Why Did I Send My Son To A Gap Year In Israel?

Dan from New Jersey made a choice to change his life. His mother Ilanit, shares her story why she let him go to BIG IDEA Gap Year in Israel.

Since both my sons were born in the United States, I am raising them to love Israel, educating them on Jewish tradition and tying them to our family and friends there. Throughout the years I have continued sending them to the best summer activities, in Israel.

In recent years I’ve become acquainted with Big Idea Summer Camp sending Ben, the 14-year-old younger son there. I am very pleased with his dreams especially because of the excellent education he receives on the camp, among other things for use in social networks where a new language of communication develops.

Ever since I became acquainted with the Gap Year program in Israel that Big Idea opened, I wished that the program would open in time so that Dan, my eldest, could also get the meaningful experience that Big Idea knows how to give. And he was indeed accepted into the first cycle of the program.

So why did I send Dan, who has already designed his college track in the US? A short background on Dan- He is a talented child in the field of technology, who has accumulated knowledge of programming language (C), is self-taught and has already experimented with various jobs in which he succeeded.

Reasons why I sent Dan, my son on a Gap Year in Israel:

1. I thought it would be right to give him a chance to experience at this stage of his life – He graduated with excellent grades from high school, his life and career path is clear to him, and if he participates in a special program within his framework but with a lot of independence then why not?

2. To connect him to Israel –  When my children were born, I didn’t know how much I would actively have to do for the connection of my sons with the country, from learning the language to relationships with the family. Things do not always come naturally despite annual visits to Israel every summer. During Dan’s previous five-month experience in my parents’ home he was connected to the family, his cousins, my cousins, and my grandparents more than ever. Overall connected to the family’s warm embrace, accessibility and interests.

3. To give him an experience of independence – There are no more latchkey kids in our developing world. The children grow up today with a smartphone in their hands and software that follows them every step of the way. They do not have opportunities to fail, deal with it and try to find solutions (almost) without us being in the picture. In a gap year (far from the parents and the house they are so used to) they are required to develop an almost total independence. Dan who is not yet financially independent has certainly been required to calculate his own expenses, clean up and take care of food for himself.

4. Getting to know himself – It was very important to me that Dan will get to know himself without us looking at him. He has always had nonconformist thinking. The conduct that was required of him far from the parents and the instructions we kept giving him, gave him a new perspective on life.

5. Learning from a different angle – His experience in materials, even if they were familiar to him before, plus many new materials he learned in the course gave him a great deal of knowledge in the field of which he is an expert and beyond.

6. A chance to meet new people, from the U.S and Israel – Dan has friends from childhood with whom he keeps in touch (he chooses them carefully). In the BIG IDEA Gap Year, he was introduced to new friends who are “in his own world”, at the level of his intelligence, and who share many common themes.

7. A chance to be exposed to Israel – On annual visits to Israel, you meet with your family and friends and travel to familiar places. As part of the program, Dan came to places that would not have come with the family, and may never reach them in the future. No less important, he was exposed to discussions that enlightened him greatly. He understood the politics of Israel that are so different from the American ones, the conflicts that Israel is dealing with. He touched agriculture and travelled the country from north to south, from east to west.

8. An opportunity to be exposed to the hi-tech world in the start-up nation in the most supportive place – The most natural place to learn advanced technologies in Israel. The start-up nation hosted Dan and his friends from BIG IDEA Gap Year in the technological incubator in Be’er Sheva. They studied in the right environment, met with high-tech companies in the building where they studied and experimented by working with them. What’s more natural than that?

For more info about BIG IDEA Gap Year click here!

I am proud of what Dan has accomplished 6 months down

Dan went to the program very excited, ready for a new experience and I am sure there were also fears in his heart. First time away from home for a long time. Six months later, I know that he is almost fluent in reading and writing in Hebrew (his speech was always great). Israel does him good. He loves the family and friends he has accumulated. He met new friends from other programs that were in contact with BIG IDEA Gap Year.  He went out, he made decisions.

The most natural thing was to jump from high school straight to college and to life. I wanted my son to have a special experience that would remain in his memory for life. I chose not to rush after academic dress. Looking at Dan’s friends, I realized that not everyone was ready at the age of 18 to go on college life. So, despite the natural tension inherent in me as a mother, I thought that a year’s break between the end of the school and college, while in a program that also continues the idea of continuing education after high school, along with a new social experience and empowering network that he created through it.

Dan wrote to me at the end: “Mom, you did for me the most amazing thing I ever did in my entire life.” What else should a mom ask for?!
I am so grateful to BIG IDEA Gap Year. They sutured a plan in exact dimensions for the needs of Dan and his friends who participated in it.


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