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BIG IDEA @ Aardvark Israel

For ages 17-21 | 4-9 month programs powered by BIG IDEA, Aardvark Israel, and Masa




BIG IDEA Gap Year @ Aardvark Israel is an in-depth program for high school graduates who seek to combine hi-tech training and internship with an exciting experience in Israel. Take a year in Israel to invest in yourself: Acquire new expertise, develop your networking skills and travel all over the country with incredible people from all over the world. Operated as a partnership between BIG IDEA and Aardvark Israel, participants get the best of what each organization offers!
  • Hi-Tech boot camps – App Development.
  • Internships at innovative startup companies.
  • Network and meet interesting people from all over the world.
  • Make an impact in people’s lives with digital solutions.
  • Learn Hebrew and earn up to 21 college credits.
  • Participate in weekly field trips throughout the country.
  • Live like a local – Explore Israel and it’s culture.


BIG IDEA @ Aardvark Israel provides participants intensive hi-tech training, professional internships, and a one-of-a-kind Startup Nation experience! It is the ideal choice for anyone looking to boost their career in technology while also having an immersive, educational experience in Israel. BIG IDEA @ Aardvark Israel is an exciting partnership program bringing together the best of two top notch organizations: Big Idea, a leader in technology education, and Aardvark Israel, a leader in gap year programs. Participants will enjoy the benefits of being part of a selective group of technology-minded peers while also being a part of the larger, diverse community of of students who are participating in all of Aardvark Israel’s other existing programs.

During the first semester students will be immersed in a hands-on technology course in Jerusalem where they will gain all the skills necessary to become a front-end developer, earning an official developer certification, and gaining resume-ready skills. Continuing to Tel Aviv/ Haifa in the second semester, students will intern alongside Israelis at leading startups. Throughout the whole year, participants will also go on weekly field trips around Israel, have the opportunity to earn up to 21 university credits in Hebrew and other relevant electives, participate in extracurricular activities, and more! One of the highlights of the program will be in January when students participate in “Impact Month” – a month-long hackathon to design an app for a non-profit organization in Tel Aviv / Haifa– an opportunity to use the skills learned to make a different for a community in need.

Boost your future with BIG IDEA @ Aardvark Israel!

Program Structure

Northern Hemisphere

Sept-Dec WINTER BREAK Jan-Feb Feb-May
Jerusalem Including Coding Course Impact Month Tel-Aviv Including Internship

Southern Hemisphere

Jan-May June July-Oct
Jerusalem Including Coding Course Impact Month in Jerusalem Internship Program in Haifa

Weekly Schedules


JERUSALEM – First Semester

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Classes / Chugim Hebrew Siyur Day (Field Trip) Hebrew Classes Free Weekend
Coding Course  Coding Course  Coding Course  Coding Course 
Tech Tour or Tela (Technology, Entrepreneurship, Leadership Activity) 
Classes Classes
Apartment Mini-Meeting
Apartment Meeting Fun Evening Program (Optional) Chavaya Yehudit (Optional) Faces of Israel

Tel Aviv – Second Semester

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Classes / Chugim Hebrew Siyur Day (Field Trip) or Tech Tour and Career Development Workshops (Alternate Weeks)  Hebrew Classes Free Weekend
Internships Internships Internships Internships
Apartment Mini-Meeting
Apartment Meeting Fun Evening Program (Optional) Chavaya Yehudit (Optional) Faces of Israel

Program Details


Coding Course – Become Front-End & Mobile Apps Developers

Studying at a Technological college in downtown Jerusalem, you’ll get the coding skills that are required in creating web and mobile apps. Impress friends, family, and future employers by creating your very own mobile application.

Course includes:

  • HTML5, Javascript and CSS
  • AngularJS
  • UI/UX techniques
  • Android development
  • Introduction to server side, databases and more


Academic program

The goal of the academic program is to inspire students and provide opportunities for growth through actively engaging them in intellectual exploration. 4 mornings and 2 afternoons each week are dedicated to academic learning with a wide variety of courses available including Hebrew, Jewish and Zionist topics, and popular general studies courses. The range of courses offered on Aardvark allows students to choose courses that are of interest as well as courses that will advance their academic careers.

Through a partnership with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Aardvark Israel gap year participants may earn up to 15 credits first semester and 6 further credits in the second Semester (up to 21 credits per year.) A minimum final high school GPA of 2.0 is required for credit eligibility. Those students who successfully complete the course requirements will be able to request to transfer their credit to their desired university following their semester/year in Israel. Students may also choose to audit their courses. Transcripts for courses taken as part of Aardvark Israel are issued by the American Jewish University which is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the same agency that accredits UCLA, Stanford, and all other recognized colleges and universities in the Western United States. For more information about the American Jewish University, please visit their website at

Students will be required to take Hebrew, one Israel Elective and one of our extra-curricular activities in the mornings in both cities and in Jerusalem, Students will have the option to take the afternoon electives. The following courses are examples of the courses offered between our two campuses (not all courses are offered every year, depending on demand, and each course is only offered in one of our campuses during any given semester).

