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Jerusalem is known for its international character. With a diverse population coming from all over the world, hearing a mix of tongues on the street is commonplace. But for newcomers to Israel, there is no question that Hebrew learning is central to acclimating to life in Israel. With dozens of ulpanim throughout the city, it is often difficult to choose which is best for you. We have compiled a list of six top ulpanim for newcomers to Jerusalem. While this list is not exhaustive, nor does it attempt to represent all views of students who have completed each ulpan, we have based our list on research, interviews, and testimonials from students at each ulpan, happy to share their Hebrew-learning experiences with you.

Ulpan Etzion students reenact Red Riding Hood in Hebrew © Eliana Rudee 

If you just made aliyah: Ulpan Etzion

Ulpan Etzion is an immersive, residential ulpan for ages 22-35, with a focus on reading and writing Hebrew.

Pros:

  • You may choose to live in the Beit Canada Absorption Center, where classes are held. Located in Armon HaNetziv, it is easily accessible by bus to the First Station, center of town, Hadar mall, and central bus station.
  • A great option financially. Living expenses + classes + lunch and dinner (tiyulim included) is NIS 7200 for five months. The course itself is free for olim chadashim.
  • Because of the communal living, the extent of social integration into the olim community of Jerusalem is unparalleled.

Cons:

  • Only full time option.
  • Large classes (20 people average).
  • While you can go up two levels in five months of full time work, you will likely need to fill in the gaps in your speaking.

 

TAKA student prepares a writing exercise © Perry Bindelglass

 

If you want to prepare for a degree in Hebrew: TAKA

TAKA is an intensive preparatory ulpan, located at Hadassa College, for students aiming towards a BA or MA in Hebrew. Very similar to the Ulpan Etzion model, many choose to take Ulpan Etzion first, then TAKA.

 Pros:

  • TAKA’s intensive classes effectively prepare students for an academic level of Hebrew.
  • Although the course is located at Hadassa College, in the city center, you may choose to live in the Beit Canada Absorption Center. Located in Armon HaNetziv, it is easily accessible by bus to the First Station, center of town, Hadar mall, and central bus station. The course itself is free for olim chadashim. Living expenses + classes + lunch and dinner is NIS 7200 for five months.
  • Community is fostered, largely through tiyulim. Like in Ulpan Etzion, many students say they met their best friends and roommates through TAKA.

Cons:

  • Only full time option.
  • Large classes (20 people average).
  • While the course prepares you for academic lectures and work, you will likely need to fill in the gaps in your speaking.
© Flickr/Jewish Agency for Israel

© Flickr/Jewish Agency for Israel

If you want to meet diverse communities: Ulpan Milah

Ulpan Milah is a unique and diverse ulpan suited for all ages and community members.  

Pros:

  • Full and part time, morning and evening options.
  • Diverse group of students including olim chadashim, non-Jewish immigrants, East Jerusalem Arabs, monks, priests, and nuns who live in monasteries and churches in Jerusalem.
  • Good mix of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

 Cons:

  • No extra activities to build community.
  • Residential not available.
  • Large classes in lower levels.

 

Ulpan Morasha students repeat sentences in Hebrew © Ulpan Morasha

Ulpan Morasha students repeat sentences in Hebrew © Ulpan Morasha 

If you want to practice your conversation skills: Ulpan Morasha

Ulpan Morasha is an immersive ulpan for all ages with a focus on conversational Hebrew.

Pros:

  • Full and part time, morning and evening options.
  • Inexpensive (free if you are an oleh chadash).
  • Large classes (average 20 people).

 Cons:

  • Some people complain that there should be more reading and writing.
  • Residential not available.
  • Slow moving: average of one level in five months full time.
Ulpan Or student meets with one-on-one teacher during an outdoor outing © Eliana Rudee

Ulpan Or student meets with one-on-one teacher during an outdoor outing © Eliana Rudee

 

If you want a personalized one-on-one experience: Ulpan Or

Ulpan Or is an individualized ulpan experience for all ages. Students may choose between various courses taught through one-on-one lessons and outings.

 Pros:

  • One-on-one learning.
  • Full time or part time.
  • Rapid language acquisition means learning like a child means you can go up one level in two weeks of full time learning. 

Cons:

  • Very expensive and VAT not included in prices.
  • No community building.
  • Residential not available.
alter-native-students-play-game

Alter.Native students play a game in Hebrew © Jerusalem Village

If you want to boost your confidence talking to sabras: Alter.Native

Alter.Native is Jerusalem Village’s informal Hebrew course in which students converse with sabras with other olim in a non-intimidating environment. 

Pros:

  • Well-priced. 300NIS for eight sessions.
  • Includes outings, fun class activities such as games, and an after class happy hour with sabras.
  • Designed to improve Hebrew proficiency and confidence by speaking with native Israeli peers.

Cons:

  • Only once per week for 2.5 hours.
  • Limited to ages 22-35.
  • No reading, writing, or grammar.

If you had a great experience at an ulpan in Jerusalem that was not listed, we invite you to add your comments below to help others broaden their options and knowledge of the best ulpanim in Jerusalem.

Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” and “Israel Girl” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.