Israel Programs FAQ

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  • time Recent High School Graduates: 17-19 Years Old
  • location Tel Aviv-Yafo and Jerusalem
  • duration Nine Months
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Application & Acceptance

The next Year Course program will begin on September 3rd, 2020 and end on May 19th, 2021.

The Year Course application is similar to a college application. We request an official high school transcript, an autobiographical essay, and two references. The application can be completed online here.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until July 1, 2020. Applications received late in the season may impact notification of your admissions status, and may make it difficult to accommodate participants’ requests regarding section and volunteer placements, etc.

Yes. Our goal is to accept as many people as possible, as long as they meet the acceptance criteria. We do everything we can during the application process to ascertain that the applicant and the Year Course program are right for each other.

We are looking for students who show that they are very interested in the benefits Year Course has to offer, and who will be able to contribute positively to the group.

Candidates with completed applications will be interviewed and then will be notified regarding their acceptance.

In order to be eligible to receive credits for studies on Year Course through American Jewish University, applicants must have a high school GPA of 2.0 or higher. Attendance and active participation in classes on Year Course is mandatory, even for those taking classes on a not-for-credit basis

The two sections of Year Course are made up of the same components— Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, and Adventure Month. Young Judaea makes the best effort to accommodate all section requests, but reserves the right to make individual placements based on availability and other factors. Section announcements generally occur in late June/early July.

Yes, previous participants in this situation have done so by contacting the local Israeli consulate and requesting a yearlong deferral from the army. (Find your local consulate by visiting
If a Year Course participant has Israeli citizenship, it is essential that they obtain the year-long deferment from military service as well as a valid Israeli passport prior to departure. Israeli citizens should be aware that they cannot stay in the country for more than 12 months without endangering their future immigrant rights if they choose to move to Israel. Compliance with applicable laws is the responsibility of the participant. Year Course cannot accept responsibility for the sufficiency of this information or its applicability in any particular situation.

Likely yes, please contact Daniel Smith in our Israel office directly and he will put you in touch with an alum in your area. If there are no available alumni in your area we are happy to put you in touch with an alum from another area.

We will set up Facebook groups before Year Course begins so that you can meet other participants and begin to chat. In some areas, we also host send-off events where participants can meet each other.

Yes. Young Judaea prides itself on a founding principal of pluralism and strives to be a safe and welcoming place for all students regardless of sexual or gender orientation. In any give year we have students and staff who identify passively or actively with the LGBTQ community.

Year Course is committed to balancing our desire to accommodate all eligible students with an honest assessment of reasonable accommodations. We approach physical challenges on a case by case basis, discussing the potential challenges and available accommodations with the family so that we can make the best decision together.


Included in the Year Course cost are accommodations, food subsidy, medical care, academic courses, and field trips. Additional fees for specialty tracks include all of the enrichment activities throughout the year, including workshops, excursions and courses, specialty staff and teachers. The additional cost for Olami includes round trip airfare between Tel Aviv and each of the Olami track destinations, accommodations and meals in each country, and preparatory weekend seminars prior to each trip.

Yes, thanks to Hadassah, some scholarship money is available. In order to be eligible, you must submit a separate scholarship application by the deadline. First round deadline is typically February 1. Second round deadline is typically April 1. For more information about Hadassah Scholarships, contact We encourage you to contact your local Jewish Federation, synagogue, and any other local organizations (including non-Jewish ones) for additional scholarship opportunities. Visit our scholarship page for more information.

Yes, we accept Visa or MasterCard

We are sometimes able to make arrangements for payment plans when absolutely necessary. You may contact the Year Course Enrollment Office at to discuss payment options.

No. The $100 deposit covers the administrative costs of processing one’s application and is non-refundable.

Year Course has been offered every year since 1956 and has never been cancelled. We will make fair and equitable decisions in the very unlikely event that Young Judaea should decide that it is necessary to cancel the program once it has commenced.