  • Hebrew
  • History of Zionism and Israeli Society
  • Women in the Zionist Movement 
  • Eternal Jerusalem – The Religions of the Holy Land 
  • Social Psychology
  • Middle East Politics: A Microcosms 
  • Introduction to Business
  • Introduction to Service Learning
  • The Art of Reading and Writing
  • Midrash and Fantasy –  Introduction to Midrash
  • Holocaust
  • Traditional Judaism meet the Modern World  
  • The Arab Israeli Conflict
  • Jewish Medical Ethics
  • Contemporary Israeli Politics
  • Modern Israel 
  • Geography of the Land of Israel 
  • Gender and Judaism 


Once a week, time is also set aside in each city for extra curricular activities and classes that are not offered for credit. Examples of these include:

  • Yoga  
  • Life skills and coaching 
  • Training and wellness 
  • Art 
  • Spoken Arabic
  • Current events class 

Siyurim and Tiyulim

We believe that learning takes place outside the classroom as much as inside. Each week, we take you on an excursion allowing you to connect to Israel in a deep and meaningful way. Understanding that most of our students have been to Israel before, we take you off the beaten path to hidden treasures that tourists and even some Israelis never get to experience. These field trips include visits to nature reserves, historical sites, museums, a variety of communities and more. In addition, three times each semester, we take you on overnight trips to explore the different regions of the country, including a unique Kibbutz experience.

Some of our trips include:

  • Burma Road Jeep Tour
  • Hebron and Herodian (King Herod’s Fortress)
  • Dialogue in the Dark
  • The Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock
  • Natal (center to help survivors of terror)
  • Graffiti Tour of Tel Aviv
  • Zedekiah’s Cave
  • Machon Ayalon (underground bullet making factory)
  • Begin Museum
  • Underground Prisoner’s Museum
  • Sderot
  • Ein Mabua Natural Spring
  • Kibbutz Ketura Seminar
  • Overnight trips to Galil, Golan, Negev, and Judean Desert
  • And many more!

Evenings and Weekends

Taking advantage of your free time is an important aspect to your experience in Israel. You are encouraged to use your time wisely by participating in the variety of optional evening activities the program provides which focus on social and cultural events in each city, as well as by visiting friends and family, enjoying the local night life, traveling on the weekends to various parts of the country and seeing things you haven’t already seen. Examples of some evening activities include street festivals, acrobalance workshop, krav maga lessons, poyke on the beach, and rock climbing. Aardvark’s campus Rabbi also hosts events on a regular basis in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Optional Shabbatonim are offered throughout the year which immerse you in communities throughout the country. Students are also welcome to stay in their apartments on their free weekends and host guests.

Tech Tours

Once a week students will be taken on a tech tour to learn about the START UP Nation from those who have built it and operate in it. Going to large mutli – national corporations and small start-ups in tech incubators, students will meet the movers and shakers of the hi-tech world, learn what makes these companies successful and be able to network with some of the Israel’s greatest entrepreneurs

Housing and Accommodations

Living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv or Haifa, our gap year participants take full advantage of the cultural enrichment, night life, and convenience of the two most popular cities in Israel for today’s young adults.

These cities provide countless options for: diverse, high-quality community service, internship experiences, countless enrichment opportunities, proximity to attractions such as the Old City in Jerusalem and the beach in Tel Aviv/ Haifa.

From these centers, students also have easy access to the comprehensive public transportation system allowing them to explore Israel in their free time.
Students on our gap year programs will be immersed into Israeli society, living in comfortable apartments in desirable neighborhoods in each city.
In Tel Aviv: students live in the trendy Florentine neighborhood surrounded by young Israelis.
In Haifa: Students live in the central Hadar neighborhood, surrounded by Israeli students.
In Jerusalem: students live in downtown Jerusalem, a few minutes from the popular Shuk Machane Yehuda and Ben Yehuda street and just a 15 minute walk from the Old City .

By establishing relationships with your Israeli neighbors and the staff of your volunteer placement, you will become part of the surrounding community and grow to feel “at home” in each city.

You will receive a monthly local bus pass which will allow you to travel around the city in which you are living (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa) using the public bus system. This will enable you to get to and from your volunteer placements, classes and explore the city.
Aardvark students are housed with other program participants in single sex apartments. The number of people in each apartment ranges from four to six depending on the layout of the apartment. All of the apartments are fully furnished and equipped with kitchen appliances and utensils. Every apartment has WiFi. With the guidance of qualified counselors, you will learn to cook, clean, budget, do laundry, and live together with your roommates.

