Israel is often referred to as the religious capital of the world. Jews, Muslims, and Christians flock to the country to view the numerous holy sites in Israel. From the Western (Wailing) Wall and the Dome of the Rock to the Tomb of Lazarus, one can’t help but feel surrounded by history when walking through Israel. However, these glorious religious monuments are not all that Israel has to offer. The cities are filled with clubs, museums, and fantastic art and music. If you’re looking to gain a new perspective on the religious, cultural, and social progression, Israel is the right country for your gap year experience.
Israel offers so much to learn about the world. The development of Western values started long before by Jews, Muslims, and the first Christians. Come to Israel and gain a new perspective on the religious, cultural, and social progression of humanity while fighting for civil and basic human rights in the Holy Land. What better place is there to use your talents than in the Middle East, the birth-place of civilizations.
Types of Programs
Volunteering connects visitors from around the world through meaningful community service projects. There are thousands of affordable, short-term voluntary service projects in Israel. Voluntary service projects are a great opportunity to participate in meaningful community service while living and interacting in an intercultural environment. Unfortunately, many of Israel’s volunteering projects revolve around medical care for those wounded due to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Volunteering in Israel is a great opportunity to work with orphans, support environmental efforts, help with the restoration of national monuments, and the reconstruction of destroyed homes and neighborhoods. Israel needs kindhearted volunteers who are in search of personal growth.
Travel to Masada and see where the Jewish rebels stood up to the Romans. Visit the Dead Sea's strange and mysterious wonders or walk the path of Jesus’s crucifixion up to Golgotha (the place of the skull). Trek outside of the cities and into the startling desert landscapes. Because of Israel’s small size, it’s possible to see a wide variety of places in one day, even after volunteering in the morning.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Israel while interning. There are designed gap year programs that still have extremely strong roots in Jewish history and tradition. Many of Israel’s internship opportunities are unpaid and more volunteer-based, but the country’s economy is stable and the cities are filled with business internships. If you’re looking to develop your skills on an international level while doing meaningful work, then Israel is right for you. Internships in politics and law are prevalent throughout the country and will go a long way with employers. Students who intern abroad have a sizable advantage over other future job applicants without this experience.
Planning Your Trip
Cost of Living in Israel
If you’re adjusting from life in the US or Europe to a gap year in Israel, prepare to pay considerably more for consumer goods. Even prices for basic food products are two to three times higher in Israeli stores than in other Western countries. In fact, recently, there have been many riots protesting the unfair cost of living in Israel. Public transportation is cheap, but the network is much less developed than in America or Europe.
Culture and Etiquette in Israel
Always shake hands warmly and maintaining direct eye contact. Make sure to always use the right hand when greeting Muslims since shaking with the left hand is a sign of disrespect. Friends may kiss each other once on the cheek. Remember to pay attention to the religious beliefs of the person you are meeting. Orthodox observers may not take kindly to touching, so a verbal greeting would be best.
Health & Safety
Israel is still a dangerous country. There are constant threats of terrorism and the Israeli government does not permit its citizens to visit Gaza and parts of the West Bank. You might feel frightened being in a crowded area but let’s face it, crowds are unavoidable. Always take precaution and if it seems like a fight of some kind is about to break out, then leave immediately and call the police.
Lastly, always remember to take sunscreen with you. The heat can be scorching and it’s sunny almost year round. Remember to stay hydrated as well. While Israel does not suffer from large scale disease, the little things can catch up to you!