Want to be a modern-day pioneer in the Land of Israel?

The Aardvark Israel – HaShomer HaChadash “Pioneer Israel” Gap Year Program brings together high school graduates from around the world and their Israeli peers for a fully integrated experience focusing on Jewish values and Zionist identity through strengthening our connections to the land of Israel.  As an immersive year of service, participants will forge deep connections to the land and people of Israel while enjoying all the country has to offer.   Living in shared apartments, volunteering side by side, and learning together, the Israeli and worldwide participants will become a tight community finding common ground as well celebrating their diversity as they explore the roles and experiences of Jews within and outside of Israel.

While living in fully furnished apartments in downtown Jerusalem, the core focus of the participants’ experience will be the establishment and maintenance of a community garden in the beautiful setting of Gai Ben Hinon, right below the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.  Learning about environmentalism, agriculture and the geography of Israel, and use their skills to teach Israeli school children and tourists who visit the garden through experiential, educational activities.  Complimenting their experience will also be a Hebrew Ulpan course and other interesting classes about Israel and Judaism

Mission and Goals of the Program

Through the Pioneer Israel Gap Year Program participants will strive to achieve the following goals:

  • Strengthen their Jewish Identity and Connection to Israel
  • Enhance their understanding of Jewish Peoplehood and our collective history
  • Deeply explore the concept of responsibility – for each other, for our land, and for our nation
  • Contribute to Israeli society
  • Expand their knowledge of nature, agriculture, and leadership while also acquiring skills in these areas
Daily Work – Agriculture and Education

In the Hinnom Valley, participants will develop and build a sustainable, city-based farm complete with vegetable and spice gardens, composting stations, terraces, and more. Participants will gain experience in informal education through working with local children and receive professional training in various agricultural fields such as permaculture, carpentry, sustainable building, farming and more.  As leaders in establishing the local chapter of HaShomer HaChadash’s Youth Organization, participants will strive to inspire younger generations with the value of being an active Zionist through working the land.

Learning – Ulpan, Environmental Studies, Jewish Studies

Through a variety of educational experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom, participants will engage in intellectual exploration and gain knowledge and skills through the varied opportunities for learning on the program. Hebrew Ulpan classes, combined with living together with Israelis of the same age, will enable participants to expand their conversational language skills to better integrate into Israeli society. Participants will also have classes about Jewish and Israeli history, culture, and thought.  Workshops and training will also be offered in permaculture, carpentry, sustainable farming, soil and crops. 

Siyurim and Tiyulim

Participants will take part in a wide variety of field trips and excursions to connect to Israel in a deep and meaningful way.  These trips will also be a great way for participants to expand their social network as they experience Israel with others spending a year or semester in Israel from abroad as well as with Israelis engaged in a year of service before the army.  Trips will include visiting historical sites, museums, nature reserves, and more!

Evenings and Weekends

Throughout the week, evening activities will provide participants with both social and educational opportunities to further enhance their experience.  Activities will include sports, social and cultural events and activities, guest speakers, and group dynamics and leadership development.

Every three weeks, participants will have a “Shabbat B’Yachad” (shabbat together) during which they will celebrate Shabbat as a group to further enhance their shared communal life and to engage in learning and exploration.  Shabbatot will be spent in Jerusalem as well as visiting other HaShomer HaChadash communot in rural communities and towns throughout the country. 

Interested? Contact us here: