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“How To Pack For Your Gap Year In Israel”


Deciding what gap year travel kit to take on your adventures is initially straightforward. You’ll probably begin by selecting everything you’ve ever owned, piling it all on your bed, creating a colossal mountain of stuff. But then comes the actual process of packing, and once you’ve realized with dismay that the kitchen fridge and all its contents just isn’t going to fit into a side pocket, it will dawn on you that compromise is necessary.

This is where I step in. Drawing from my own experiences, I’ve put together a whole range of Travel Kit that I think will get even the most adventurous backpacker kitted out and on the road. Ultimately the choice is yours, of course, but this is a good place to start. Even though most seminaries send out a handbook and a packing list, the easy part is to read the list; the hard part is to shop for it. So here is a guide for how to pack for your semminary/yeshiva year!


It’s called ‘backpacking’ for a reason. Before you can pack anything you’ll need something to pack it into, and for the vast majority of  fututre gappers this something comes in the form of a backpack. A backpack is essentially the same invention as a rucksack, only approximately seven times bigger, seven times heavier and with seven times more compartments.

Choosing one can quickly turn into a mystifying process; there are just so many different types on the market. The best thing is to keep these key points in mind:

  • This is the most important factor when choosing a backpack. Be sure to try it on in the shop with heavy items inside (screwed up paper is not a good substitute for the actual weight you’ll be carrying when on the road).
  • It’s very important to choose a size which will suit your trip. There is no point in buying the largest on the market if you’re going inter railing for a fortnight. For the average future  gapper, a 65-liter size is about right.
  • Sounds obvious, but a poorly made backpack is almost certainly going to reveal its ineptitude and fall to pieces at a highly inconvenient time – that’s just the way of the world. You get what you pay for.“Clothes”Okay, an obvious one: most gappers don’t venture to the airport in their birthday suits. But it’s all about knowing your limits. You do not need 17 pairs of socks, you do not need five pairs of flip flops and you do ­not ­need your prom outfit. Be as sparing as you can possibly bear, and keep in your seminaries/yeshiva’s dress code, because as a student you are going to be representing your program. Susan Heller once said: “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”Also keep in mind that previous gappers might be looking to sell their stuff. Some year programs might also offer something like an open marketplace where the prior class puts things up for sale online to the girls coming in.
  • “Important Documents”You can have the most awesome backpack in the world – and kit to match – but your face will be burning redder than a tropical sunset if you forget the most important thing of all: your passport. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking – spare me the obvious­! – but with all the excitement of going away basic things like this can be frighteningly easy to overlook. Oh, and make sure it’s in date.
    • Passport
    • Birth Certificate: Make a photocopy of your birth certificate and stuff it into the very bottom of your pack; it shouldn’t be removed unless in an emergency. An emergency in this instance could be having your passport stolen.
    • Travel Insurance Documents

    “Toiletries and Medications”

    If you have a favorite brand of something, stock up. But don’t go overboard—Israel does have drugstores. It’s also good to keep in mind that Israel has very hard water, so the shampoo, conditioner and body washes are specially made for hard water, while in the U.S they are not. They are also very heavy and bulky, I know it’s a challenge to only pack what you really need, but in the end Israel has endless pharmacies easily accessible where one can buy most products that they will need.

    Note: if you take a certain type of medication regularly, make sure you have enough supply for the entire year (or that the medicine can be purchased in Israel).  

    “Good Pair of Hiking Boots”

    Israelis love to hike, and you are going to be living in a country that was practically designed for hiking. You’ll want to break in your boots before your first trek, so picking them up before you leave will give you time to wear them around the house. The hiking boots you choose of course depend on where you are going. Your required level of support, foot size, and the features you prefer also affect what the right choice is. Nonetheless, you want the upper construction to be durable, the heel to be stable, and the membrane to be waterproof and breathable.


    Versatile electronics. For example, would you be OK with only bringing your iPhone instead of a phone, camera, iPod, and e-reader? Do you really need your iPad? Whatever you do end up packing though, don’t forget to pack an adapter/converter especially since Israel uses a different voltage and outlet than where you’re from. It’s usually much cheaper to buy one in Israel just make sure that it works with the devices you are bringing. In Israel the power sockets look like this (which is a type h socket.) So, buying an adapter is crucial if you want to be able to charge your devices.

    While a voltage converter changes the standard of voltage used to be compatible with the voltage used in Israel. To be sure, check the label on the appliance. Some appliances never need a converter. If the label states ‘INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60 Hz’ the appliance can be used in all countries in the world. This is common for chargers of tablets/laptops, photo cameras, cell phones, toothbrushes, etc.

    Like I have already touched upon in a previous blog “Top Tips For Parents Whose Kids Are Planning Their Gap Year.”

    Of course you will be taking your phone with you. How else would you show off your fantastic gap year experience and keep in touch with your friends, Facebook and of course Instagram. Make sure pre-travel that your phone is unlocked and think about a provider, like Talknsave, were we aim at keeping it easy to connect while abroad, you get a Stay Local number–which also features no international dialing and also saves you from having to learn international dialing rules, while at the same time saves you the worry about running out of minutes–you will have unlimited minutes both in Israel and abroad and includes at least a minimum of 4gb of data, so you can FaceTime or WhatsApp to your hearts content.

    “Leave Behind Your Huge Suitcase”

    Look, I get it — you’re going away for a long time, and so it seems logical that you’ll need a huge suitcase and a lot of stuff. Really, you don’t. If you’re spending a whole semester or year abroad, you’ll accumulate things as you’re there, just like you would at home, and it’s more important to just bring the basics. Your stuff will be waiting for you when you get back and you can live without them for a bit!

    The best trick I’ve learned for packing lighter, is to get a smaller bag. If you limit yourself with your luggage, you’ll be forced to put those “maybe” pile items into the “no” pile and leave them at home. Also, if you plan on doing any weekend travel or post-study abroad travel, you won’t want to lug around a large suitcase. You’ll want something smaller for going away for Shabbat.

    It can be good for your mental and emotional health to have a few non-essential pieces of home with you to help ease the transition abroad. You don’t have to completely cut yourself off from the people, things or even sports teams that are important to you just because you’re moving to another country, but you also can’t try to bring your entire life with you.

    Be strategic about what you bring with you and what you leave for when you return — and don’t forget to leave some extra space in your bag for everything you’ll be bringing back from your time abroad!

Beth Zuckerman
Beth Zuckerman
Beth is a former Upper Westsider, who made aliyah 8 years ago. She is a coffee addict and a lover of classical rock. Beth is the content and marketing manager at talknsave, in that order.

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