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Jaron Rykiss’s half-year spent on exciting “Kivunim” program in Israel cut short by COVID

Jaron with monk 
Jaron Rykiss (left) with a monk 
visiting Kivunim in Jersualem

In 2019 Winnipegger Jaron Rykiss embarked on what, for almost any recent high school graduate, would probably be considered the adventure of a lifetime.

Jaron, who had just graduated from Gray Academy in the spring of last year (and doesn’t that seem like an eternity ago, even though it’s really only a little more than a year and a half ago?), had decided to enroll in a program that is probably not all that familiar to many Winnipeggers, known as “Kivunim”.



Jaron with classmates participating
in a 10k marathon in Tel Aviv

Kivunim, which means “directions” in English, is a program begun in 2006. Here is how the Kivunim website explains what it’s all about:
“KIVUNIM succeeds in delivering an immersive and transformative gap year experience of serious academic study, focused international travel and cross-cultural dialogue. These take place within the context of impressive intellectual and aesthetic exploration and growth that develops and deepens our students’ Jewish identity as engaged global citizens. 


“KIVUNIM students forge a lifelong connection with Israel and the Jewish people through thoughtfully and intentionally-designed travel experiences that impart what other Jewish education programs can only envy: a nuanced and integrated understanding of Jewish civilization through sophisticated contact with the remarkable spectrum of religious traditions, cultures and world views among which the Jewish people grew throughout our 2,000-year Diaspora. Israel, our gap-year program home for the academic year, provides a challenging and surprisingly inspirational setting for appreciating the possibilities of Muslim-Jewish and Christian-Jewish co-existence and informs our broader international encounter with ‘the other’.”

Sounds pretty fantastic – right? And for any graduating high school student with the resources to participate in a program like this, it has to be considered a dream come true.

I spoke with Jaron Rykiss about his experience in Kivunim, which sadly for him and everyone else in the 2019-20 program, was cut short by COVID.
I began by asking Jaron how he heard about Kivunim in the first place?
Jaron explained that back in high school he was very involved with BBYO. Through BBYO he was exposed to a certain amount of international contact and realized “that there’s more to life than just Winnipeg”.
As graduation from Gray Academy was approaching Jaron “sat down with Avi Posen” (who was still in Winnipeg at that point, although in the fall of 2019 Avi himself made aliyah to Israel with his wife, Illana Minuk), and “we began talking about the possibility of a gap year” (the year between graduating from high school and entering a post-secondary institution).
After spending considerable time researching various programs Jaron came upon Kivunim which, he says, was perfect for someone like him – someone who didn’t have much experience outside of Winnipeg.

I asked Jaron whether he had ever been to Israel before?
He answered that he had – “twice” – once when he was nine, for a family occasion, and then again in 2017 when he was one of the students participating in the P2G (partnership together) program that Gray Academy has with Dancinger High School in Kiryat Shemonah, Israel. “That was really when I fell in love with the country,” he noted.

Fast forward to September 2019 and Jaron is in Jerusalem – “which is now my favourite city on the planet,” he said. There were 54 students in the program with Jaron – mostly from the U.S., but one other Canadian from Toronto as well.
“We all lived in a dormitory together – in the Mamillah area,” Jaron explained.
Under the original plan, Jaron said, he would have been in the program for eight and a half months, which would have taken him to the end of May.
As it was, he came back in March of this year – “exactly five months after I left”.

I asked Jaron at that point to describe what exactly he was studying during the program?
He answered: “The program goes to show you religion in other countries, so we spent the year studying Judaism, Islam…a Buddhist monk came to live with us for a couple weeks in Jerusalem and then when we got to India he showed us around.”

Which countries did Jaron actually visit as part of Kivunim? I asked.
Jaron said that the first month was spent in Jerusalem, followed by what was supposed to have been the first of several international trips.

Jaron with classmate in Greece

“We ended up going to Greece and Bulgaria for two weeks,” after which the group returned to Israel for a month and a half, then India, but trips to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Morocco were all canceled due to the outbreak of COVID.
“We were supposed to end up in Morocco and meet the king there,” Jaron noted. “It’s too bad that never happened.”
(Jaron added that they were also supposed to visit Turkey at the same time as they visited Greece and Bulgaria, but that didn’t happen either. As he explained, “there were a lot of political issues” – what with the heightened civil unrest in Turkey at that time.)


