weekend – woo!! Many of us went to see family and friends in Ra’anana and Tel  Aviv, whilst others stayed in Jerusalem amongst other places. I won’t bore you with what I did on my free weekend as I’m sure that none of you apart from my parents (who I’ve already spoken to)want to know about my relaxed weekend with my family where I ate more than my fair share of my grandmother’s gefilte fish.

After our lovely outings on the weekend, we returned to Machon on Sunday with an air of excitement and swapped stories about our weekend adventures. Thus began our first true introduction to the Machon lifestyle with an orientation of the campus, our classes, and the educational beliefs of the institution. We chose our electives for the next four months and finally entered our dorms and settled into our rooms with our roommates who are to become our close friends.

Monday brought our first day of real Machon classes. As I said to a friend, I had never been so excited to start school in my life! We began the day with our first Hebrew lesson followed by inspirational classes on the stories of the Jewish people. The evening consisted of our separate movement time where we eagerly reunited with our Etgarniks for some ideological debates and lots of kef.

Yesterday we had our first Yom Israel (Israel Day) where we visited various viewpoints in Jerusalem such as Har Hadar, Gilo, The Hebrew University, and the Museum on the Seam, and discussed the border issues and political issues of the Jerusalem area from different perspectives. From the viewpoints to the art museum, we were exposed to multiple takes on these issues. In the evening we met up once again with our Etgarniks in their flat to celebrate Dan’s birthday and had a lovely night out in general!

I am now very tired and feel that writing any more would be a detriment to my sanity, so am going to end here and say that we are all extremely excited for what is to come on our Machon journeys!


Weekly Report by Alex L Rose P (Etgar)

Shalom shalom shalom!!

The last week of Etgar has been completely hectic for all of us here. We all had three-day tiyul that included the walk up Masada, a half day through the Ein Gedi mountains and gorgeous waterfalls, and finally ending by floating in the Dead Sea, followed up by a wonderful rest at a nearby hostel.

The beginning of living in the Etgar flat began with the first shop, navigating Machane Yehuda (“the Shuk”), and the attempt to carry an amount of groceries equal to our body weight to Beit Shmuel. After settling in, a wonderful Shabbat with the Machon people, classes began Sunday.

We started with a class with the ever entertaining Mark Lazar, who taught us various methods of leadership during his session. Monday started to a fresh dose of Hebrew with some of the best Hebrew teachers on Shnat so far. Later in Monday included Zionism, and how broad and twisted the definition could be, and learning Leadership through the Torah, and other Jewish works. Overall, a solid day of learning.

While Tuesday was supposed to be kicked off by Government and Politics, plans changed and the group ended up having a full day with a nutritionist, making sure we don’t become trafe. If you are how you eat, then don’t eat like pigs. The latter part of Tuesday had a very comical aspect by the previous Etgar madricha Dana. While the class wasn’t as expected at first, her edgy Israeli attitude made the class fun at each turn.

Finally, Wednesday was interesting with another class of Hebrew with Daniel and Or, who continued to improve our Hebrew vocabulary. Along with a session of the history of Jewish thought, Etgar had our second shopping trip in the rail. Things learned from this trip: More backpacks, rolling suitcases, public transport is awesome and awkward at the same time.

From the desk of the ראשים של אתגר,

Rose Pollack and Alex Littaua (Brown Bear)