Aardvark: Gap Year Program in Israel

Video and Photos

Male and females rock climb
Male and females rock climb
Female students hike in Israel
Female students hike in Israel
Male holds a snake
Male holds a snake
Males pose in front of poster in Israel
Males pose in front of poster in Israel
Images of students in Israel
Images of students in Israel
Group listens to instructor
Group listens to instructor
Dancing in Tzfat for a holiday celebration on a weekend trip
Biking along the Mediterranean Sea with a great friend!

About

Aardvark Israel Gap Year offers 5, 9 and 11 month programs in Israel for recent high school graduates from all over the world that combines immersion into Israeli Society, service to the community through volunteer work and internships, and learning about Israel and Judaism through both formal academic and informal educational encounters. As a fully accredited university program, students may earn college credit for their coursework while on the program.

Aardvark Israel meets the needs of today's "millennial" students by offering a core program with a menu of add-on options enabling students to build their own gap year, including a religious oriented track and a chance to visit countries around the world. Aardvark Israel also meets the needs of today’s parents by providing a better program for a better price than what is currently otherwise available.

Questions & Answers

Yes most kids do party but it’s also really not a big deal to stay in. There’s a solid group of kids that won’t go out and there’s no pressure or anything.

Reviews

87%
based on 29 reviews
  • Housing 8.3
  • Support 8.4
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 8.5
Showing 16 - 29 of 29
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Mark
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Poor Health and Safety - Inadequately Trained Staff

The apartments are not well maintained and in a poor part of Tel Aviv. They suffer from serious damp, lack of proper furniture and very poor quality bedding. It can only be described as rough living for a prince's ransom.

The counsellors are just out of the army and only slightly older than the kids on the programme. They do not have the experience, or training, to deal with many of the issues which can arise when a child is living away from home for the first time.

The programme does not offer much. Four mornings per week are spent on internships and then some very basic teaching three afternoons per week. There are trips, but these are mostly local. There is a lot of fallow time, which may be fun but hardly good value.

Don't expect any refunds should you find the programme to be ultimately inadequate. Should you proceed you will need to understand this is at your risk.

Response from Aardvark Israel

"We are sorry you were not fully satisfied with the program. As you can see, the majority of our students are highly satisfied with the program so we are concerned that you weren't. You mentioned a maintenance issue in your child's apartment and unfortunately, occasionally there are breakdowns as the result of normal wear and tear. These issues are always attended to within 24 hours by professionals. Our program staff are highly trained and carefully chosen to best suit the needs of the students: most have served senior roles in the Israeli army and been involved in youth work for many years. The educational classes offered are provided through the American Jewish University and are all accredited university level courses. Our students typically give the courses and the instructors great reviews, but perhaps your child did not make a connection with his/her teacher or find the style of learning one that matches his/her preference. Our weekly field trips cover the length and breadth of the country over the course of the year and there are over 100 different wonderful opportunities the students have for volunteering and internships. We are proud of the program and all that it offers and we are very sorry you don't feel the same way.

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Nadav
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Mix That Really Works

Still in the program. About to finish first half in Tel Aviv, then going on to Jerusalem. This is a very rich program in diversity and experience. I love the internship, the trips, the support, the team.

What would you improve about this program?
quite study area for home work
better mattresses
bigger room with desks for homework
the apartments are fantastic but are more of a living space then living space plus place for students to study.
5 dudes sharing a shower/bathroom although really nice facilities, is allot of sharing...would be nice to have less guys sharing same bathrooms.
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Ketzia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changer

Aardvark was, without a doubt, the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me. Was the program perfect? No. No program is without its faults, but the resources and opportunities that Aardvark provides its students are tools that can be used and applied throughout the rest of their lives.

I learned so much both about myself and my Jewish identity while on this program. I grew spiritually and mentally and I am a full believer that I am better off now, having waited a year before attending college, than I would have been had I gone straight through without taking a gap year.

You get the chance to explore the country and develop a greater understanding of the Jewish state. I never considered myself a Zionist before, but Israel now plays a very important part in both my life and my belief system. Who knows exactly what the future holds in store, but my opinions and love towards Israel have changed irrevocably.

I've made life long friends and miss the country and the Aardvark staff terribly. I know that my academic journey must continue, but I am forever indebted to Aardvark for helping to guide and shape me into the person I am today.