What was the actual learning experience like? I wondered.
Jaron described the learning as “experiential”.
“While we were in Israel we would study the places we were going to visit,” Jaron observed, “then we would experience what we had just learned about – so it was a combination of classroom and experience.”

I was still uncertain, however, what the overall purpose of the program was – beyond exposing students to a wide variety of experiences.
According to its website, Kivunim aims to provide a “liberal arts” type of education: “The power of conceptual and intellectual integration is the ultimate (and all-to-often illusive) goal of a liberal arts education.
The website goes on to say:
“Why do we train our children in the liberal arts? It is not because these studies can grant someone virtue, but because they prepare the soul for accepting it.” 
“KIVUNIM represents the beginning of a unique intellectual journey for our students and our staff and faculty. KIVUNIM succeeds in creating a thoughtful, comprehensive, and resilient intellectual foundation for our students and alumni.”
Here are the five courses taught to students in Kivunim. (There are no optional courses and all students must take the same five courses):
Civilization and Society: Homelands in Exile
Land, People, Ideas: The Challenges of Zionism
Hebrew Language and Literature
Arabic Language and Culture
Visual Learning – The Art of Seeing

A more detailed examination of each course gives a clearer understanding of just what it is that Kivunim is attempting to convey to students. Here, for instance, is an excerpt from the course outline of Land, People, Ideas: The Challenges of Zionism: “Here we seek to make the history of the Zionist movement come alive and allow KIVUNIM students to truly appreciate the capacity of the human being to become an historical actor: to make things happen.  The course explores the growth of Pan-Arab nationalism and the specific development of Palestinian identity and nationalism.  We encourage our students to imagine solutions while studying problems and to develop their sense of empowerment in glimpsing a future more positive than the past or today.”

If this all seems slightly airy-fairy, then I wondered how a program like this would be perceived by other institutions of higher learning – for instance, at a university here in Manitoba? After all, on its website Kivunim maintains that its courses will give students 30 academic credits, which would be equivalent to a normal year of study in an Arts program at a Manitoba university.
Jaron, who is now enrolled in an Arts program at the University of Manitoba, said that the university has not yet accepted for credit all the courses that he took in Israel.
Thus far, he has received credit for two of the courses: “Civilization and Society: Homelands in Exile”, and “Land, People, Ideas: The Challenges of Zionism”.
He noted though that he is being asked to take aptitude tests in both Hebrew and Arabic to determine whether the courses he took in those languages will be accepted for credit. As for the fifth course – “Visual Learning”, he explained that he is not expecting to obtain credit for that course, since it was more of a “photography” course than anything.
The problem, however, as Jaron noted during our conversation, is that due to COVID, so much of the university’s decision making is backed up that he doesn’t know how long it will be before he knows what the status of the two language courses that he took will be vis-à-vis receiving credit for them.
As far as his future studies go, Jaron added that he plans on majoring either in Political Studies or Philosophy, with his ultimate goal to get into law. (By the way, did I mention that Jaron’s grandfather is Jack London, about whom I have a review of his book elsewhere in this issue? As a disclaimer though, I want to explain that I contacted Jaron long before I knew that Jack had even written his memoir.)
One final aspect of the Kivunim program that hasn’t been mentioned yet in this article is the question of cost. I sent an email to the Kivunim program, asking for information as to the cost of the program. Here is the response I received:
“Our tuition is $55,000 which includes room and board, international travel, academics, a round trip from New York, etc. Tuition plus a small fee also includes 30 academic credits from Hebrew College (a full college year) accepted by most colleges in the U.S. and Canada. Every year we offer scholarships and interest free loans. We give about 40-50% of our students scholarship each year. Jaron’s year, 45% of students received a scholarship totaling approximately $375k.” (By the way, as one might expect, Kivunim is not being offered in person this year, although there is an online program.)

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How Live Casino Dealers Enhance Your Gaming Experience

In the booming online gaming world, live casino dealers stand out as the bridge between the virtual and the real. They bring the physical casino’s authenticity and excitement to your screen, creating a more immersive and engaging experience. But how exactly do live casino dealers enhance your gaming experience?

