Letter to my dear son on the eve of his departure to Year Course.

Letter to my dear son on the eve of his departure to Year Course (and on the 125th Anniversary of the Zionist Congress),

Yesterday, I held a newborn, and tomorrow, I send our bachor, first born, off to Israel for your gap year, on Young Judaea’s Year Course.  Where did the time go? Just yesterday I was telling you bedtime stories about my adventures in Israel and tomorrow I will bid you farewell, as you set off on your own coming-of-age pilgrimage to the Promised Land. But before you leave, I have some parting words.

Today is the 125th anniversary of the Zionist Congress in Basel. As you and 219 other young people make their way to Israel on Year Course, I wonder what you will make of Herzl’s Zionist dream.

Will it inspire you? Will you be impressed at the ways in which that dream has become a reality?

“The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.” (Theodore Herzl)

What we have built in less than 75 years is short of a miracle.  We are a refuge for Jews, a startup nation, democracy in the middle east, and so much more.

But will you be disillusioned? Will you be disappointed at the ways that reality falls short of the dream?

Yes, we are a regular country with crime and corruption, poverty, and discrimination. Yes, we have extremists, on all sides, whose zealotry makes them willing to kill or die for their ideologies.  Yes, we have our own country and are living freely in it, but not all are truly free.  Yes, sometimes it feels like a zero-sum game in which our particularistic values are pegged against our universalistic values. But it need not be that way.  Being a Zionist means not settling for the status quo.  You have always had a deep sense of justice.  Since you were a child carefully kept track to make sure your siblings had the same amount of Shabbat candy as you.  You went out of your way to be friends with the bullied kid on the playground.  Hold fast to that sense of justice and channel it but don’t be pulled into the zero-sum game.  Life is not that simple.  Lean into the “Yes, and” space. Don’t disengage with Israel like a growing number of young adults in North America. I invite you to join me as part of the “troubled, committed,” as Donniel Hartman invites us “to close the gap between Israel as it is and as it should be.”

Will you find the inspiration to become part of the next phase of Zionism? To aspire to bring reality closer to the dream? I dare you to dream your own dream. Because it is you and your fellow Judaean peers, who are the future of Zionism.  It is incumbent on you to dream the dream.  Herzl told us that “if you will it, it is no dream” and he went on to say, “and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay”.  Our forefathers and foremothers lay the groundwork for you and now it is up to you to continue it.  “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben chorin l’hivatel mimena,” (Pirke Avot 2:16).

I know this may feel daunting, after all, you are only 18 and this is the beginning of the rest of your life.  So, let’s take it one step at a time.

As you set off on your journey, here is some parting advice:

Get lost and then find yourself (without a GPS).
Remember you are young and strong, but you are not invincible.
Make good choices and inspire those around you to become better.
Meet new people.
Figure out who you are and who you want to be.
Become that person.
Speak Hebrew (with an Israeli accent).
Challenge yourself to hear a new point of view.
It’s ok to change your mind.
Experience many kinds of Jews and diverse Jewish expressions, and figure out which one is you.
Make your own covenant, you don’t need to fit neatly into a box.
Encounter Israeli Jew, Muslim, Christian, and Druze to understand how we can share this holy place.
Get connected with friends and family.
The entire country is your extended family.
Discover what you believe in and then commit to fighting for it.

As for Israel…
Let yourself fall in love with her, be challenged by her flaws, and then commit to making her better.

No pressure but you are the future of Zionism, my son.
And finally, I wish you safe travels with the traveler’s prayer, tefilat haderech.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ יְ-יָ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ וֵא-לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ. שֶׁתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתַדְרִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתִסְמְכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתַגִּיעֵנוּ לִמְחוֹז חֶפְצֵנוּ לְחַיִּים וּלְשִׂמְחָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם וְתַחֲזִירֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם

May it be Your will, G-d, that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, guide us in peace, support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and return to us in peace

Love and Nesiyah Tovah,
Mami, aka
Adina H. Frydman
CEO of Young Judaea Global

Bring Your Appetite to Mahane Yehuda!