What would you improve about this program?
There is not a huge amount of organized programming which I didn't think was a bad thing, it just may not be what other students need. This program isn't a perfect match for everyone. However,one of the greatest things about Aardvark is that whatever you are hoping to get out of the year, they will help however they can. Have a clear idea in your head what you what to get out of the program. If you're looking for a gap year that will choose your path for you, then this is probably not the best option, but if you're independent and want guidance along your journey, than Aardvark is a program you should seriously consider.
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Aaron
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The best year of my life was on Aardvark Israel

Before I went to college I knew I wanted to do a gap year in Israel. Aardvark Israel appealed to me for many reasons. It offered independence, minimalist structure and would allow me to participate in both Magen David Adom and Marva. I had the best year of my life on my gap year in Israel and it was all thanks to the amazing people I met on Aardvark. The kids from every other gap year program were always jealous of Aardvark because we had the most fun :) Get ready for an amazing adventure!

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Kerren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An experience to remember

Coming from South Africa and coming with no friends I was nervous. I was even more nervous because I came in January during spring semester. But on arrival I was welcomed by 3 amazing madrichim in Jerusalem. Then I met my room mates who were there from America. One joined when I did and the other had been there since September. I chose to Jerusalem as coming from a religious background I felt more connected then Tel Aviv.

The next day we went on our first over night trip to Ein Geddi. There we met up with the Tel Aviv students. That night we had a break the ice activities. We learnt about what to expect on the program and what was expected of us.

The next week we started our volunteering. I was at a Gan. It was difficult in the beginning as most of the kids spoke only Hebrew. My Hebrew wasn't up to scratch but as the months went on I learnt both from the Gan and Ulpan. I honestly loved every minute of being there. Sure some days were harder then others but because I enjoyed it so much I didn't mind. (This was 4times a week).

In the afternoons we had classes. I did Ulpan (which was mandatory), film and news around Israel and a midrash class. The ulpan class was interesting because everyone coming from different backgrounds we had different influences and our knowledge was all at different levels. I was in level 2.
The film class was done by our madrichim. The films were informative and relevant to our society and the way we live today. The ones that were in Hebrew you had to concentrate a bit but nothing to serious. News around Israel:the group got given articles from an online magazine or newspaper and we had to read it. After that we had a discussion on our thoughts and if it was something good what we could do to continue it and if it was something bad how we can try change that.
Midrash: it was me and 2 other people. Growing up in a religious environment I loved the class. It was easy enough for all of us to understand but also done in a way that made us think outside the box and not in a simple way.
(These happened 3times a week).

Tuesday trips: every Tuesday we went on a trip around Israel. The ones that were most memorable for me were: Sderot, Haifa, Temple Mount, Chevron. The reason for this is because they were places I hadn't been to before. It was beautiful to see and experience the way in which other people within Israel live. Some areas poorer than others, the natural beauty in the gardens and how it is preserved and how other religions view these places either holy or spiritual.

From Thursday afternoon, after classes, it was the weekend :D. There were plenty of options on what you could do. You could go to friends or family, have people stay at you, if your room mates agreed, if you wanted to party going to Tel Aviv and having accommodation was never a problem. People on the program either have an extra bed or you just used the pull out couches.
Every 2nd month there was a shabbaton. For this you went to different location from Friday till Saturday night. I went on one in the desert. It was peaceful and relaxing and was an opportunity to get a few things off my chest.

In Jerusalem across the street from our apartments there was a pizza and felafel take away place. It was a blessing. Whenever I wasn't in the mood to cook there was somewhere for me to get food (what a Jewish thing to say).
About a 5 minute walk away was a grocery store. There were always specials on products and many things were sold in bulk which for me was a bonus because it meant less money spent on food and more on shopping.

During the week at night there were optional activities which the madrichim put together. We had a poitjie night, pesach masterchief, keriokee, cheese and wine before Shavuot, a trip to Nachlaot and the shuk.

To end off this very long review although it was hard the people I have met from around the world are friendships that will last forever.