College Credit

Yes. Most Year Course participants have the opportunity to earn up to a year’s worth of college credits. The academic program is supervised by American Jewish University (AJU) and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). All Year Course applicants must submit an official high school transcript as part of their Year Course application. The minimum GPA required for eligibility to earn credits on Year Course is 2.0. Acceptance to Year Course is not based on acceptance to AJU in Israel. One can participate in Year Course without earning credits.

This depends on the college that the student attends after Year Course. Many Year Course participants have been able to transfer some or all of the credits received while on Year Course. Applicants should check with each university to which they are applying and ask what their policy is. Applicants can show the universities the academic course descriptions located on the Year Course website.

We advise that Year Course participants apply to college while in their senior year of high school and request to defer admission for one year. Many universities are more than happy to do this but applicants are responsible to check with the school to see what the policy is. Some universities will not allow credit to be transferred if it is earned during a deferred year. In this case, the applicant can often reapply while in Israel in order to get the maximum transferred credit possible.

Yes. There are a few participants every year who apply to college while on Year Course. Our staff are frequently asked to write letters of recommendation or preview/edit admissions essays and are happy to help whenever possible.

Year Course does not offer the opportunity to take science or math courses because there is not enough time in the program. However, most schools have a language requirement and everyone on Year Course studies Hebrew. In addition, many of our courses might fulfill electives in the History and Philosophy departments in a liberal arts program and/or a humanities or general breadth requirement. See our course descriptions and syllabi for more details about our courses.

Year Course Academic Program

We offer courses in the areas of Hebrew language study, history, literature, philosophy, and political science.

Hebrew plays an important part throughout the year. Intense daily Ulpan (Hebrew Study) occurs in Jerusalem. There are many additional opportunities during Year Course for participants to hone their Hebrew skills. Living, volunteering, and exploring constantly surrounded by Israelis is the best way to pick up Hebrew conversational skills. Many participants come away from the program speaking Hebrew (even those who entered knowing little or no Hebrew).

Every year there are participants on the program who have learning disabilities. Your teen should inform the Education Director and instructors of particular issues and be prepared to self-advocate. Our faculty are generous with accommodations for extra time, verbal instructions and other common requests. Your teen should submit their IEP or 504 plan as part of the application so our Education Team in Israel can have the proper information. Our staff may be able to work with your teen to help them succeed in the academic program. We encourage and expect our participants to take the initiative on these issues.

When we review an application, we are looking to get to know the applicant as a whole. If there is a specific reason why your teen has a low GPA, they should write about this in their essay, or attach a special letter explaining their grades. We do need to make sure that they would be able to handle the academic program, but we would not necessarily reject any student solely on the basis grades. If your teen is planning on taking classes for credit they must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Hebrew classes are sectioned according to a placement exam. We have also made special arrangements in the past for students who are proficient enough in Hebrew that they are above the level of our Ulpan. With a diverse student body we sometimes find that we have students excelling in the same classroom where other students are struggling. Our staff and faculty are all eager to help each individual student gain as much as possible out of this experience and will often adapt the course for an individual to meet their needs.

Yes. Most weekends are free and we encourage students to travel throughout Israel during this time. Members of the Year Course staff are available to help students plan their trips as well as set them up with adoptive families, if requested. At various points throughout the year, travel during weekends may be limited (while on Marva, for example). Also, on a daily basis, if someone is not working or in class, students are free to go out. There are also vacations during all religious and national holidays plus Winter break (typically the last week of December) and Spring break (Typically overlapping with Pesach).

Yes and No. Marva is run by the Israel Defense Forces and the IDF takes it seriously enough to count these two months as time served. If, for example, a Marva graduate makes Aliya at age 24 and would otherwise be required to complete 18 months of military service, Marva would be counted and he would only have 16 months left to serve. In that way, it is the real army. Marva participation does not, however, invalidate an deferral (for an Israeli citizen, for example) or affect anyone’s rights as a potential future immigrant. It is also not as challenging as the real basic training that young Israelis go through when they draft into the army.

Some components of Marva include: hikes, marches, navigation, weapons training, simulated combat conditions, and studying the history of the IDF.

