Programs In Israel
If you are going to spend a year in Israel learning Tanach, Mishna and Gemarra, the works of Rambam, Ramban, Ramchal and all the other great authorities and leaders of the Jewish people in the last 2000 years, you're going to have to know some Hebrew.
Yes, all the above are in Hebrew except for Gemarra, with which a knowledge of Hebrew will help you, especially in understanding Rashi and learning commentaries (like the Ritva). The easiest and most effective way to learn Hebrew is in an environment where one uses the language in everyday speech.
An advantage of learning this way is that with little effort one can pick up Hebrew, "on the side", while getting a cup of coffee, while eating breakfast, or simply by making Israeli friends. With a little more effort one can become nearly fluent in one year.
Knowing Hebrew is essential. Most of the programs below are advantageous for anyone who is interested in gaining a solid grasp on the Hebrew language. After all, there is no authentic Jewish learning without Hebrew.
There are a few large overseas programs in Hesder yeshivot such as HaKotel, KBY, and Har Etzion. However, these English programs are isolated from the larger Israeli programs that operate alongside them. Furthermore, the large number of English speaking students naturally form their own separate social group and it is far more difficult for individuals to pick up Hebrew.
Here are hesder yeshivot with smaller overseas programs:
Machon Meir will let you try out their program before deciding whether you would like to be there. You can apply at any time of the year. You may be also be able to try out other yeshivot by requesting to do so through email. If you are traveling with suitcases, just take a taxi when going to try out one or two different places. It will only cost fifty dollars max and lugging around suitcases on buses is not possible if there are too many passengers.
Yeshivat Hesder Ma'alot
Yeshivat Hesder Otniel
Yeshivat Birkat Moshe (aka Yeshivat Ma'ale Adumim)
Yeshivat Birkat Moshe only accepts twenty students a year. Unlike other overseas programs, their overseas program is completely integrated with the Israeli program, except for some tiyulim. It is probably not worth applying if you do not have a working knowledge of Hebrew or have not learned much Gemarra.
Keshet Yehuda is a religious mechina. Religious mechinot combine learning Torah with preparatory exercises for the army.
Midreshet Habanot-Ein Hanatziv
- Sar-El: three weeks of volunteering and trips
- Machal: 14-18 months of army, optional free ulpan for three months
There are three main options for Machal: Machal, Machal Nachal Charedi, and Machal Hesder (which includes 6 1/2 months of learning in a Hesder Yeshiva).
There is only one ulpan that is meant to have an enjoyable program, Ulpan Akiva. If you'd like to do an intensive summer ulpan, there is the Haifa University Ulpan and the Jerusalem Ulpan of the Hebrew University. On the same page as the Jerusaelm Ulpan, Hebrew U has another ulpan that is more academic, has no "field trips", any only teaches level dalet and up.