Understanding that this will be the first time many participants are living on their own, staff will work with the students in each apartment to ensure a positive group dynamic and the health and welfare of the participants.

Throughout the year, the counselors hold weekly apartment meetings to facilitate and solve any issues which may arise, and also pay friendly visits to the students’ apartments. As the year progresses, the students will be encouraged to be more independent in their problem-solving in order to foster growth and maturity.



The American Jewish University (AJU) is a 4-year, private, liberal-arts College located in Los Angeles, California. It is a thriving center of Jewish resources and talent built upon the mission of Learning and Scholarship, Culture, Ethics, Leadership and Peoplehood. It is a school for Jews and non-Jews, the observant and the secular. Its fresh approach to undergraduate education has garnered the respect and praise of academics across the nation. Students have an unparalleled opportunity to informally interact with internationally recognized scholars, and are offered a mentor program that can facilitate personal introductions into their field of choice. AJU has been able to sustain one of the lowest student-faculty ratios in the nation at 7:1 while maintaining one of the most affordable tuition rates of private universities in Southern California. As an academic leader for more than 60 years, AJU continues to make all elements of Jewish civilization relevant and available for academic, cultural, and spiritual growth.

Click here to view an exciting video about the AJU undergraduate program! The American Jewish University invites you to consider enrolling in one of its degree programs! Aardvark Israel participants can earn up to a year’s worth of college credit to AJU. Additionally, Aardvark Israel students qualify for $7,500/year in AJU scholarships. Curious? Contact AJU at [email protected] or 310-440-1250 for more info.

Impact Month


Month-long Hacathon

Make a social change and develop digital solutions to influence people’s lives. Upon completion of the tech course, you’ll get to experience the same road to innovation as any other start-up entrepreneurs, while developing apps that will be used by a deserving non-profit organization. This is your chance to give back to the community, while gaining valuable work experience.
This past year, BIG IDEA participants worked with the Carasso Science Park, creating innovative apps to help solve complicated, real-world problems.



Taking your gap year in Israel to the next level! Boost your future by interning at startups and hi-tech companies in Israel. Take the skills and knowledge you gained during your gap year and become a part of the Israeli hi-tech ecosystem. BIG IDEA internships are available for the full-year participants.

What do I gain in 4 months of internship in Israel?

  • Gain your first work experience in the Start-Up Nation!
  • Use your technological skills in a real and challenging environment.
  • Network with Israeli Hi-tech developers and incredible entrepreneurs.
  • Build up your resume.
  • Experience working in an office environment in Israel.

International Travel Add-Ons

An exciting add-on to the program is the option to sign up for educational trips abroad designed to enhance your gap year and deepen your understanding of the greater world around you. During these five /six day trips, participants will also gain a fuller appreciation for the reaches of the Jewish community worldwide and Israel’s place in the global community. The trips are designed so that the students have a great time, but at the foundation of each itinerary is a strong educational curriculum designed to enrich the participants.

On each of these trips, you will…

  • Visit the main tourist sites of the country and experience the local culture
  • Understand the Jewish narrative of the country
  • Learn about the relationship between Israel and the country

International trips currently available include: Spain, Czech Republic, China, Ethiopia, Italy, Germany, and Poland. Big Idea Gap Year participants may only choose one trip per semester.

For more information about these international options, click here.

Program Dates


Northern Hemisphere dates

August 31, 2020 Students Arrive in Israel for the Big Idea Gap Year 2020-21 and Fall Semester
*Flights should be scheduled to land on this date between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm

December 28, 2020 Last day of Fall Semester
*Fall Semester Program participants – Flights should depart after in the afternoon and evening

December 28, 2020 – January 11, 2021 Winter Break
*Year Program students must return from vacation by 3:00 pm on January 11

January 11, 2021 Impact Month in Tel Aviv

February 12, 2021 Internships in Tel Aviv

March 25 – April 4, 2021 Pesach Vacation

May 26, 2021 Program Concludes
* Program participants – Flights should depart after in the afternoon and evening

Southern Hemisphere Dates

January 11, 2021 Students Arrive in Israel for the 2021 Big Idea Gap Year or Spring Semester
*Flights should be scheduled to land on this date between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm

March 25 – April 4, 2021 Pesach Vacation

May 26, 2021 Last day of Spring Semester
*Spring Semester Program participants – Flights should depart after in the afternoon and evening

May 27, 2021 Impact month in Jerusalem

June 17, 2021 Impact month ends

June 20, 2021 Internships in Haifa

October 20, 2021 Program Concludes
* Program participants – Flights should depart after in the afternoon and evening

Program Tuition

Fall Semester (4 months) $15,490
Fall Semester + Impact month (5 months) $17,990
Year Program (9 months) $26,490

For all Programs:

  • $100 Non-Refundable Application Fee – required upon registering

Programs beginning in September:

  • Fall EARLY BIRD SPECIAL – Pay deposit of $5,000 by December 15, and receive one of our international trips to Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, China or Italy for FREE (deposit fully refundable before June 1) .
  • March 1 – Pay Deposit of $5,000 (refundable before June 1).
  • July 1 – Balance of tuition due.
  • A $500 late fee will be assessed for failure to submit tuition or a signed payment plan agreement by the July 1 deadline.

