Gap Year in Israel more popular than ever despite pandemic

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The Wall Street Journal published an article that you may have missed while you were observing Yom Kippur. Online on Sept. 28, one of its headlines declared, “Israel Emerges as Top Destination for American Teens Amid Pandemic” The story goes on to say, “With few countries accepting U.S. students, Israel proves a big draw for those seeking meaningful experiences beyond online learning from family couches.”

The essence of the article is that many students are delaying their college freshman year (or delaying their return to campus if they already have a year or two under their belts) since they don’t want to be stuck at home taking courses online or living on a largely empty campus. They want the full college experience. Rather than lose a semester or year of that college experience, thousands have chosen to spend the time in Israel, with others their own age. As a result, the number of Americans taking gap years in Israel has increased by 40%.

A variety of programs allow students to study in Israeli universities or yeshivot, volunteer, work in internships or a combination of these. Many include Hebrew language courses. Year-long programs have already begun, but there are some semester programs that will begin in December and January.

The Journal quotes one New Yorker who took a minimalist approach, “Taking a gap year is a big insurance policy against college. If the gap year is great, it’s a life-changing experience. If the gap year kind of stinks, then you still have four years of college, and it’s hopefully more normal than starting college in 2020.”

However, I have never heard anyone complain that a semester or year in Israel was anything but wonderful.

For more information about potential gap year programs and/or grants and scholarships, please contact IsraelDesk@jewishallianceri.org.

LARRY KATZ (lkatz@jewishallianceri.org) is the director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.