Religion permeates life in Israel, but temples and prayers aren’t the only reason to visit this small country on the Mediterranean. Life in Israel is an adventure no matter what your beliefs, and immersing yourself in its culture while studying a new language is sure to reveal more than you ever expected. Whether you want to learn Hebrew in Israel with new friends at a cafe in Tel Aviv, practice your Arabic with shopkeepers in Haifa, or learn on a budget by attending English schools in Israel, this country will teach you as much about persistence, tolerance, and gratitude as it does about adverbs and adjectives.
Despite its tiny size, Israel overflows with history. Considered a sacred place to followers of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, it remains a crossroads of tradition, language, and faith. Three-quarters of Israel’s 8.5 million residents adhere to the Jewish religion, and the country’s struggles with its neighbors are no secret. Despite these ongoing tensions, going to language schools in Israel will give you a deeper understanding of this complex country.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and students are exposed to a variety of languages, religions, and cultures. Its central location provides easy access to nearby sites like the Dead Sea and the ancient city of Jericho. But you don’t have to go far for a taste of history. Check out a performance at the Tower of David or stop by the Western Wall, a 2,000 year old site that’s sacred to Jewish pilgrims. After a day spent looking into the past, enjoy the present at one of the city’s trendy restaurants.
For a more Mediterranean experience, head to Tel Aviv, a massive financial center and home to over 40 percent of Israel’s population. Known as the “city that never sleeps”, it rivals New York City in its nightlife and 24-hour culture. While its history goes back nearly 4,000 years, Tel Aviv is now a modern city, filled with immigrants from around the globe. When you’re done studying, you can bike down leafy Rothschild Boulevard, become a regular in a Florentin coffee shop, or head to the beach for a spectacular sunset.
Farther north up to the coast is Haifa, a busy seaport offering sandy beaches and a diverse student population. Business is booming here and the city is quickly becoming a tourist destination, providing easy access to the historic sites of Nazareth and Galilee. After class, spend an afternoon wandering in the gardens at the the Baha’i World Center or take a hike up Mount Carmel. You might just run into an Egyptian mongoose or a plump hyrax!
Language Programs in Israel
Why go to a monolingual country when you can get two languages for the price of one? Both Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel, which makes it a great place to get a taste of both. English language schools Israel also exist if the pound, the euro, or the dollar are too out of reach. While you may want to focus on just one language, this multicultural country will give your brain a workout as you encounter many languages each day.
Hebrew is the most widely spoken language in the country; you can learn Hebrew in Israel in a variety of ways. Language learners can choose from several types of institutions, depending on their preferred language, budget, and how long they wish to study. Universities provide both semester-long and summer courses, while language institutes tend to offer short-term (or part-time) language classes. Even if you’ve come to study Arabic or English, you’ll likely end up attending Hebrew courses in Israel to get by.
Arabic is still spoken by the Arab minority in the country and remains important due to Israel’s location in the Middle East. While English is not an official language, it is the most common second language of Israelis and many signs are written in English, making English schools in Israel a natural choice for ESL speakers.
Classes are offered at all levels and follow a similar structure, regardless of the language. Full-time immersion courses take place four to five days a week, usually Sunday or Monday through Thursday. Like many of its neighbors, the weekend in Israel falls on Friday and Saturday, to account for Jewish and Muslim holy days. Class sizes at Hebrew language schools in Israel are small, and placement tests ensure that you’ll be studying with others at the same level.
Most programs offer excursions so students can take full advantage of their surroundings. Practice your Arabic during a day trip to Nazareth, marvel at the architecture of the ancient fortress of Masada, or explore the Rosh Hanikra sea caves. Many programs also organize conversation clubs and volunteer opportunities. This is a great way to learn about Israeli culture while practicing your new language skills.
Costs & Affordability
Don’t get too attached to your shekels! Whether you’re indulging in yet another shawarma pita snack on the street or paying bus fare to see the sights, costs for attending language schools in Israel aren’t necessarily cheap. When there’s so much to see, do, and eat, it can be hard to stick within your budget, but it is possible if you’re mindful.
Prices in Israel are similar to those in major cities around Europe and North America. Costs are higher in Tel Aviv than in Haifa or Jerusalem, but deals can still be found. A meal in a restaurant is around $15 USD while a falafel snack may only cost $2 USD. Bus fare between major cities is anywhere between $5 and $10 USD, depending on how far you’re traveling. Food is generally cheaper if you buy from a market and prepare it at home.
The fees for most language programs only cover tuition. Summer intensive courses usually run from $1,500 to $2,000 USD, while semester-long courses at a university can cost up to $7,000 USD. Part-time courses are less expensive, especially those that only run once or twice a week. Meals, accommodation, and airfare are usually not included and you must budget for these separately when planning to attend language schools in Israel.
For most language learners, you’ll need savings to cover expenses. In some cases, college students may be able to use financial aid if they’re earning college credit. It’s also worth it to check out scholarship opportunities, as you never know what might be available.
Accommodation & Visas
Choosing the right accommodation for your studies will ensure you’re absorbing new words and phrases to the fullest. While those might be “laundry,” “take out the garbage,” and “what is this strange food in the fridge?”, living with others lets you practice your skills, and maybe score some homemade challah, too.
Most schools provide help with lodging. University programs offer dorms or student apartments, where common areas such as the kitchen and bathroom are shared with others. It’s rare for bedding, towels, or kitchen utensils to be included. In most cases, these items can be purchased locally or borrowed from fellow students. Meal plans are typically not available, so you’ll have some incentive to perfect your shakshuka cooking technique.
Visa requirements vary depending on how long you’ll be in Israel, so it’s best to check with your school to find out exactly what is needed. For short-term courses, a visitor’s visa may be sufficient, and some countries are waived from this requirement. For semester-long courses, you may need to apply for a temporary resident visa prior to departure. To find out regulations specific to your citizenship, check the GoAbroad Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Learning languages in Israel is a great option for anyone interested in learning more about the Middle East, history, and how different cultures interact with each other. While you’ll become more proficient in conjugating verbs, studying in Israel will also give you first-hand experience living in an often misunderstood country. Israel can elicit strong opinions, and you’ll be better equipped to speak about the country after having spent time there.
That said, life in Israel may be different than you’re used to. While its residents have a high standard of living, security is a high priority. Due to ongoing conflicts in the region, Israel conducts thorough background checks on all visitors entering the country. It’s also common to see security officers in public spaces, from parks to office buildings to trendy nightclubs. In general, these security measures are effective, and it’s unlikely you’ll encounter problems as long as you remain aware of your surroundings.
Go beyond the news stories and experience Israel on your own terms while attending language courses in Israel. Get to know its people, travel its roads, and learn why this land has been important to so many people for millennia. Whatever your reasons for choosing to embark on a trip to Israel, you’ll come away with a new perspective and appreciation for this influential country.