Programme: Kibbutz Ulpan
Duration: Gap Year
Accommodation: Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, Northeast
For my gap year, I decided to do something a little different. I knew that I wanted to go to Israel, but was never really sure whether a touring programme or yeshiva-style experience was right for me.
Thus when I heard about the Masa ‘Kibbutz Ulpan’ programme, my interests were aroused.
I wanted to gain a wholesome experience of Israel, seeing nature and meeting real Israelis, rather than-in my opinion-a more synthetic, traditional gap year.
The idea of learning Hebrew while also working in the land of Israel really interested me; I wanted to feel like one of the original Olim to Israel in the early 20th century, working in the land of Israel together in a community.
The kibbutz on which I lived for five months, Sde Eliyahu, is a Modern Orthodox or “Dati Leumi” kibbutz in the Beit Shean valley, in the north-east of Israel. Affectionately known as the ‘Armpit’ of the nation, Beit Shean is the hottest area in Israel, in the deep valley bordering Jordan to the east and the Palestinian Territory to the south.
Sde Eliyahu also has traditional aspects; it is one of a few remaining kibbutzim to have a central kitchen serving meals throughout the week. Furthermore, it has a variety of businesses. It has Israel’s first and oldest organic farm, and a factory that exports beneficial insects to the world, known as ‘Bio-Bee’.
The programme was composed of a 6-day week (a foreign concept to most Brits), with three days of working on the kibbutz and three days of intensive Hebrew classes. There were also various excursions to cultural and environmental hotspots, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Golan. The programme had 35 people from all over the world, from the ages of 18-30.
On the kibbutz there were a variety of jobs; I worked mainly in the kibbutz kitchen and the organic farm. Other jobs included working in the vineyards, the laundry and the local grocery store. In our spare time, we went on trips around the area, exploring the natural springs and mountain scenery that exist in close proximity. This locality is known as ‘Valley of the Springs’, and is famous for its plethora of natural beauty spots and water hikes.
If you want a different and rewarding gap year experience, Ulpan or even holiday, this Masa programme is right for you. The group of people that I met were fantastic; never before had I spent so much time with such dedicated and principled individuals. I met local Israelis and absorbed the culture and language of the land. I made lifelong friends and had transformative experiences that will last me a lifetime. In short, I achieved everything that I wanted from the programme and more, and I would highly recommend the programme.
Samuel Bodansky, 19, Leeds.