gap year in israel

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Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are certainly the two focal points of modern Israel and despite the fact that they are just a 50 minute drive from each other you will struggle to find two more different cities.

Jerusalem is famous for the Old City which is home to (amongst other things) the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The close proximity of these three major religious sites has resulted in a culturally rich city where aspects from all three faiths can be found side by side (unfortunately not always in peace and harmony).

However, there is far more to Jerusalem than the Holy City and in fact many Jerusalemites will rarely go there preferring to avoid the noisy markets and confusing alleyways. In fact the other side to Jerusalem is in many ways the complete opposite to the Old City. It is a modern city continually expanding and improving. The new Light Rail is a beacon of modernity running through the center of the city and making it extremely easy to get from A to B. The streets are full of cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, fast food stands, markets and much more.

If you choose to spend your gap year in Jerusalem then you will be able to take advantage of both sides to the city. There will be plenty of time to explore the Old City and learn about the huge amount of history that is packed into the tiny area. On the other hand, you will also be able to enjoy all the newer sides of the city from the recently renovated Old Train Station which is full of restaurants, bars and cafes to the impressive museums and modern shopping centers. Furthermore, one of the biggest myths in Israel is that there is nothing to do in Jerusalem on Shabbat unless you are religious. This is simply not true, the city center comes alive over Shabbat with a huge number of cafes, restaurants, pubs, cinemas and so on open and operating as normal.

Tel Aviv on the other hand has a very different feel to it. Many will say don’t go to Tel Aviv if you don’t like the beach but luckily this is no longer true. The beach is certainly a central part of life in Tel Aviv with a huge number of people relaxing there in the summer months. However, there is much more to the city.

On the one had Tel Aviv is known as a party city. There are pubs and clubs open around the clock and normally it is easy to find a something going on at any time of day on any day of the week. From the Tel Aviv Port which offers huge modern dance clubs to the low key bars of the Florentine area, the city offers enough to suit every taste.

Moving on from the party side of Tel Aviv, despite the fact that the city is quite new it offers an extremely interesting history to explore. The city is well known for its Bauhaus architecture and exploring this gives you an insight into the different groups that founded and built the city. Furthermore, a huge number of landmark events in Israel’s history took place in Tel Aviv and studying them is an important part of understanding the county.

The other major part of Tel Aviv’s identity is the hi-tech startup culture. There are a huge number of new companies in the city and the list is growing all the time. Of course some of them don’t succeed but many of them, such as Wix and Gett, have flourished and are known around the world.

Fortunately on Aardvark you don’t have to choose between the two cities, as long as you come for the Gap Year experience. If you only have time for a semester then you have to choose. Luckily, whichever city you decide to base yourself in for your semester you are sure to have an interesting and enjoyable time. Furthermore, with travel between the cities so easy you should be able to get to know both quite well. Both of these cities are fascinating places and both offer a rich and rewarding environment in which to spend a year abroad.