In Israel, you can take a bus in any direction and in an hour find yourself in a completely different environment, physically and spiritually. You could go from the Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem to seeing completely unorthodox outfits on the streets of Tel Aviv.
However, Year Coursers know there is more to Israel than just parties and prayers. Just veer left or right from the center of this country, and you’ll find a different Israel.
Believe it or not, the average Year Courser’s week is a busy one. Come Friday morning, we all are covered in our bed sheets, until an alarm or a friend ruins everything. We get up, throw an overnight bag together along with some snacks and run to catch the next bus out of town.
Almost every weekend, we escape from our schedule where we don’t even have time to breathe, to go out and breathe the fresh air of the Israeli countryside. Such trips have taken me to Israel’s southern tip of Eilat, where I went snorkeling among schools of fish, to the northern border, the Golan Heights, where I sledded among a swarm of Druze children.
The best part of these trips is their inherent spontaneity. We explore the city or town we’ve found, socialize with its residents and along the way, find hole-in-the-wall places and then get to know some more Israelis.
By Shabbat’s end, we are on the bus back home, with a greater understanding of Israel and a longing for the coming weekend that will provide an even newer experience.
I went on Young Judaea’s summer program, Machon, which took me around Israel for the first time, giving me the best summer of my life. However, going within a program’s parameters leaves you inside of the “American bubble,” a zone in which you cannot escape your tourist designation.
Traveling on Year Course is the opposite — we talk to Israelis, we walk around until we know the area, and we enjoy Israel’s nuances, instead of enjoying our bed sheet creases. We know we’ll sleep in college, so until then, our alarm clocks will stay on seven days a week.