I hope this was helpful if not please let me know and I will add things in.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I had a problem with was the Tel Aviv area. Although it is a hip and upcoming place I didn't feel safe. It was just very sketchy and everything just always felt dirty
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Kali
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Year as an Aardvark

I am really glad that I chose to do Aardvark. We had a schedule which allowed us to have enough free time to explore the cities in which we lived and also on the weekends to explore the rest of the country. We had great volunteering options and we got to go on trips around the cities in which we lived each Tuesday, which was really fun. It was nice to see both sides of Israel- the religious (Jerusalem) and the hip (Tel Aviv.) It was exhilarating to switch from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv midway through the year.

What would you improve about this program?
I think that the behind the scenes of the program needs to be more organised, because the participants noticed that it wasn't the most organised.
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Fred
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Start of a journey

Aardvark really changed my life. It's true beauty is that you are ultimately responsible for you own experience. There is more freedom than any other program of its type and they set you up with apartments in good areas of tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The basic structure is volunteering in the morning, classes in the afternoon and optional activities most evenings. You could choose from a wide range of volunteer positions (I was an intern at a start up company and volunteered on an ambulance) you can even set up volunteering yourself if you have a specific passion that they could set it up yourself. You can also switch volunteer positions, so the experience here is all on yourself.
You can take a light or heavy classload. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the short amount of Hebrew lessons and the selection of classes. I know it is a small amount of students so they can only have so many classes but I think a larger emphasis on Hebrew should be given. It is the language here and you will be living here for at least half a year after all. That being said I worked hard on my Hebrew in class and volunteering and improved my Hebrew a lot.
Activities were a little bit hit or miss but that is on how many people show up and with what attitude.
Field trips were generally once a week and were educational and enjoyable

The true beauty of the aardvark program is its freedom. Most evenings after 6 and nearly all weekends you are free. I had no choice but to learn how to cook, you must feed yourself
There are lots to explore in both cities, more than you can ever do in 4 months. In tel Aviv you are 2 minutes walk from some of the best bars in tel Aviv on Florentine Street.
You must learn how to budget yourself, a true life skill. Every weekend I went on a different adventure, I tried not to be in the apartments on the weekends, tried to really experience the country without breaking the bank. Aardvark allowed me to do that, and based on my year in Israel I decided to stay and make aliyah
Would recommend for the adventurous type.
In short great opportunity that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to spend some time in Israel before college

What would you improve about this program?
Class selection
To survey the participants and see what they want to take.
Higher emphasis on learning Hebrew!
More helping activities teaching us more recipes tricks for living together etc
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Grace
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Gap Year

The only regret that I have is that I only completed one semester. I wish I was there for the whole year. I fell in love with Israel and made life long friendships. A great balance of independence for me and comfort level for my parents. Aardvark was an incredible experience and I feel I really grew as a person.

What would you improve about this program?
Aside from wishing I was in Israel longer, there should be more interaction between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on the group Tiyuls as only doing one semester it can be hard to create the connections with the other section.
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Shmulik
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

worst part was that it ended

My gap year in Israel was the best year of my life, hands down. As long as you can handle being somewhat independent in a foreign country, aardvark is the number on program out there. Aardvark is about letting you shape YOUR israel experience, so prepared to have to take initative sometimes in taking your own classes, your own trips around israel, buying your own food etc. This may sound daunting but being in charge of your israel destiny is such a good experience to prepare you for the real world. Don't get me wrong though, aardvark is always there for you in whatever you need.

What would you improve about this program?
Oftentimes the planning and organization of certain activities were rather last minute, which seemed like a big deal at the time, but looking back the good times shine above all therest.
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Haynderson
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Aardvark

Aardvark was awesome. Classes were easy, I had a fun internship that looks solid on my resume, and the social scene was unbelievable. Honestly, the main reason I originally came to Israel was because the drinking age was 18, but after 4 months I legitimately can say that I not only met some of the best people and friends I could have ever hoped for, my semester abroad gave me a life long passion to the state of Israel which I think is necessary for every Jewish youth.

What would you improve about this program?
Give people the option of who they room with. Furthermore, make Sar El optional, one week long opposed to two weeks, and not at the beginning of the semester.
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Sharon
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Aardvark Israel

Doing a gap year isn't an easy step in life, but I believe that it's one to take. Being on Aardvark Israel I'v learned so much about this beautiful country and even about myself. Going into a new cuture and society helps to educate on many topics. A gap year like such, will forever be the best experience I've ever done. Not only did I fall in love with my fellow Aardvarkians but also this wonderful state of Israel: and now I'v returned to continue my studies here. No matter where I head off too a peice of aardvark is with me everywhere I go.

