An academic gap-year program in Israel

kivunim students
  • time Post High School Gap-Year
  • location Israel
  • duration Academic Year
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Kivunim offers an academic jewish gap-year program for North American High School graduates based in Jerusalem, Israel with programmed field trip visits to 11 countries (including India where students have met the Dalai Lama, pictured above) and over 50 cities and villages significant to the historical and contemporary Jewish global world. Like other modern orthodox gap year programs in Israel, the course work includes academic introductions to the history, culture, geographic and demographic context and Jewish institutions of the local Jewish community. Kivunim students are academically oriented learners, strongly motivated as Jewish learners with significant potential as future Jewish leaders. Hebrew College is keenly interested in such learners as key prospects for our graduate programs in Jewish leadership, ordination and Jewish Education. The pluralist, academic and contextual orientations of the Kivunim program align closely with Hebrew College’s mission.

Hebrew College offers five courses totaling 30 credits as part of the Kivunim program. The program includes the following courses which run for an entire academic year, from September through June:


Arabic language is a part of the Kivunim curriculum in order to open new doors into the worlds of Islam, the Middle East, and Judaism. Language is a key to far more than simply interpersonal communication, and a proper understanding of Arabic will allow our students to dive deeply into the topics of Jewish history under Muslim rule, the modern Middle East, and Israel’s diverse contemporary society. Due to the fact that many parts of the structure of the Arabic language strongly resemble Hebrew, in many cases, students who know Hebrew are able to learn Arabic more easily than other languages. There are many Arabic dialects. Classical Arabic – the language of the Qur’an – was originally the dialect of Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia. An adapted form of this, known as Modern Standard Arabic, is used in books, newspapers, on television and radio, in the mosques, and in conversation between educated Arabs from different countries.

We will teach both this Modern Standard form as well as the Levantine colloquial used by Arabs in Israel. By the end of the year, students will have been introduced to the syntax and grammar of the Arabic language through reading, speaking, and listening, while developing a basic vocabulary. This introduction will enable the successful student to enter first year College Arabic with great facility, and the ambitious student to enter second year College Arabic. It will also provide skills that will greatly aid students who pursue studies in political science, international relations, conflict resolution, Middle Eastern studies, Semitic language studies, linguistics, and Israel studies. After learning the alphabet, students will be introduced to the pronunciation and writing system of Modern Standard Arabic. They will be expected to be able to answer questions pertaining to a given text in writing, using correct grammar, spelling, and syntax. These texts will be based on a vocabulary of approximately 500 words.

Students are tested for Hebrew language ability and assigned to levels based upon test results and one-on-one teacher interview and evaluation. In class students make active use of Modern Hebrew, using all four modalities of language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Grammar forms a continuous thread throughout the course presented both formally as well as inductively from the linguistic context of the classes themselves. The methods for Modern Hebrew instruction, therefore, resemble the classic Ulpan methodology. Available as Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced, Level 4 and Level 5, with the course covering a year of instruction.

Hebrew is the language of instruction in all levels of the course. The student is immediately placed inside of a linguistic gestalt in which his/her use of Hebrew mediates participation in a context which has been fashioned through a combination of resources. These resources are brought into the classroom, as well as encountered in other surrounding environments in Israel. In the classroom, instruction relies upon written texts (stories, poems, newspaper headlines, newspaper articles, journal entries), orally transmitted sources (recitations, recordings, segments of Israeli TV shows, segments of Israeli films, etc.), and visual aids (pictures, photographs, maps, artifacts, etc.) creating situations within which the student can use Hebrew as the central vehicle for communication. Advanced Hebrew is a text-based language class utilizing material from classical as well as contemporary sources.

The course coordinates with and is enhanced by the intensive
international field experience that follows each of the five major units of
study. The course is designed to introduce the student to specific ways
of thinking, engaging issues of history, politics, religion, geography and
culture. Although each unit is focused upon a different region of the
world, the course relies upon knowledge gained in earlier units to
achieve growing sophistication of thinking, observing and questioning.
We look at the historical experiences of Jews throughout the Jewish
Diaspora through the lens of the indigenous cultures and moments of
transition in context seeking to re-balance an understanding of Jewish
history by including and emphasizing the importance of the historical
experiences of Sephardic Jews and the experiences of Jews in Muslim
countries. Classes are supplemented with film, art, architecture, music,
dance, cuisine, costume, etc. of countries to be visited. Pedagogically,
“Civilization and Society” is an academic, reflective and experiential
inter-disciplinary engagement with world cultures and the historical
experiences of the Jewish people living within those cultures.

Land, People, Ideas: The Challenge of Zionism is the Middle East
Studies course of KIVUNIM. The course uses as its organizational and
motivational core, a new video documentary entitled “The Zionist Idea:
Conflicting Dreams” produced by noted filmmaker Oren Rudavsky. It is
comprehensive, extensive and open-minded and provides a visual
stimulus to encourage the exploration of primary sources, biographies
and historical records in order to build a deeper and more nuanced
understanding of both Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms as well as
related material and background from the other neighboring states. The
course includes visits to historical and content relevant sights throughout
the year, class interviews with both historical and literary personalities of
the periods and issues being studied and readings carefully selected for
their content and manner of presentation.

The course aims to teach students what it means to “see.” Through
exposure to a range of visual experiences (and by participating as
photographic artists themselves), students learn to develop visual
language to explore the world around them. Through their eyes and
through the camera lens they encounter the diverse world of peoples
and cultures that form the framework within which Jewish communities
have developed and thrived around the globe. Students study visual
perception through photography, emphasizing both technical skills and
visual expression. They are encouraged to explore form and express
content. In the course of the workshop, they are also exposed to a range
of artists—past and contemporary— and diverse modes of visual
interpretation while visiting artists’ studios. Students create their own
visual language in a photo-journal that later will become the basis for the
KIVUNIM annual student exhibition.

Interested? Learn More and Register!