Housing and Observance

Living with roommates will be a new experience for many Year Course chanichim (participants). This helps our students develop life skills that will serve them well in Israel and in life. In Tel Aviv-Yafo, most of our students and participants live together under one roof in a co-op style dorm living arrangement, as well as two off campus apartments. The center includes common areas for socializing and educational activities, a large space for guest lectures, fully-equipped communal kitchens on each floor and a rooftop garden to hang out and relax. In Jerusalem, participants live in dorms at the Machon institute. Each suite in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Yafo has its own bathroom and shower.

Maybe. Year Course is a pluralist program by ideology and intentional design. Our staff and participants represent a wide range of religious identifications and observances. Any time food is provided in Israel by the program it is certified kosher. There is rarely mandatory programming on a holiday or shabbat and in those few instances where we do hold programming, it is shabbat friendly. It is also very common for our students to gather on a Friday night for a communal meal, sometimes with and sometimes without traditional blessings. After the meal it is common for some students to go out while others opt to stay in. The shabbat atmosphere varies widely from year to year, semester to semester, sometimes weekend to weekend and is dependent on the culture that the participants develop on their own. Our participants have access to a wide range of options if they are interested in weekly or daily prayer. There is not required regular davening on the program.

Some of our participants choose to sign up for the add-on Shabbat Package. The Shabbat Package is a group of Shabbat and Holiday experiences through an orthodox lense that take place throughout the year. Typically there are 5-6 experiences in this package. Families with specific questions are encouraged to be in touch with Rav Yossela Ote at

Any food served in public forums by the program is certified kosher. Participants are provided with two sets of dishes and cooking utensils. Specific kitchens and areas are supervised by Rabbi Adam Drucker and other areas are managed at the discretion of the participants. It is against the rules of the program to bring unkosher food items into the kitchens. When participants are out on their own, kosher dietary laws are not enforced.

Israel is a great place for vegetarians/vegans because there is a large variety of food available. If possible, we will try to place vegetarian students in the same apartment, to make things easier for you.


Medical services and insurance coverage for certain illnesses and injuries while in Israel (and abroad on an Olami trip) on Year Course are provided by Harel Insurance Company, the leading health and traveling insurance company in Israel. Insurance fees are included in the program tuition. There is no coverage for pre-existing conditions, but there is coverage for the worsening of some pre-existing conditions. Doctors affiliated with the Harel plan are located throughout Israel, and participants can easily arrange to see one, no matter where they are located at the time. Emergency medical coverage is provided through HareI on Olami trips. Further details regarding health coverage (including differences in coverage provided in Israel and provided on the Olami trips) will be provided during the application process and include information about vaccinations that are or may be required prior to participation on Olami. Due to the limited nature of Harel coverage, all Year Course participants are required to have additional personal medical coverage for the duration of the program.

If your teen becomes ill, it is important that they take the initiative to let the madrich/a (group leader) know. If your teen would like to see a doctor, the madrich/a will help him/her to arrange an appointment. In most instances, the medical coverage Year Course provides will cover all doctor visits (as long as proper procedure is followed—it works similar to an HMO in the US). Some illnesses (i.e. pre-existing ones) and tests may not be covered by the health insurance provider, which is why Year Course requires that participants maintain personal medical insurance while on Year Course.

If possible, your teen should bring a year’s supply of medication to Israel. If it’s not possible to fill a year’s supply in advance, students will need to bring a prescription from their doctor, including the generic name of the drug. They will then need to see a doctor in Israel to get a prescription that will be honored by Israeli pharmacies. It is important to note that the cost will not be covered by the Year Course insurance, therefore, students will need to be prepared to pay. Alternatively, if friends or family are planning on visiting during the year, they can bring refills of the prescription with them. Participants or parents should check with their physician and insurance company in regard to specific drugs available in Israel.