14 out-of-this-world eateries in Jerusalem’s famous market

Take this handy restaurant guide to ‘the shuk’ in downtown Jerusalem and bring along a hearty appetite. You’re in for an incredible food experience.

In Jerusalem’s famed Machane Yehuda open-air market (shuk) you can buy many different foods including fresh produce, spices, tea and coffee, olive oil, cheese, fish, meat, halva, baked goods and sweets to take home.

But the shuk also has a full complement of restaurants. This is a list of some of the best IMHO, all of them certified kosher.

Azura, 4 HaEshkol St.

In the kitchen at Azura, a Turkish-Iraqi restaurant in Machane Yehuda. Photo via Facebook

What used to be a place for cheap eats is now one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem and my personal favorite.

This Turkish/Iraqi restaurant in the Iraqi section of Machane Yehuda is the kind of place where you cannot try just one dish.

Beef sofrito, a mixture of beef and potatoes with wonderful spices, is the best dish on the menu. Azura, another popular dish, is a partially hollowed-out eggplant filled with seasoned minced meat and marinated in cinnamon and other spices.

The rest of the dishes on the menu are also delicious, whether it be the spicy oxtail or the hummus. Nothing is ever a disappointment at Azura.

Manou Ba Shouk29 Etz Haim St.

Diners enjoying Lebanese kosher fare at Manou Ba Shouk. Photo via Facebook

At this Lebanese restaurant, located in the middle of the closed part of the shuk, they’re always cooking up something delicious! The khidre was different and so fun to eat. It’s rice with vegetables, noodles, and meat that comes in a large clay pot that they shake and spill onto a platter, so the food comes out steaming.

Along with the khidre, you must get the meat pizza, which is a crispy, thin dough topped with a light sauce and meat, making a surprisingly delicious dish. My other favorite thing to get here is Kubbeh Saniyeh, essentially a pan of three layers, comprised of a blend of soaked bulgur dough as the top and bottom layers, while the middle layer contains seasoned ground beef and pine nuts.

This is a wonderful restaurant for family-style dinners.

Hachapuria5 HaShikma St.

Khachapuri, a classic Georgian bread boat brimming with cheese, egg and butter. Photo courtesy of Hachapuria.

 You cannot find many places like Hachapuria. Located just outside the shuk, Hachapuria is a wonderful Georgian restaurant with a very cute atmosphere.

The food that gave the restaurant its name is basically an oval bread boat brimming with tasty cheese with an egg and butter on top. This delicious item comes fresh out of the oven with an aroma that takes over the room. You can order it with spinach if you prefer a little vegetable in your dish.

Jahnun Bar30 HaEgoz St.

Watch the chefs at Jahnun Bar flip the Yemenite dough high in the sky. Photo via Facebook

This tiny delight of a culinary experience, located in the closed part of the Machane Yehuda shuk, serves some of the best Yemenite food in Jerusalem.

Jahnun Bar has two very classic and delicious Yemenite dishes: jachnun and malawach. Jachnun, a thick rolled Yemenite pastry, is served with a salsa dip and egg. The more popular malawach is a thin pastry dough that can be wrapped like a burrito.

The two main ways to order malawach at Jahnun Bar are the Memulawach and the Shakshukalawach. The Memulawach can be served with different fillings such as hummus, harif (a spicy blend), olives and tomatoes, while the Shakshukalawach can have all of the same fillings, with the addition of the classic poached-egg-and-tomato-sauce shakshuka.

The best part of this small restaurant is that you get to watch everything made right in front of your eyes.

Ishtabach, 1 HaShikma St. 

Known as one of the best restaurants near the shuk, Ishtabach (tagline: “Bread, meat and what goes between them”) is always serving up something delicious.

My personal favorite at this Kurdish restaurant is the brisket, since it reminds me of my mom’s. The additional spices and seasonings make the brisket even better than my mom’s (but please don’t tell her).

Bardak4 Beit Ya’akov St.

This is how pizza is done at Bardak in Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem. Photo via Facebook

If you are looking for better quality than pizza chains such as Big Apple or Pizza Hut provide, then Bardak is the place for you. Their pizza is truly the best that I have had in Israel (and I have traveled throughout the whole country).

