If you are on a gap year in Israel, then chances are that you have a genuine interest in the history of the country. When talking about the modern state, an amazing amount has happened in a very short period. You will certainly be taken to a number of museums and interesting locations during your time in Israel and here we have picked out a few that are a little off the beaten path.
One thing you are sure to do a lot during your gap year is take buses. Israel’s most famous bus company is Egged. The cooperative was named by Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet. It was incorporated in 1933 and it has played a central role in the country ever since. Today, roughly 1 million people use Egged buses every day and the company employs more than 9,000 people. If you want to learn more about Egged, then you can visit the Egged History Center in Holon. There you will find an exhibition of more than 60 buses that have been carefully restored and perfectly illustrate how public transport in Israel has evolved over the years. For example, you can learn about the first public buses, which were converted British Army surplus trucks from WWI, and view a 1940 Fargo bus that was built in Jordan.
While Israel may not have declared independence until 1948, there was still plenty of Jewish immigration to Palestine during the British Mandate. If you want to learn more about this, and about the history of Israel’s navy, then be sure to visit the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum in Haifa. The museum is built around the Af Al Pi Chen immigration ship. You can also learn about the detention camps in Cyprus where the British sent illegal immigrants and even tour a naval submarine. The museum is packed with fascinating exhibits that will give you a real understanding of an often overlooked period in Israel’s history.
While the IDF is famous, few people pay as much attention to Israel’s police force. If you want to rectify this then you should pay a visit to The Israel Police Heritage Center & Museum, located in Beit Shemesh next to the Israeli National Police Academy. Through displays of special artefacts and multimedia presentations, the museum teaches about the history of the police in Israel starting with the first Jewish defence organisations during the end of the Ottoman period, then moving on to the British Palestine Police Force and finally, the current police force. You can even enjoy a free guided tour led by an active police officer, which provides some fascinating insights into the history and workings of the police.
Of course, there are many more places where you can learn about the modern history of Israel. For example, you could visit the Rishon LeZion Museum and see the basement where the poet Naftali Herz Imber wrote the words for HaTikva. You can also visit Ben Gurion’s home on Kibbutz Sde Boker and see several exhibitions about his life. Hopefully you will have the chance to visit at least some of these during your gap year and will come away with a deeper appreciation of how much the country has achieved.