Year Course is NOT the appropriate venue to experiment with a medical regimen. Students taking medication for any number of physical or mental health issues should maintain the same medical regimen while on Year Course. Year Course works with several psychiatrists who can meet with students and evaluate their medical regimen, prescribe new medicine or refills for existing medicine. Psychiatric visits are not covered by Year Course insurance, therefore, your teen will need to be prepared to pay at the time of the visit.

Safety and Supervision

The safety and security of Year Course participants is our primary concern. Young Judaea has a designated security officer and committee that constantly review and update our security procedures. We retain as consultant the head of security of the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature – the agency responsible for field trips throughout the country. That consultant is in daily contact with all of Israel’s security services. We also receive, in real time, all security alerts posted by the Security Department of Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and its subsidiary company, The Israel Experience. Young Judaea may at times take security measures which are in advance of and/or exceed those recommended by JAFI or the Israeli security authorities.

Year Course participants are allowed to use public transportation within the current year’s security guidelines. However, we reserve the right to restrict travel if the security situation warrants it.

In general, Year Course participants are allowed to go to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. They are not allowed to enter the West Bank without permission of the director of Year Course AND parental consent communicated to the YC Director no less than 48 hours before the expected travel (subject to change depending on the security situation). Participants are not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip or any areas within the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control.

We have a zero tolerance policy to drugs, including both the misuse of prescription drugs as well as the use of illegal drugs. Our participants are legally allowed to drink alcohol, assuming they are over 18, and we continuously educate about responsible drinking. We expect our students to act responsibly.

Money and Communication

Our families report sending/spending between $3,500 and $4,500 for personal expenses. Olami participants may want to bring more for their international travel journeys.

We recommend that your child obtain a debit card through the bank that you regularly use, and a credit card for emergencies. Participants will be able to withdraw money from ATMs around Israel, and charge items to the card. Additionally, parents can load money to the card and manage the account online.

Cell phones are mandatory for all Year Course participants. SIM cards must be issued by Israelphones and equipped with the tracking system as a safety measure. All Year Course apartments are equipped with Internet access. At Beit Ar-El in Jerusalem, Internet is available not only in each participant suite, but also on public computers throughout the campus. Some sites—such as Marva—do not have internet access. Feedback we’ve received from parents indicates that cell phones and Skype/Facetime are the most common ways to stay in touch.

During free weekends and vacations, there is always a staff member on call. Also, at the beginning of the year, all participants receive materials with the emergency contact information for staff members and are told how to reach a staff person in an emergency.Each Year Course location is staffed with 2-3 madrichim (group leaders), who are in ongoing contact with the chanichim (participants). Madrichim may be Native English speakers or Israelis. Israeli madrichim have completed their national or military service and non-Israeli madrichim are college graduates. Each team of madrichim is supervised by Rosh Kvutzah (section/group head) throughout the program. These section heads are a part of the senior staff of Year Course. The senior staff is based at Beit Ar-El in Jerusalem or at Young Judaea’s office in Tel Aviv, and frequently visit the students at their various locations.

Passports and Travel

You are responsible for applying for a passport or renewing your current passport. If you have not already done so, check your passport to make certain it is valid and does not expire prior to December 2021. If your passport does expire before this time, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior may not grant you an extended tourist visa and you will need to apply for a new passport within three months of your arrival in Israel in order to remain in the country legally. If you do not have a passport or need to renew your current one, please do so immediately! Passport issuance and delivery takes approximately six weeks. Be sure to make two photocopies of your passport, one to keep at home and one to bring with you.

Passport applications can be obtained from your local post office or courthouse or on the Internet. Further passport information, including information on requirements for obtaining a passport, is available from the toll-free Federal Information Number, 1-800-FED-INFO, or on the Department of State’s website.

You’ll need to apply in person if you are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time, if your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under 16 years of age or if your valid U.S. passport has been lost or stolen. Those younger than 18 years of age must apply for a passport in person accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Canadian citizens can obtain passport information, forms and locations of passport offices by visiting or calling 1-800-567-6868.

