Frequently Asked Questions
General Yeshiva Information
Hakotel sees itself as Modern Orthodox in the sense that we belief that Hashem means for us to engage the world and its people in the hope that we can effect and learn from them. We believe that Modern Orthodoxy can only be lived properly if it is rooted in scrupulous observance and a true commitment to Talmud Torah and the pursuit of the Hashem’s will..
Hakotel identifies with the Yerushalmi (Berachot 63b)/Midrash (Tanchuma Pinchas) that explains that just as Hashem created us with different faces, so he created us with different views.
Hashem includes in the Torah the things/categories which he means to be incumbent upon all Jews in all times.
Beyond the things mentioned in the Torah, each individual has to pursue the path which best helps him serve Hashem. This is why we allow/encourage each talmid to learn what most interests him individually.
Our goal is to help talmidim learn to properly fulfill the generic mandates of the Torah and accurately determine what their unique mode of Avodat Hashem ought to be.
Hakotel believes that the miraculous events of the past hundred years are Hashem’s facilitation of the beginning of the geula process. The State of Israel with its flaws needs to be appreciated as the form Hashem has chosen to make that process a reality.
It is essential that the Jewish People (and Jewish people) respond by returning to Hashem which includes the strengthening of The State of Israel. This return may very well be the condition for the continuation of the geula process.
Comparison To Other Yeshivot
A Hesder yeshiva is one where the Israeli talmidim spend a period of at least five years, which include at least 3.5 years of learning and at least 1.5 years of army service.
There are three models of hesder yeshivot that accept overseas talmidim.
One model is the yeshiva which consists of two separate programs- one for Israelis and one for overseas talmidim.
A second model is where the yeshiva consists of just an Israeli program into which overseas talmidim are fully integrated.
Hakotel is unique in that it balances between these two models by integrating overseas talmidim with Israelis while offering them the additional shiurim and guidance generally offered to overseas talmidim in separate programs.
- Integration within an Israeli yeshiva with overseas support staff and programming
- Program that develops high proficiency in Gemara while teaching Tanach, Machshava, Halacha, Mussar, and Hebrew Language comprehensively.
- Learning in the rova with a view of and relationship with the Har Habayit and the Kotel.
- A yeshiva with an open- minded hashkafa that also emphasizes and fosters religious and spiritual growth.
- Rebbeim and other staff members (high staff/talmid ratio) who pursue and build meaningful relationships with talmidim both during and after time in yeshiva.
Our program aims to develop knowledge and skills of what we consider to be the four basic areas of Torah learning- Tanach, Gemara, Jewish Philosophy, and Halacha.
Because of the amount of time and effort required to attain the high level of proficiency necessary for properly study Gemara, the bulk of the daily schedule focuses on Gemara.
Despite the time focus on gemara, our program includes a thought out curriculum that aims to develop knowledge and skills in Tanach, Jewish Philosophy, and Halacha as well. At three points during the day, boys are offered a variety of shiurim in these areas of learning. The shiurim include both basic shiurim meant to teach central knowledge and skills (ex.- Literary Analysis of Parashat Hashavua, Nevi’im Rishonim, Nevi’im Achronim, Ketuvim, Survey of Classical Jewish Philosophy, Issues in Contemporary Jewish Philosophy, Hashkafa 101, Basic Practical Halacha) and a wide variety of ‘electives’ for those interested in further/broader study. Overall we offer well over 50 weekly shiurim in these other areas.
We believe that Hebrew knowledge is important for both Torah learning and in general. In addition to roommates and chavrutot with Israelis, our talmidim learn Hebrew through the daily Ulpan program offered as part of the regular (as opposed to during the break) schedule. The ulpan consists of three levels divided based on level of Hebrew proficiency.
Hakotel believes that proper gemara learning hinges on developing both advanced textual skills and incisive conceptual skills.
Morning seder aims to develop analytical skills. This is done by training talmidim to independently analyze sources and the conceptual issues inferred by them.
The part of Afternoon Seder devoted to Gemara study aims to develop reading skills. This is done by giving talmidim a chance to independently prepare a piece which they then read for a rebbe/faculty member who is able to correct their mistakes and point out unnoticed textual nuances.
The part of Night Seder devoted to Gemara study is done with an older talmid. This session gives younger talmidim a concentrated period of time in which they can benefit from the higher level of an older/more advanced talmid.