My personal favorite is the German Colony pizza, which has mushrooms, onions, goat cheese and pesto. You will never be dissatisfied with the food at Bardak, but sometimes their service is not the best, as it gets very packed. In those situations, I recommend take-out. They are located just a block or so outside of the shuk.

Pepito’s 11 HaEgoz St.

The staff at Pepito’s in the shuk is super friendly. Photo via Facebook

Pepito’s is a delicious sandwich place that is distinct from other places such as New Deli. The South American-inspired sandwiches are truly delicious. The assado sandwich tends to be one of the favorites. Let me tell you that you cannot just go there once.

The staff at Pepito’s is super friendly, willing to help you make your decision and guiding first-timers in the right direction. Overall, a highly recommended place that is different from your typical Middle Eastern cuisine.

Hatzot121 Agripas St.

Order some meat on a skewer at Hatzot, accompanied by a bevy of table salads. Photo: courtesy

A great restaurant just about two blocks from the shuk, Hatzot (Hebrew for Midnight) has a fun atmosphere and is not too expensive. It is a very classic Israeli restaurant serving skewers of meat and salads, which are provided on the table.

Legend has it that the famous “Jerusalem mixed grill” dish was invented in 1970 here at Hatzot.

The staff is very friendly and refills your salads when you finish. But the best part of Hatzot is that the food is delicious and will leave you full. If you don’t feel like sitting down, they also have great laffas or pitas to go.

Hatch, 28 HaEgoz St.

Two kinds of wings on offer at Hatch. Photo via Facebook

Hatch, the new rage of Machane Yehuda, is located in the closed part of the shuk. Typically, when eating wings in a restaurant, I always think that I make better ones at home. However, this is not the case at Hatch. Hatch’s American-style food is truly delicious, and their Buffalo wings are some of the best you will ever have.

Crave Gourmet Street Food, 1 HaShikma

Crave Gourmet Street Food is one of the hottest restaurants in Jerusalem. Photo via Facebook

Crave is one of the hottest restaurants in Jerusalem and you will definitely crave it, pun intended. The wait can be long, but it is always worth it.

The diverse menu includes some options that don’t sound very kosher, but thanks to house-made vegan cheese and bacon made from lamb, they are. If you keep a kosher diet, here is where you can finally try that bacon cheeseburger, BLT or Reuben sandwich that you have always wanted to. They are truly delicious! There’s also beer on tap, cocktails, wine, and Dr. Brown’s sodas.

Hummus Shel Tehina23 Nissim Bachar St.

 About a three-minute walk across Agripas Street from Machane Yehuda, you will find this cozy restaurant serving some great hummus. The staff is super-friendly and kind, and the hummus is truly unforgettable.

I personally love the hummus with mushrooms (pitriyot), and my second favorite choice is to have my hummus with fava beans, garbanzo beans and/or an egg. Additionally, I recommend getting some falafel balls to share, as these go great with your meal.

Morduch70 Agripas St.

One of the best-known Middle Eastern foods in Israel is kubbeh. These semolina dumplings can be enjoyed in soup or fried with meat inside. Morduch has both kinds of kubbeh and they are both delicious! I love to go up to the window and get two fried kubbeh to go, as a snack, but you can also sit down for a nice bowl of kubbeh soup.

Marzipan Bakery44 Agripas St.

Marzipan’s rugelach are probably the hottest commodity for any tourist or traveler visiting Machane Yehuda. When the rugelach are fresh out of the oven on a Friday morning, it is nothing short of heaven, as the gooey chocolate oozes out of each doughy bite and the whole thing just melts in your mouth. This classic place is a must.

Beer Bazaar, 3 Etz Haim St.

After dinner, you can come here to relax and have a nice craft beer. Beer Bazaar has a great selection of more than 100 Israeli beers and 13 on tap, along with some ciders and spirits, and a menu of classic bar food as well as vegetarian options.

The prices are pretty good and the atmosphere is great, with a large area in back for extra seating and live shows. This place is definitely recommended to begin or end a night on the town.

Daniel Silver is a 2018-2019 Digital Ambassador for ISRAEL21c.

