Learning Torah in Hesder programs
Hesder programs are a five-year long commitment for men in Israel who want to combine learning Torah and do the army. Regular army service for men in Israel is between 30 – 36 months, but in the Hesder framework, your active service is about 15 – 18 months. You can find Yeshiva Hesder across the whole country. Some are big with many hundreds of students and some are small with less than a hundred. The size of the yeshiva doesn´t tell if a Yeshiva is better than another. The small Yeshivot are small for a reason and the bigger for their reasons. Not all Yeshivot fit everyone and often you have different criteria to be accepted. You can also find some Hesder Yeshivot that have a special program designed for students from abroad that want to learn in Yeshiva but also do active army service.
Hesder programs all over Israel
Today, you can find between 50 – 70 different Hesder Yeshivot in Israel. From Kiryat Shmona in the North to Eilat in the south. Kerem B´Yavne was the first Hesder Yeshiva established in 1953 and Yeshivat Sha’alvim, located in Kibbutz Sha’alvim opened its doors in 1961. Until today the Hesder programs here are among the most respected and both Yeshivot also offer programs for students from abroad. The real expansion of Hesder programs and Yeshivot occurred after the 6-day war in 1967. Many Yeshivot was established in connection with the new settlements in Judea and Samaria. Among them:
- Nir Kiryat Arba in 1972
- Yeshivat Har Etzion (Alon Shvut) 1968
- Yeshivat HaGolan 1973
- Yeshivat Birkat Moshe 1977
- Yeshivat Shiloh 1979
- Yeshivat Karnei Shomron 1981
- Yeshivat Beit Orot 1990
- Yeshivat Otniel 1993
- Yeshivat Har Bracha 1991
The next Yeshiva Hesder revolution was at the beginning of the 21st century. Suddenly across Israel, many seed groups settled down to spread Judaism to the general population. Most of the time they did settle down in cities and areas with a small observant population. And a part of the goal was to open new Yeshivot both to strengthen the city itself by bringing in observant families and also to attract boys who wanted to be part of a Hesder program. Except for Jewish studies, a big effort is put into spreading Judaism to the population.
Tel Aviv, Ramat HaSharon, Afula, Eilat, Yaffo are a few of the cities where Hesder Yeshivot opened their doors.
Hesder programs for English speakers
To learn in Yeshiva in Israel is very popular among Jews from abroad and some yeshivot offer unique programs for English speakers. Among the most popular English speaking Hesder Yeshivot you will find Kerem B´Yavne, Sha’alvim, Yeshivat HaGush (Har Etzion) and Yeshivat HaKotel. These programs are mainly for students who want to study in Yeshiva for a year or two. A number of the students also decide to sign up for the army and doing the special Machal Hesder program. In total, the program is about 18 – 24 months.