Programs beginning in January:

  • Spring EARLY BIRD SPECIAL – Pay deposit of $5,000 by June 15, and receive one of our international trips to Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, China or Italy for FREE (deposit fully refundable before November 1)
  • August 1 – Deposit of $5,000 due (refundable before November 1)
  • December 1 – Balance of tuition due
  • A $500 late fee will be assessed for failure to submit tuition or a signed payment plan agreement by the December 1 deadline

Cancellation Fees

The $100 application fee is non-refundable.

For Programs beginning in August (Fall Semester Program and Year Program), all tuition payments are fully refundable prior to June 1. Between June 1 and July 15, a $1000 cancellation fee will apply. After July 15 and prior to the start of the program, a $2500 cancellation fee will apply. Students enrolled in add-on programs will be charged an additional $500 cancellation fee if withdrawing after June 1 and additional cancellation fees will be assessed for any airline tickets and other arrangements already confirmed for World Travel programs.

For Programs beginning in January (Spring Semester Program, Semester Plus Program, and Gap Year Plus Program), all tuition payments are fully refundable prior to November 1. Between November 1 and December 15, a $1000 cancellation fee will apply. After December 15 and prior to the start of the program, a $2500 cancellation fee will apply. Students enrolled in add-on programs will be charged an additional $500 cancellation fee upon withdrawing after November 1 and additional cancellation fees will be assessed for any airline tickets and other arrangements already confirmed for World Travel programs.

Tuition and fees are non-refundable once the program has begun.


Some grants and scholarships are available through a variety of sources:

  • Masa – a project of the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel which provides financial assistance to participants on qualifying programs including Aardvark Israel. For more information, click here.
  • Local Jewish Federations (North America) – Many local Jewish Federations have scholarship programs for trips to Israel. Contact your local federation and inquire about sources of funding from within the organization and ask the staff to also recommend
  • Synagogues – some synagogues have scholarships to assist young members in participating in Israel programs. In addition, some Rabbis and Cantors have discretionary funds which they may award as they deem responsible. Call your family’s synagogue and inquire what assistance may be available to you. Ask your Rabbi if s/he knows of other sources of possible funding.
  • Jewish / Hebrew Free Loan – Many communities have branches of the Jewish Free Loan Association (also known in some communities as Hebrew Free Loan). This organization offers interest free loans to qualified individuals. To find a branch near you, click here.

Additional Scholarship Sources may be found by clicking here.

Additional Information

Basic medical insurance is provided by the program. Coverage includes doctor’s visits, medications, and emergency care for most new illnesses and incidents which may arise during the program. Pre-existing conditions are excluded, as well as other limitations applying, therefore students are encouraged to maintain their own private health insurance from their country of origin. Specific information detailing the medical insurance policy is made available to participants’ families once registered for the program. Upon arrival to Israel, students will be briefed about how to use the health services and which local English-speaking doctors and pharmacies are recommended. Urgent psychological care is also provided by the program for students in crisis. All psychological treatment is kept strictly confidential between the student and the therapist.

Safety and Security
Aardvark Israel Programs operate as a part of the Masa program of the Jewish Agency for Israel. We receive security updates on an ongoing basis and adjust security guidelines for the students accordingly (this includes restricting their free time when necessary.) When going out on excursions and hikes we always obtain clearance and guidance from the relevant agencies in Israel. All students are required to have a cellular phone from a company called “Partner” which allows the program staff to utilize technology to locate all students in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, all the phones are united in one text messaging service so we can send immediate guidelines and warnings to students if the situation warrants.

In addition to the experienced senior staff of Aardvark Israel, a highly qualified counselor will be assigned to the communa for the duration of the year. The counselor is someone familiar with HaShomer, has completed the Israeli army and is fluent in English. While giving students the space to explore and learn to be more independent, the counselors are also a distinct presence in the day to day lives of participants serving as mentors and role models to the students.


Please see the FAQ section on the Aardvark Israel website (all questions/answers similarly apply except regarding meals)


Aardvark Israel Tel Aviv:
39 Levinsky Street, 2nd Floor
Tel Aviv 6610910
Aardvark Israel Jerusalem:
3 Ezrat Yisrael Street
Jerusalem 9462503

Phone Numbers:

Statement on COVID-19

Click here for our response to COVID-19 and our extended refund policy for August 2020 Programs

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