Volunteering in Israel

Kibbutz Ulpan

Combining intensive Hebrew language instruction with working and living on a kibbutz. In this five-month program, Kibbutz Ulpan gives you an opportunity to have a first-hand experience of a life-style unique to Israel.

The Kibbutz Ulpan Program has long been considered one of the most successful programs for young adults who want to spend time in Israel and learn Hebrew.

This Program offers the opportunity to experience first-hand, a life-style unique to Israel. It combines intensive Hebrew language instruction with the experience of working and living in the kibbutz environment. In addition, it gives young Jews from all over the world the opportunity to meet in an inexpensive framework, while sharing the excitement of being introduced to Israel. 

Young adults between the ages of 171/2 and 28, single or married without children, in good physical and mental condition and willing to work hard, are eligible. The program is open to those with either a tourist or new immigrant (oleh hadash) status. Olim may attend within one year of their aliyah.

Note: Although participants may be accepted up to the age of 28, it is worthwhile to note that the overwhelming majority of participants in the program will be younger.

Choosing a Kibbutz

There are ulpan programs on over 20 kibbutzim throughout Israel with variations in size, location, climate, agriculture, types of industry and general character.

The ulpan program and general framework however, are uniform. The duration of the ulpan kibbutz is 5 months, a total of 155 days (participants may arrive four days before the start of the program, and stay four days after the end of the program). Placement is based on personal preference, availability and the starting dates of ulpan classes.

Ulpan Classes

The goal of the ulpan is to provide students with a working knowledge of conversational Hebrew, the ability to read simplified texts and newspapers, and to build a foundation for further study. Ulpan teachers are trained in teaching Hebrew as a second language to adults.

Classes generally consist of 20-25 students and meet for an average of four hours a day or a total of 18-24 hours a week depending on the number of students. Most ulpanim teach the first two levels of Hebrew, while a few other offer more advanced levels.

The program includes lectures on Israel and Judaism, one-day seminars on current Israeli and Jewish events, and guided tours and hikes to historic and scenic sites.

Kibbutz Work

Participants work 24 hours a week, and study 20-24 hours a week. Specific schedules differ on each kibbutz. The type of work one does depends mainly on the needs of the kibbutz. One may be assigned to the fields, orchards, gardens, dairy, barns, factories, kitchen, dinning hall, kindergardens, laundry or any other place where needed.

Work assignments are rotated whenever possible, but be prepared for relatively menial work and tiring physical labor.

Kibbutz Living

Living arrangements on kibbutz ulpan differ from kibbutz to kibbutz. Most are dormitory-style with two or three students to a room, and shared adjacent bathroom and shower facilities. The kibbutz provides room and board as well as sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, work-clothes and laundry services, for a nominal fee.

Please note: non-religious kibbutzim do not necessarily provide kosher food.

Winters can be cold in Israel, so bring warm clothing. If you prefer to bring your own work shoes, make sure they are sturdy and reach above the ankle.

Please Note: It is highly recommended that all participants take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance for the period before and after the program.

Medical Care

Medical insurance for new immigrants is available for the first six months of their aliyah at no charge, and for the latter part of the year for a fee. Immigrants are obligated to and responsible for making their own arrangements and selecting the health fund coverage (Kupat Holim) of their choice.

However, it is recommended to initially join the Health fund that the Kibbutz belongs to. (One can always switch to another fund after leaving the Ulpan.)

Tourists are required to take out a standard, comprehensive medical insurance upon arrival at the kibbutz and for the duration of the program. The fee for this plan is approximately U.S $125* and includes routine and emergency medical care and hospitalization for accidents and non-chronic illnesses.

Culture and Leisure Activities

Ulpan members may participate in public cultural activities held on the kibbutz. In addition, most kibbutzim have a library, clubroom, sports facilities and outdoor swimming pool. The availability of these facilities to ulpan students varies from place to place. Ulpan students are free to use their off hours, when they are not working or studying, as they choose, and are allowed to leave the kibbutz during these times. They must however take into account that they meet the program’s requirements and adhere to the laws of the kibbutz.

Adapting to Kibbutz Life

The demanding work ethic and tight knit camaraderie of the small rural environment can sometimes make it difficult for the newcomer, especially one coming with vacation expectations. However, participants who are open to new experiences, are flexible to a different reality, and are willing to work hard, can develop good relationships with Kibbutz members.

It is important to keep in mind that kibbutz ulpan participants, despite having paid a participatory fee, are still guests of the kibbutzim. They therefore should be sensitive to the rules and norms of the kibbutz, and abide by them.

Religious Kibbutzim

If one is observant, or interested in becoming acquainted with religious life, one can choose to study on a religious kibbutz. On a religious kibbutz participants are expected to conform to certain standards of behavior, and should be aware of these, before committing themselves. Presently three religious kibbutzim offer the Kibbutz Ulpan Program, they are: Beerot Yitzhak, Saad and Yavne.

Payments and Regulations

All participants must attend classes regularly and do the work the kibbutz assigns them. They must agree to comply with the rules of the kibbutz and the program. Upon arrival at most kibbutzim, participants must undergo an HIV test to be conducted by the kibbutz medical staff.

Possession or use of drugs, as well as alcohol abuse is prohibited on the program, and violators will be requested to leave. There is a required security deposit of U.S $100* (or the equivalent in Shekels), for damage to kibbutz property, which is refunded after the Ulpan, assuming no damage has been done. Participants are advised to bring sufficient funds to cover personal and travel expenses not supplied by the kibbutz.

It is strongly suggested not to bring valuables, as the kibbutz cannot take responsibility in the event of theft. Pets are prohibited on the program.

Price of the Program

For Tourists:
Starting June 2008, the price of Ulpan Kibbutz is $3,700 and includes Ulpan, room and board on the kibbutz and health insurance but does not include a registration fee.

Registration fees differ from place to place and are as follows: In North America $350. In other parts of the world including Israel registration is $50. Participants interested in receiving up to 95% scholarship of the program cost are requested to fill out an application form from MASA. To download MASA application for scholarship, click here

For New Immigrants:
The program fee is $300, not including a registration fee.

Airfare not provided

After Ulpan Options

Two information days are offered during the Ulpan, where participants are given the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Student Authority, Jewish Agency, Army and some Government Ministries. They offer assistance in making plans for future study, work and housing options in Israel, and provide general guidance for those interested in extending their stay beyond the kibbutz ulpan.

Basic information to note:

The Kibbutz Ulpan Program is based on a combination of Hebrew language study and work.

Intended for participants ranging in ages from 17 ½ to 28 years.

The duration of the program is five months (155 days).

Participants may arrive four days before the starting date and leave four days after the end of the program.

Acceptance is limited to those both physically and mentally fit, and willing and capable of demanding physical work.

Upon arrival participants will be required to pay a U.S $100* security deposit (or its Shekel equivalent) which will be returned at the end of the program on the condition that no property damages were caused.

Tourists are required to pay approximately US $ 125* (or its Shekel equivalent) for comprehensive medical insurance on their arrival at the kibbutz.

Drugs and alcohol abuse are prohibited on the program. 

Additional Information

To find a Kibbutz Ulpan, click here

For dates for Ulpan Programs, click here

For Kibbutz Ulpan facts, click here

For Kibbutzim website, click here

For a religious kibbutzim website, click here


Israel Program Center.

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