What would you improve about this program?
The one thing I would change about Aardvark Israel is the choice of classes. I believe that we should have more choices then the ones offered. For example more about history or Israel and such. It will help us learn the country better and understand out surroundings.
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Ben
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Aardvark is The Go To Program for Gap Years in Israel

I was amazed at the high level of planning and accommodations Aardvark gave to me and my fellow participants. The entire program was outstanding and gave the best Israel experience ever! Aardvark beats Year Course and all the other Gap Years in all regards of the experience: the location (the heart of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv), accommodation, events, madrichim, counseling, freedom, field trips, support, friendliness of staff, welcoming you to a new home, and options for european travel.

I especially took advantage of the International Trips. This is because the staff, mostly Liron Milbar the marketing coordinating and prospective participant go-getter, plans the trips for you and for a fairly economical price. I went to Oslo and Bergen, Norway, Barcelona and Girona, Spain, Dublin and Belfast, Ireland, Beijing, China, Berlin and Oranienberg (where the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and Nazi Headquarters were located), Germany, Florence, Sienna, and Rome, Italy, Prague and Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, and Amesterdam and the Hague, The Netherlands. The planning consisted of many events in these cities over the course of 4-5 days. The plans included museums, historical tours, jewish culture in Europe, and most importantly and trip to the Israeli Embassy to meet the Ambassadors to Israel in Europe.

However, the experience in Israel is far more outstanding! The volunteer work is motivational. The tiyulim are indescribable to the extent that it is just fun and great to see the Golan heights, Tsfat, City of David, Temple Mount, Sde Boker, Sderot, and so much more. Plus, you have the freedom to have fun when the night begins or go to the beautiful Tel Aviv beach or western wall. All in all, you can experience the best of Israel through the Aardvark program.

I also urge any college students to take the courses offered as a part of Aardvark seriously and find out ahead of time about the transferability. It goes through American Jewish University an accredited university that transfers to most Cal States and most UC schools, so if you are going to a UC or Cal State make sure you look into the requirements for transferability! I found out the hard way.

The Israel experience is real when you do Aardvark. The freedom of self expression coincided with true friendships is something that you will experience in Aardvark, but nowhere else. I can say I met life long friends throughout my Aardvark experience and learned about myself more than ever! The bonds you will make and interpersonal relationships are there, you just need to courageously sign up! Do it for you and do it for your Jewish identity and personal growth.

What would you improve about this program?
One thing I would change as part of the program would be the emphasis on college classes and the importance of doing well for all of the participants. I know that we volunteer and that's extremely important, but college is the foundation of who we will be and what career we will explore and it seemed that volunteer work was emphasized more than classes and doing well in them. Emphasize classes more and you'll be by far the best Gap Year program out there, if not already!
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Joey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It's your year

My favorite thing about Aardvark is the dependence they give each participant. Too many gap year programs have you "living" in Israel, but you don't actually get to LIVE in Israel! Aardvark's entire philosophy is based on a self exploration of Israel. They want you to go camping in the Golan with friends, hear the best live music at the hottest venue, or get a little lost in the marketplace. They want you to really feel the country, in a way that suits you best. Yes, there are required elements of the program, but aside from that your time is yours. Aardvark just wants you to enjoy it. And love Israel.

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Gracie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The First Year of My Life

The nine months I spent in Israel on this program were the start of my life. The friends I consider family, the sites I explored and the memories that will stay forever with me all happened because of Aardvark. I have befriended and engaged in other Israel programs and through all of my first hand and online research, I still cannot speak higher of any experience other than aardvark.

When the war broke out during my stay there, one would expect an eighteen year old girl to flee home to her parents. However, because of the support and love this program provided for me, I reacted in the exact opposite fashion. I couldn't leave my newfound home and I knew in my heart it would be harder to leave than to stay.

The courses I took and the teachers that led them guided me to the college I am at now. Through my creative writing class specifically I ended up at an arts school in Savannah, Ga. Because of the diversity and popularity this program holds, I now have friends merely a bus ride away here in the south when I was raised halfway across the world in California.

I thank Aardvark everyday for the individual I've become and they couldn't have offered me anything greater.