From fostering a social atmosphere to increasing trust in online games, these professionals make gaming sessions more enjoyable and genuine.

Real-time Interaction

Real-time interaction revolutionizes the online gaming industry, particularly in live casinos. By leveraging advanced streaming technology, live casino dealers can engage with players just as they would in a traditional casino environment.

This dynamic interaction enhances the gaming experience by fostering a sense of presence and camaraderie. Through chat features and live video feeds, players can communicate with the dealer and even with other participants, creating an immersive and social atmosphere.

The role of the live dealer is crucial, as their real-time responses and professional demeanour elevate the authenticity and enjoyment of the game. This interactive experience makes the games more exciting. It instills greater trust and transparency, replicating the feel of a brick-and-mortar casino from the comfort of home.

Enhanced Trust and Transparency

Trust is essential in online casinos as it dramatically impacts players’ peace of mind. Gamblers look for confidence that their selected platform is dependable, safe, and runs transparently and fairly.

Online casinos build trust and transparency by acquiring proper licensing, offering secure transactions, ensuring fair play, and providing high-quality customer service. Moreover, other online casinos introduce live casino games with live dealers to enhance trust and transparency.

In addition to real-time interactions, live dealers can interact with the players like in brick-and-mortar casinos. Players can ask questions, make comments, and receive immediate responses, fostering a sense of community and reliability.

This interaction mimics the social aspects of land-based casinos, where players can gauge the dealer’s demeanour and professionalism, thus bolstering their confidence in the game’s integrity.

Additionally, live dealer games are often overseen by regulatory bodies and broadcast from high-quality, secured studios, adding another level of accountability. Multiple camera angles and advanced streaming technology ensure every action is visible and transparent, diminishing potential fraud concerns.

Professional and Entertaining Conduct

Professional conduct is the backbone of any successful live casino. Dealers who are well-trained in the game’s rules, adept at handling cards or other gaming equipment, and capable of managing the game flow efficiently create a seamless gaming experience.

They also uphold the principles of fairness and transparency, providing players with peace of mind that the game is being conducted properly.

Beyond professionalism, a dealer’s entertainment ability sets a live casino apart from its online counterparts. Engaging dealers who interact with players, share witty banter, and maintain a lively atmosphere can transform a simple game into a memorable event.

Their charisma and energy help to foster a social environment, encouraging interaction between players and setting the stage for a more immersive experience.

The best live casino dealers master the delicate balance between professionalism and entertainment. They effortlessly shift from explaining complex game rules to keeping the mood light and engaging. This balance ensures players feel respected and entertained, enhancing their satisfaction and encouraging repeat visits.

Varied Game Options

The success of online casinos heavily depends on the calibre and diversity of their game offerings. In the fiercely competitive online gambling industry, casinos must provide a wide range of top-notch games to draw in and keep their players engaged.

One essential reason online casinos need a diverse game selection is to keep players interested and entertained. Another advantage of offering a wide range of games is that it meets players’ diverse preferences. Gamblers have unique tastes, motivations, and gaming styles.

That said, live casino dealers are trained to handle multiple game types, ensuring players enjoy various gaming options.

Their professionalism and capability allow seamless transitions between games, keeping the gaming environment dynamic and engaging. This variety caters to seasoned gamblers seeking depth and strategy and welcomes newcomers eager to explore and learn.

Moreover, live dealers often introduce unique game variants and themed events that you might not find in a traditional online casino. These unique offerings can include everything from high-stakes poker tournaments to themed game nights featuring popular TV shows or movie franchises, enhancing the gaming experience.

Personalized Gaming Experience

Another key benefit of having live casino dealers is the personalized gaming experience they provide. Dealers are trained to cater to each player’s unique preferences and behaviours, making adjustments and offering insights that make each session feel exclusive.

Their friendly demeanour and professional approach ensure that the games run smoothly and that players feel valued and entertained.

Moreover, the live casino setup often includes multiple camera angles and high-definition streaming, ensuring players don’t miss a moment of the action. This level of engagement and transparency boosts player confidence and trust in the game’s fairness, further enriching the overall experience.


