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Israel Gap Year Covid Update

Since 1956, nearly 10,000 participants have called Israel home on Young Judaea Year Course – the original gap year in Israel. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were faced with a decision: to honor our committment to participants and stay open, or close.  In nearly 65 years, Year Course has never cancelled or closed, as long as we have felt that it is safe and meaningful to stay in the country. We are proud to still be running in Israel now. Some of our students did decide to return home, and we supported them in their decision to do so, understanding that the circumstances in each situation are different.

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For the nearly 60 Year Course participants currently living on our two campuses in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the phrase “Year Course is a Family” has never been truer. After careful consultation with the Health Ministry, we understood early on that our two campuses are considered two ‘epidemiological’ families, and as such, participants could continue to live together, share meals together, learn together, volunteer together, and have fun together. As restrictions begin to lighten here in Israel, our entire Year Course group can be considered one family for shared educational activities and travel.

Since early March, we have worked quickly and efficiently to adjust our programming, both to comply with all government health and safety directives and continue to provide a meaningful, enriching, and enjoyable experience for our current participants. We are in constant contact with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Home Front Command, Masa Israel Journey, and other health and education organizations to ensure compliance with all requirements.

Our current participants are experiencing a different, though perhaps even more meaningful, program. Israel Gap Year Covid. We finished our academic semester online, accommodating students both in Israel and those who returned to North America, to ensure that all students are eligible to receive credit for their coursework. We have altered our encounters, workshops, and activities to run virtually, and most notably, we have received special permission to volunteer in groups so that we can help Israeli society.

In Israel, relative to other countries, the daily restrictions have been stringent but appear to have had measurable impact on the national scale of the virus. Restrictions currently are being modified or lifted every day, and we are watching this fluid situation with optimism.

All of this has been possible with the hard work of our veteran staff, organizational leadership, and cooperative participants who continue to show great maturity and determination to give back to the country they have grown to call home during their gap year. Year Coursers have taken every opportunity to volunteer and help Israeli society – working the fields to help farmers, packing and delivering supplies for vulnerable and elderly citizens, raising funds for organizations with whom they’ve engaged this year, and working to uplift children and teens with whom they’ve volunteered. We are incredibly proud of our Year Coursers, but we are not surprised: time and again, Year Course has been here when Israel needs our help, and this current situation is no exception. Check out our Facebook and Instagram to see what we’re doing! Israel Gap Year Covid

This coming September, we’ll be welcoming one of our largest Year Course groups in recent memory. We have continued to receive a record number of applications throughout the last two months and anticipate many more will decide to join us in the fall. We are working one on one with every applicant and family to make the Year Course gap year dream a reality. While we are making every effort for Year Course 2020-21 to start normally in September and believe it will, we are also preparing a variety of alternate starting options should we be mandated to do so, or deem those changes necessary to protect the health and safety of our participants.

In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be keeping you updated on the latest information regarding the situation in Israel, as well as our plans for Year Course 20-21. Our dedicated staff in Israel and North America are here and ready to take any questions, help with your application, and share more information about our incredible program. Please have a look at our FAQ below for answers to some of the questions we have been receiving recently – and don’t hesitate to reach out for answers to any additional questions you may have.

Published: April 27, 2020


We have always believed that choosing Year Course after high school is one of the most important decisions you can make for yourself – and our more than 10,000 alumni would agree! When this crisis began, college and university students were forced to return home during the semester, and some of the best college experiences – campus life, in-person learning, social activities, and more – were cancelled. We have heard that following the difficulty and disappointment of the last few months, applicants are looking for something different – an adventurous experience with real meaning and value that they can share with peers from around the world. In short – they are looking for Year Course!

Yes! The unique structure of the Year Course program, as well as our experience in running our program in compliance with directives and restrictions, will allow us to run Year Course even if college campuses in other countries are closed in the fall – similar to the way we have stayed open now even though colleges have sent students home.

There is no educational program, gap year, or trip provider who can give you a 100% guarantee that their program will run as planned this fall – it would be irresponsible to do so, particularly given the fluidity of the ongoing situation.

With that being said, we believe and are confident that Year Course 20-21 will run as planned, perhaps with a few modifications at the beginning of the year.

Nearly 10,000 participants have joined us in Israel since 1956. We are the original Israel gap year, and we are proud to be the standard by which other gap years in Israel have created their own programs. Our commitment to high-quality, experiential education and programming is at the core of the Year Course experience. We guide our participants to grow as citizens and as leaders, to commit themselves to making the world a better a place, and to prepare for adulthood. With our immersive approach to life in Israel, participants spend a year as members of Israeli society, connecting to Israeli and Jewish peoplehood and history and finding inspiration in Israel’s innovation, modernity, and culture.

We have a rolling application timeline for Fall 2020, but given the increase in applications for the coming year, strongly encourage you to apply as early as possible so that we can work with you to set up your year the way you want it to look. Click here to apply now.

Health and Safety

Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been in constant communication with the Ministry of Health, Home Front Command, and other health and education entities responsible for providing oversight and directives. Whatever rules or guidelines any Israeli institution is required to do, Year Course follows them. Each new instruction is explained clearly to participants and the staff entrusted with their care.

Thankfully, no Young Judaea participants on any program, including Year Course, have contracted COVID-19. Our early adoption and rigorous adherence to all directives, as well as continual oversight, have been critical in this matter – but so has the cooperation of our students, who have shown impressive maturity and understanding in their adherence to all instructions.

We have set up living quarters on each campus that can serve as quarantine areas if the need arises, separating any COVID-19 positive students from the rest. Any sick students would be isolated from the rest but would still be helped and monitored by Year Course staff and the proper medical authorities.

The simple answer is, we are a family! Or rather, two families. We are lucky to have two large campuses in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the participants on each campus are considered a family unit, like a family in a house or an apartment. As such, they can share kitchens and meals, work out together, do activities together, learn together, and have fun together. Off campus, we abide by all rules and restrictions as they apply to the Israeli public.

While the potential complications of the virus itself are the same around the world, it is true that the situation in Israel has been less severe than the US. Israel has been drawing on its health expertise and technological innovation to drive its response to the threat of COVID-19. While initially the lockdown and quarantine restrictions were some of the toughest in the world, many other countries have looked to Israel as a model for their own response given the overall success of Israeli policies in comparison to others.


Please click here to see our current payment and refund deadlines for the coming year. We understand that families may be experiencing a change in their financial situations and are working with each family on a case-by-case basis to help make Year Course a reality.

We work with all our families to help them find ways to fund their Year Course participation, and we know this coming year may look different for some. We encourage you to reach out to us for more information on available scholarships, grants, discounts, and other sources of funding.

Tuition includes housing, basic medical coverage while in Israel, a full meal plan during the Jerusalem semester (3 meals a day in the dining hall), a food subsidy during the Tel Aviv semester (think half-board), classroom work, field trips and volunteer placement and supervision. Year Course tuition does not include air travel to and from Israel.