Through Year Course, the Chance to Figure out Who I Am

Year Course 19-20 Graduation Speech
by Sofia Feldman

Each and every one of us sitting here today are the people we are because of the choices we have made. This past year has consisted of decision making. Not just small decisions and choices of what to eat or what clothes to wear, but decisions determining our futures. I want to share with you some of the decisions I have made which have formed me into the person I am today, standing here in front of you. 

After attending the Young Judaea summer program, Machon, I immediately knew that Year Course was something I needed to do. Four weeks on Machon did not satisfy my love and passion for Israel’s culture and everything that makes Israel Israel. It was my first time ever coming to Israel and I was positive I would be back. I knew that Year Course would be something I would regret not doing, but I was absolutely terrified. I was leaving behind everything I knew and loved. I would be going from the home of BBQ to the land of schnitzel and falafel. I’d be replacing Southern hospitality for Israel’s aggressive bus drivers. I would be leaving my friends for new ones and 14 random Israelis. I would also be leaving my family, not knowing that I would make a completely new one. 

By the end of senior year, I had solidified the next five years of my life. Although I was breaking out of the classic mold of attending college directly out of high school, I was comforted by the fact that I would be returning to life back in America. I would be close again to my family, my high school friends, and everything that I had grown up with. I would be coming back to attend the University of Florida and be a part of the classic American college experience. I knew after I had made my college decision to attend University of Florida, I was not being completely honest with myself. I made the choice to go to the University of Florida for other people around me. I was trying to live up to what was expected from me, not necessarily what was right for me. I was more satisfied with the knowledge that I had a plan rather than the plan itself. I tried to suppress these emotions because I was scared of them. When they reappeared a few months ago in Israel, I was forced to confront them. While on Year Course, I surrendered to the tough realization that my decision to go to the University of Florida was not what was best for me. I could not fight it anymore, because being a college student in America felt wrong. I essentially had a crisis of where I wanted to be and where I belonged. Every time I thought about the next few years of my life in America, it wasn’t something that necessarily made me happy or something that I saw a future in. I was faced with a choice that I did not see coming. The choice to go home and resume life in America or to stay in Israel and continue my life here. And deep down, the decision for me to stay was a no brainer.


Should I Take a Gap Year in Israel?

With the current uncertainty surrounding starting college or university this fall, there’s been a tremendous increase in gap year interest and opportunities.

Previously seen as a complicated decision that might jeopardize academic or career prospects, more and more high school seniors are seeing the deeper, short-and long-term value of taking a year abroad before starting college – specifically in Israel.

It comes as no surprise that Israel is one of the top three gap year destinations for North American students. As the original gap year in Israel, Young Judaea Year Course has always seen the immeasurable value of spending a year learning, volunteering, and experiencing Israel. (There’s a reason 10,000 alumni have called Year Course home since 1956!)

Benefits Of Taking a Gap Year

There are numerous overall benefits to choosing a different track between high school and college:

  • Gaining exposure to the larger world around you
  • Figuring out what you really want to do in your life
  • Building a community of truly like-minded friends
  • Gaining invaluable experience for your resume


Why Israel?

Choosing to take your gap year in Israel unlocks an additional range of opportunities to learn and grow, including:

  • Building your Jewish identity
  • Living in Israel, one of the most interesting and complex countries in the world
  • Learning from communities of all sizes and types
  • Connecting with the history and future of the Jewish people


By the Numbers

The results from a recent study by the Gap Year Association give us a clear picture of the many benefits of choosing the gap year track as reported by participants themselves:

  • 94% said their time spent abroad helped them learn to communicate with people from different backgrounds
  • 90% said they have a better understanding and respect for different cultures
  • 90% of students who take time off after high school will enroll in a four-year educational institution within one year of completing their experience.
  • 84% of respondents to their study said their time abroad helped them learn skills that helped them become successful in their work
  • 77% said their gap year helped them find their purpose in life

    The bottom line? You may learn a lot in class or in extra-curricular activities in college, but there’s no replacement for experiencing countries, cultures, and communities firsthand – especially when that country is Israel.

So, what are you waiting for? There’s no better time than now to take a gap year in Israel – and there’s no better choice than Young Judaea Year Course!