by Katherine Stievater, October 13, 2023
After the Hamas terror attack that occurred on October 7, Israel Gap Year programs and families were understandably concerned about the welfare of their students. Despite the widespread chaos and violence near Gaza in southern Israel, an umbrella organization for Gap Year programs in Israel reported that all 5,700 participants in its Gap Year, career training and continuing education programs in Israel are accounted for and have been relocated away from “direct danger”. The organization, Masa Israel Journey, moved all of its fellows from the south of Israel “including gap years and kibbutz volunteering”. While some students have been able to find flights and have left Israel, many more students have willingly stayed.
I spoke with the Program Director for one Gap Year program on October 12. He said “we’ve dealt with rocket attacks before and know the drill, and know safe places to go, but this is unprecedented.” He also told me that:
- All of their students are accounted for, and all are unharmed.
- Of their 154 students originally in Israel, 78 have stayed. A few more students may leave, but it is hard to get flights out at the moment.
- The students are still living in their apartments in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and still doing internships remotely, or going to work as long as there is a safe room.
- Students have stayed to support the war effort. They are focused on helping mothers whose husbands have been called up to fight. This has included setting up emergency day care, and an arrangement similar to WeWork so mothers who need to work can do it together and also get help with their kids. The students are serving as volunteers for this.
- Students are also helping organize food to be sent all across the country (since most people are lacking basic household pantry items), and cleaning bomb shelters in case they need to be used.
This particular program is currently planning to run its spring 2024 semester, but is taking things one day at a time, and constantly reassessing the situation.
This is obviously a difficult situation, but the Gap Year programs are managing the best they can. Our hearts go out to all who have lost loved ones in this conflict, and we pray for a peaceful resolution.