If you are not an Israeli citizen, then you are required to apply and receive a Visa prior to your entry into Israel. To do this, you will need to go to your closest consulate and apply for an A-2 multi-entrance student visa. The visa will be valid throughout the entirety of the Year Course program. In order to apply for the visa you must bring with you:

  • Your Year Course acceptance letter
  • Your Masa Israel Scholarship Letter
  • Your passport, valid through at least December 2019
  • 2 passport photos
  • A completed Visa application form which you can find here
  • Pay a $46.00 processing fee

Israeli law states that a child born to an Israeli citizen is automatically an Israeli citizen, even if the child was born outside of Israel. Furthermore, Israelis are required by law to enter and leave Israel using their Israeli passport. Therefore, those citizens who enter Israel as tourists on non-Israeli passports are in violation of Israeli law. If you have Israeli citizenship, either because you were born in Israel or because your parent(s) have Israeli citizenship, you should obtain the following two documents before departure:

  • A valid Israeli passport
  • A year-long deferment from military service

The law is complicated and only the Israeli Embassy or Consulates can give you accurate advice on your citizenship status and the necessary documents you will need. Chanichim who have or potentially have Israeli citizenship, and chanichim who have or whose parent(s) have an Israeli Mispar Zehut (Identity Number), are advised to contact the nearest Israeli consulate. Please be aware that the staff in Israel will not be responsible for extending illegal tourist visas.

Office LocationArea of JurisdictionPhone Number
Washington, DC*DC, MD, VA, WV202-364-5500
New York, NYCT, NY, NJ, Virgin Islands212-499-5400
Atlanta, GAAL, GA, SC, NC, MS, TN404-487-6500
Boston, MAME, MA, NH, VT, RI617-535-0200
Chicago, ILIL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN,MO, NE, WI, ND, SD312-297-4800
Houston, TXAR, OK, TX, LA, NM832-301-3500
Los Angeles, CAAZ, CO, NV, UT, Southern CA, HI, WY323-852-5500
Miami, FLFL, PR305-925-9400
San Francisco, CAAK, ID, OR, MT, WA, Northern CA415-844-7500
Ottawa, Ontario*Canada613-567-6450
Toronto, OntarioCanada416-640-8500
Montreal, QuebecCanada514-940-8500

Participants traveling without an American or Canadian passport must contact the nearest Israeli consulate or embassy to determine what travel documents you will need. It is your responsibility to obtain the requisite travel documents or visas. If you need documentation to prove your participation on Year Course, e-mail or call 1-866-599-2534.

On El Al flights to/from North America, you are allowed ONE piece of checked luggage, weighing up to 50 lbs. The fee for a second bag is $85-$100 and a third bag is $185-$200, and may be higher if the piece is overweight. If you are not flying El Al, please check the website of your airline to understand their luggage policy.

Domestic airlines are quite strict about additional luggage and as of May 1, 2008 some may charge at least $25 per checked-bag over their 1-bag restriction. You should be prepared to pay the fee. Additional charges may be incurred for overweight bags.


Many items can be purchased reasonably in Israel

  • Hiking Boots/Good sports sneakers (“high-tops” that are light, comfortable and already worn in!)
  • Plastic water bottle (metal gets hot)
  • Hats (1-2) Chanichim will be required to wear a hat on every hike. Therefore, hats should be comfortable and should provide protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
  • Sunscreen
  • Sleeping bag (small and lightweight)
  • Sheets & pillowcases – dimensions 200 cm x 160 cm = twin sheets; (blankets & pillows are provided)
  • Some families prefer to use any of several dorm supply services for bedding
  • Daypack (a small backpack for carrying a few items on day trips)
  • A pair of shoes which can be worn in the water that have straps or laces and won’t fall off easily
  • Flashlight and batteries (optional, used for certain hikes)
  • Umbrella and raincoat (the winter in Israel is wet and cold!)
  • Sunglasses
  • Watch (optional)
  • One year supply of your medication
  • USB or backup system for your pictures and schoolwork
  • School notebooks and pens
  • Passport valid through at least Decemeber 2020

