This is Lech Lecha week. This is what IT is all about for me and, I am sure, so many others. IT, meaning religion. IT, meaning my being part of Am Yisrael . IT, meaning the life we have chosen for ourselves and our children. IT meaning our decision to be active participants in The State of Israel’s fate and destiny.

Sometimes a simple word- or two- can have a major impact on people’s perceptions. For example- here are 2 words that have been bothering me tremendously since I heard them for the first time a couple years back, and sadly, am hearing more and more often.

The “Gap Year.”

North American (Religious) High School Educators, Principals, students and parents are now using a term, in reference to the ‘Year in Israel’- that truly irks me- calling it ‘The Gap Year’. This Gap Year is referring, of course, to recent High School graduates who attend a Program in Israel before starting college.

Whaaaat! Israel is being treated as a ‘gap’?! What message does this send to the kids coming to Israel?!

I take exception to THAT! And so should all concerned Jews!

Israel IS the reason for our existence. Israel is our past. Present. And our ONLY future….yes-ONLY.

How can one refer to this year as a Gap Year? Sounds like this year is sandwiched between two more important ‘events’ – in this case, High School and College. I do realize that the term is borrowed-perhaps innocently- from University lexicon, but precisely for this reason we must caution from using it. Israel is NOT just another option to spend a year.

Do parents, students, Principals and Educators really believe it is a ‘Gap Year?’ Tell me it ain’t so!

Historically-the Year in Israel was designed to allow a High School graduate to advance in his/her learning, while providing a natural environment to fall in love with the country, State, People and History. This was accomplished by studying in Universities or Batei Midrash with fellow Israelis or working the fields with them. Or a combination.

It behooves us to return the ‘Israel experience’ back to The Year in Israel. It is NOT a Gap Year. Nor is it a year in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv (exclusively). It is not a year away from Mom, Dad and annoying siblings. Nor is it a year between High School and College.

The year in Israel should be a formative year- a trans formative year. A year that each person gets to know Her People. Her Land. Her Language. Her Torah. Not just as a spectator, but as a participant. Up close, first-hand.

For a ‘Gap’ year, please go to your local shopping mall.

May the Eternal message and command of Lech Lecha resonate with all who benefit to spend ‘The Year in Israel.’
Feel free to add to my Ani Maamins for the Year in Israel:

1. The Year in Israel should include serious Ivrit learning to the benefit of the student.
2. The Year in Israel should bring Tana”ch to life.
3. The Year in Israel should promote The State of Israel as the Center of Jewish Existence. Present and Future.
4. The Year in Israel must allow the student to view and experience Israel with an eye for Aliyah.
5. The Year in Israel should be that- a year spent in Israel, not exclusively in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv or one locale.
6. The Year in Israel should include significant interaction with Israelis.
7. The Year in Israel should include Sukkot and Pesach in Israel-not returning to home country- as this is a core component of the experience.