Pioneer Israel

Cost: $18,500 (*Before grants and scholarships)

What does a modern pioneer look like? Be part of a select group of 16 Pioneer Fellows from around the globe and make your mark on Jewish peoplehood and history through this unique year made possible by Aardvark Israel and HaShomer HaChadash

During this year of service, discover what connecting with the Land is all about through the experimental establishment, construction, and maintenance of an urban community garden in the Old City of Jerusalem. Supplemented by educational opportunities to learn about geography, the agricultural sector, and Israeli environmental issues, participants will in turn act as educators-- receiving guests including schoolchildren and tourists to the garden and community center.

Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to study Hebrew and take additional courses worth up to 24 transferable university credits.

One of the unique features of the program is the “communa” style of group living, popularized by the Kibbutz movement. In small sub-cohorts, the communa will independently decide on the responsibilities associated with their apartment, meals, and overall living experience with a goal of building communas that are 50% Israeli participants and 50% foreign fellows. Together, these communas are the beginning bridges of a new era of Israel-Diaspora relations, with a focus on grassroots, peer to peer connections.

Goals of the Program:

  1. Strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to Israel
  2. Enhance their understanding of Jewish Peoplehood and our collective history
  3. Deeply explore the concept of responsibility – for each other, for our land, and for our nation
  4. Contribute to Israeli society
  5. Expand their knowledge of nature, agriculture, and leadership while also acquiring skills in these areas

Volunteering – Agriculture and Learning

In the Hinnom Valley, which links the Old City with the modern neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, participants will develop and build a sustainable, city-based farm complete with vegetable and spice gardens, composting stations, terraces, and more. Participants will gain experience in informal education through working with local children and receive professional training in various agricultural fields, such as permaculture, carpentry, sustainable building, farming and more. As leaders in establishing the local chapter of HaShomer HaChadash’s Youth Organization, participants will strive to inspire younger generations with the value of being an active Zionist through working the land.

Education – Ulpan, Environmental Studies, Jewish Studies

Educational opportunities are weaved in throughout the year of volunteering, taking place formally in the classroom, and organically through local exposure. Participants will not only have Hebrew classes, but an opportunity to live with Israelis of the same age, allowing participants to grow leaps and bounds beyond their peers who simply study passively.

Additional courses will be offered in two streams: Jewish studies and professional development.

Jewish studies courses will cover topics such as history, thought, and culture, while professional development training will cover “permaculture, carpentry, sustainable farming, soil and crops.”

Through the program’s partnership with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, participants can earn up to 24 college credits for their studies during the year. For more information about the American Jewish University, please visit their website at


Regular excursions allow participants to see a fuller, more comprehensive picture of Israel-- allowing participants to connect in a more meaningful way. Trips will vary from networking opportunities to national parks, museums, and more!

Evenings and Weekends

Participants will regularly take part in evening activities ranging from leadership development and group dynamics, to practical home economics style courses, and sociocultural programming.

Shabbatot are spent either visiting other HaShomer HaChadash kommunot or in Jerusalem as free weekends. Every three weeks, participants will have a shabbat together as a group, allowing them to take part in communal life as an overarching life-lesson and skill going into shared accommodations on a university campus.

Housing and Accommodations

Participants will be living in the heart of Jerusalem in apartments together. Included in room and board as part of tuition is an unlimited local transit pass, a fully-equipped apartment ready to move-in, a counsellor who will lead participants in home economics style classes on cooking, cleaning, budgeting, laundry, and communal living. Participants will also be given an additional bursary to cover additional cost of living expenses.

International Travel Add-Ons

Each semester participants can register for educational trips (total of two) to learn about the Jewish Diaspora and Israeli foreign relations.

Trips will give you the opportunity to:

  1. Learn about the local culture including visiting historical sights
  2. Gain a greater understanding of the Jewish history of the country, the current status of the diasporic community, and an overall Jewish narrative of the destination
  3. Learn about the current state of affairs between Israel and the travel destination, as well as a primer on the geopolitics that shape the current relationship

International trips currently available include: Spain, Czech Republic, China, Ethiopia, Italy, Germany, and Poland.

Need more info? Have more questions? Contact us.