Live casino dealers significantly enhance the online gaming experience by bringing authenticity, interaction, trust, and entertainment. With varied game options and the ability for personalization, players can enjoy a casino experience that closely mirrors the excitement of playing in a physical casino.

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Is There Enough Time Before Summer to Get a Summer Body?

Do you think there’s enough time to get a summer body before the height of summer? Of course! If you start right now, you still have two months before August, which we’d class as the height of summer. Two months is enough time to make good progress and see some changes that’d make you look and feel incredible.

Read on to find out more.

Lean Diet and Lifting Weights

It’s the part that nobody likes to think about – the hard work. Yes, if you want to get a summer body before summer, you must be ultra-strict with your lean diet and lifting weights, with a sprinkle of cardio. Combining a lean diet with weight training forms the basis for your summer body.

If you’re ultra-strict with your diet and training four or five times a week, there’s a massive difference you can make, especially if you get your training plan spot on. You can also speed up the process with supplements – supplements will be your best friend! Check out Canadian Made Labs ( for example, to find the best supplement for you.

Stick to eating whole, unprocessed foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Reducing refined sugars and unhealthy fats will help you lose fat and build muscle. Swap your sweet snack for 0% low-fat Greek yogurt, granola, honey, and mixed fruits, and you’ve already made a massive difference to your diet and outcomes. And it tastes good!

Weight training is equally essential for muscle development, metabolism, and how quickly your physique changes. Focus on compound exercises that target multiple muscles for maximum results.

Hybrid Training

Hybrid training works well. If you’ve got some fat to trim, cardio is essential. Don’t worry, you don’t need to run. A moderate-paced walk on a steeper incline can burn more calories than running, is more enjoyable for most people, and won’t leave you gasping for breath. The stair master is another good cardio machine for a quick blast that will leave you gasping for breath but feeling good.

If you really want to make quick changes, do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workouts consist of short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief periods of low-intensity exercise or rest.

This form of workout can help you lose body fat within a short period compared to steady-state cardio exercise, for example – a 20-minute session doing these intervals may benefit you more than one hour of slow walking. Apparently, you can burn 40% more body fat with HIIT. And what’s 20 minutes of sweating and suffering if you want quick gains?

Psychological Resilience and Self-Control

It doesn’t only involve physical fitness; mental strength and willpower also play a huge role in achieving a perfect summer body. Discipline and a positive mindset are necessary for maintaining focus on one’s goals. Set achievable targets, and understand that progress takes time. If you’re ever lacking motivation, pick the body you want and imagine it in your mind. Tell yourself, over and over, that you need that body. In times of low motivation, reminding yourself repetitively of the body you want can make a big difference.

Consistency in the eating plan and daily training will encourage habits that can become part of you. And, don’t only measure your progress through weight or inches alone but also how good you feel physically and mentally.

It’s time to think about your summer body…because you’re running out of time. Start today and see what difference you can make by August!

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Want to know about a a Muslim Arab state that’s been “occupied” by another Muslim Arab state? Read about Western Sahara

Contributed by DOMINIC MARTIN Did you know that a mere four hour flight from London lies a self-proclaimed Arab state chafing under a decades-long occupation? And that their haughty overlords, motivated in part by dubious historical claims to the land, partly by naked territorial aggrandizement, annually encourages thousands of its settlers to move in and tilt the demographic balance in its favour? And all this with the tacit support of its Western allies, and in blatant violation of numerous UN resolutions? Meanwhile the indigenous inhabitants of this land are left to eke out a threadbare existence in the arid scraps left to them, whilst many more languish in refugee camps in neighbouring states. And yet, undaunted, this oppressed people fight on, standing proudly under their red, green, white and black flag. Their occupiers, in a move equal parts desperation and exasperation, have resorted to constructing an enormous barrier across the entirety of the territory, de facto annexing the choicest areas to the ‘motherland’.

