Going to Israel is a magical, life-changing experience … and one that can come with a steep price tag. You can easily spend over $1,000 on an El Al flight from the United States to the Holy Land, and, not to mention, the room and board and food there are not cheap, either. If you’re still in college or in your 20s, you can’t afford to take that kind of trip, no matter how meaningful you know it will be.
That’s why many millennials and Gen Zers look into free or cheap programs instead. There is a wide range of programs from a number of different organizations that will provide you with an all-expense-paid trip or a cheaper experience than a vacation. If you want to travel to Israel, here are some of those programs you should look into.
Jewish Agency Programs
The Jewish Agency for Israel offers various programs you can look into depending upon your interests. For example, if you go on the summer or winter internship program Onward Israel, you will be able to intern at an organization or institution of your choice and receive room and board, insurance and an education for six to 10 weeks. If you don’t want to intern through Onward Israel, you can also participate in service-learning, fellowships and academic study programs.
If you have tech skills and want to work in the tech industry, the Jewish Agency has a program called Israel Tech Challenge, where you study in Tel Aviv in the hopes of landing a job. They offer a range of scholarships that goes up to 20,000 NIS. Another program is Israel Teaching Fellows, where you teach English in Israel and pay $1,000 for a 10-month experience. You’ll also get accommodations, health insurance and trips around Israel as part of that fee.
Birthright Israel is a free program you can apply to by filling out a form and paying a $250 refundable deposit. The program is available to young people from ages 18 to 32, and it covers your airfare, accommodations, at least two meals a day, transportation and any fees associated with tourist destinations. Trips take off at all times of the year and from various places around the U.S. They include a number of different themes and styles. For example, some trips are more outdoors focused, while others are for religious participants, college students, foodies and bikers. You’ll be guaranteed to find a trip that’s just right for you on their website.
Seminary and Yeshiva
If you want to dive into the religious side of Israel, consider attending a seminary for women or a yeshiva for men. Most programs offer you to go for a few weeks to several months, and they will provide subsidized travel, food and housing throughout that time. At the very least, there will be scholarships for students. If you attend seminary or yeshiva prior to going to college back home, you may be able to receive college credit for the courses you take. You can find a comprehensive list of schools on StudyinIsrael.org.
Volunteering in Israel
In exchange for volunteering in Israel, you can receive free room and board and food through many different programs. For example, if you work on a kibbutz, you will get just that plus free laundry service. You can volunteer on an IDF army base through Sar-El, where you’ll get to tour the country and participate in evening activities. For a full list of volunteering programs, visit the Nefesh B’Nefesh website.