  • 16 pr. Underwear
  • 16 pr. Socks
  • 1 pr. Long underwear (if you are susceptible to cold)
  • 4-6 pr. Shorts
  • 12 T-shirts
  • 5-6 pr. Jeans/pants (casual)
  • 1-2 pr. Sweatpants
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts, including 1 warm fleece
  • Light-weight jacket
  • Heavy winter jacket
  • Warm hat/scarf/gloves
  • 2-3 sets “dress” or special clothes for Shabbat and for visiting religious sites
  • 2 sets Sleepwear
  • 1 pr. Flip flops/slippers
  • 1 pr. Sandals/open shoes (consider purchasing sandals in Israel)
  • 2 pr. Sneakers (1 pr. old and prepared for ruin)
  • 1 pr. Dress shoes
  • Towels (including one beach towel)
  • Bathing suits
  • Kippot
  • Tallit & t’fillin (optional)

  • Nail clipper
  • Small mirror
  • Laundry bag
  • Reading material
  • Extra batteries
  • Musical instruments
  • Laptop computer
  • Sports equipment
  • Duct tape
  • Ziploc bags
  • Flash drive/memory card
  • Sewing kit
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses (and an extra prescription)

You will explore and visit religious sites throughout the year. You will be expected to dress in a way which respects their customs and traditions. Men should pack long pants and a “nice” button down shirt. Women should pack long skirts (at least calf-length, no slits) and a long-sleeved top.

Toiletry items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) are readily available in both American and Israeli brands so don’t overload your suitcases! We suggest that you bring a small supply of these items for the first week or so and then plan to buy whatever else you need. The consensus from past participants is that feminine hygiene products, though expensive, should be bought in Israel in order to conserve space when packing.

Pillows and blankets are supplied throughout the year. However, you should bring your own twin-sized sheets (200 cm x 160 cm) and a sleeping bag for use on tiyulim, army experiences, and as an extra blanket.

Keep in mind that Israel does have four seasons (including winter!). During the winter months (December through March), it will be very cold, both inside and out. Israel’s heating systems are not comparable to those of the U.S. and not all apartments have heat/air conditioning in every room. Layered clothing is the best way to manage the weather in Israel.

Travel Immunizations

Below you will find the list of immunizations that are required for travel. You must consult with your physician about these immunizations and then provide Young Judaea Year Course with documentation by August 1, 2020 that the appropriate immunizations were obtained BEFORE departing for Rwanda (Note: Malaria pills can be bought in Israel but must be administered in accordance with the days of exposure). Please e-mail copies of your immunization booklet to the Year Course office in Jerusalem. You should keep the original booklet in your passport.

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Yellow Fever
  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • Typhoid Fever
  • MMR
  • Meningitis

Some countries (particularly in Africa) require visitors to present their official vaccination records upon passing through passport control in order to be allowed entry. Copies will not be accepted. If you have already received any of the above immunizations, be sure this is indicated on the Physical Exam Form C that your physician must sign.

Parent Information

If you move during the year, please notify the Israel of your new address and telephone number. Please also notify the staff in Israel if you change your email address. If you have currently not been receiving periodic emails from us, please notify us immediately by sending an email to

Parents/Guardians who will be away from the address and phone number listed on the application forms for any period of time must notify us of vacation plans by phone or e-mail. Remember to include the phone numbers where you can be reached.

Although birthdays will be celebrated by the group, for those who wish to send something special to their birthday boy or girl, we can recommend the following services that provide Kosher gourmet gift packages for delivery world-wide:

  • Gili’s Goodies, – specialize in birthday cakes, various “goodie” baskets or customize your own! Call toll free from the US: 866-721-7292.
  • Zer4U – specializes in deliveries of flowers and chocolates – 011-972-3-948-6173

Please be advised that a birthday package will not necessarily be delivered on the day of the participant’s birthday. Such packages will be delivered as mail, or by a staff member who visits with the groups regularly.

Ready to Register for Year Course?

If you need additional information please contact us at or call us at 1-866-599-2534