I talk of course of Western Sahara, or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic if you prefer (Morocco, which has occupied the bulk of this former Spanish colony in north-west Africa since 1975, prefers the term ‘Southern Provinces’). Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Despite lying just 60 miles east of the Canary Islands, this Britain-sized slab of rock and desert occupies a position in the average Westerner’s imagination somewhere between East Timor and Ambazonia. There are no weekly protests in support of the oppressed Sahrawi people, no calls to boycott Moroccan goods, no ICC court case against Morocco, and no ceaseless stream of hand-wringing pity pieces for the Sahrawis in the left-leaning media.

Why not? Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, right? Those on the progressive left endlessly tell us that their support for the Palestinian cause is due solely for their compassion for an oppressed people – ‘you don’t have to be Muslim/Arab to support Palestine, just human’, as the phrase de jour goes. Yet Western Sahara? Crickets. This is perplexing – after all, it has all the right ingredients; if anything, it offers a far more clear-cut case than Palestine, given that the Polisario Front (Western Sahara’s answer to the PLO) has refrained from terrorist attacks on civilians and focuses its armed struggle solely against Moroccan military targets, and therefore doesn’t require the kind of awkward moral hedging demanded by supporters of the Palestinians.

And yet Western Sahara is comprehensively ignored. Its flag emoji has failed to take its place next to the EU, Ukraine and trans flags in the Twitter and Instagram bios of the right-on set. Could it be that this intra-Arab dispute between two Muslim peoples who look the same and speak the same language simply lacks the gravitas and high-stakes excitement of the Arab-Israeli imbroglio? That this dispute over a remote desert fastness, whose main exports are fish and a bit of phosphate, is simply not sexy enough? (Even Lonely Planet, usually a-gush with fawning admiration for the most dangerous and dusty ‘up and coming’ developing world destinations, calls it “featureless, arid, inhospitable and uninviting.”) Is it possible that despite the evident wrongs committed against the long-suffering Sahrawi people, that the slacktivist set simply don’t care? It certainly seems that way, which would suggest to this author at least that their support for Palestine represents for the most part less a genuine outpouring of righteous fury against injustice, than a performative display of allegiance to ‘the current thing’. Having long since grown bored of the grim trench warfare in Ukraine, this is now the sole foreign policy issue on which our progressive panjandrums absolutely insist that one must take a stand. The only other similar dispute which even comes close is the moribund ‘Free Tibet’ movement, which has long since fizzled out as its supporters realised the futility of protesting the regime in Beijing.

We are often told that the world doesn’t care about Palestine, that “Palestinian blood is very cheap” as former Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf put it. Yet the complete opposite is in fact the case. No other foreign policy issue attracts as much international attention as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no other ‘national liberation’ struggle attracts as much foreign support as that of the Palestinians. Would a major flare up of fighting in Western Sahara be capable of swinging a British by-election, as happened recently in Rochdale? Hardly.

So, that’s the progressives. Meanwhile the vociferous rage of their erstwhile allies in the Islamic ‘ummah’ is perhaps at first glance more understandable, their religious sensibilities understandably inflamed at seeing Muslims dying by the score, and at the hands of the infidel no less. Yet even here we see a similar double standard at play. Where has been the outrage at other violent oppression committed against Muslims, such as China’s brutal suppression of the Uighurs, Burma’s genocidal attacks against the Rohingya, or the Alawite Assad regime’s brutal bloodbath in Syria? To say nothing of the tens of thousands of deaths caused by intra-Muslim civil wars in Yemen, Sudan or Iraq? It’s hard not to notice that Muslims generally ignore those issues and reserve especial ire for Israel and Israel alone. Ad for Western Sahara – it doesn’t even get a look in. It would seem that Laayoune, Dakhla or Boujdour simply lack the heady religious allure of Jerusalem, Jenin or Jericho. It would seem that some Muslim lives are worth more than others.

At some point the brutal fighting in Gaza will come to an end. The rent-a-protestors will find a new trend to get excited about. It is quite likely that we will see yet another international push to reanimate the interminable Arab-Israeli ‘peace process’. Forget potential nuclear war in Korea or Kashmir, or the slow-motion implosion of Myanmar – the entire weight of the world’s efforts and attention will once again be bought to bear on the great, grand cause of creating a corrupt, authoritarian (if not outright Islamist) Palestinian statelet in the Middle East. And when that happens, spare a thought if you will for the Sahrawis, as they waste away in their desert shantytowns. After all, no one else will.

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