Hakotel believes that each talmid is different and that no program of learning will be exactly appropriate for all (most) talmidim. This is why we offer a wide variety of options throughout the day.
In addition, we believe that talmidim succeed best when learning what they choose to learn.
For these reasons, we build the program we feel best for most of our talmidim, but we leave decisions over what to learn when to each talmid.
We expect that a talmid completely maximize the times meant for learning (at least), but leave the decision of what to learn to him. That having been said, we are actively involved in advising talmidim.
Integration with Israeli Program
Hakotel sees connecting to Eretz Yisrael by (also) connecting to Israelis as a central part of the Israel Yeshiva Experience. Beyond roommates, chavrutot, and joint shiurim and programs, Hakotel facilitates integration by having overseas talmidim as part of a broader Israeli yeshiva and not as part of a separate program.
Most Israeli talmidim are eager to build a kesher with overseas talmidim. Israelis who prefer to be in a yeshiva without overseas talmidim, chose to attend one of the many (most) Israeli yeshivot without overseas talmidim.
When they feel they are ready. Readiness hinges on a high proficiency in Hebrew language and Gemara skills which we help talmidim develop in advance of entry.
Relationship With Rebbeim
Shiurim and sichot are given to groups. The only way an individual can get the help and guidance appropriate particularly to him is if he has a personal relationship with a rebbe who gets to know him well enough to earn the talmid’s respect and to give him such personal advice.
The relationship with a rebbe is also a significant part of continuing to grow after one’s time in yeshiva.
Many rebbeim see their job as teaching Torah. Our rebbeim see the goal as teaching talmidim. Their central goal is to use the learning connection as a basis for forging a kind of relationship that can help a talmid maximize his yeshiva experience and continue growing after yeshiva. For this reason, Hakotel rebbeim are present in the Beit Midrash atleast nine sedarim a week (all mornings, three afternoons, and one night– there is an overseas rebbe in the BM each night) and spend about 90% of their time speaking personally to individuals. Each rebbe makes sure to have a meaningful conversation with each of his talmidim at least once a week.
In addition to a talmid’s rebbe, each talmid has a madrich and three shoelim meshivim (one for each seder) who work with him personally. The mashgiach (Rav Cutler), Dean (Rav Taragin), and many other staff members also build personal relationships with individual talmdim.
Most of the rebbeim and other staff live in the Old City. A number of others live within walking distance. A number of staff live in the yeshiva building itself. This gives the talmidim the opportunity to be consistent guests at the homes of rebbeim and staff. Those not within walking distance have boys over for shabbatonim and off shabbatot.
Hakotel rebbeim keep up by consistent email and phone calls with each (interested) talmid. This communication is reinforced by multiple yearly alumni events around the world.
Hakotel has active alumni organizations in Israel, the US, and the UK.
The relationships remain strong for many years after yeshiva.
The yeshiva works on a cycle of two in followed by one out Shabbat. Overseas Talmidim are encouraged to stay in for in shabbatot and visit family and friends on out shabbatot. That having been said, talmidim are welcome to stay in and leave as they please (meaning they can leave on an in Shabbat and stay in on an out Shabbat).
Beyond the generally high level of security provided by the government in the Old City, Hakotel’s campus is a locked unit that can only be accessed through a door which can only be opened with a key or key card and is guarded by an armed shomer (guard).
In addition, the yeshiva and its entrance are observed day and night by a number of security cameras. Hakotel’s security system is overseen by an army officer who lives on the premises.
We highly recommend that talmidim not leave valuables in their rooms. An individual envelope in our safe is made available to each talmdim. We ask that valuables left in the dorm room (computer, small amounts of cash, etc.) be stored in a locked cabinet in the room.
One of the major differences between High School and University (and the rest of life) is that close supervision ends and people need to be ready to make mature decisions.
Hakotel is meant for mature talmidim who are ready to act responsibly. We treat our talmidim as boys ready to act responsibly and expect them too. That having been said, as surrogate parents we are responsible to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of each of our talmidim and we, therefore, oversee things very carefully.
We expect talmidim to avoid places that are potentially dangerous or inappropriate (we enumerate these areas during orientation).
The rova is the yeshiva’s campus and talmidim are welcome to use it doing breaks. Talmidim are expected to notify a staff member before leaving and upon returning to the rova. We do not have an official curfew, but we expect talmidim to act responsibly which includes going to sleep at a reasonable hour and attending yeshiva minyan in the morning.
Balanced, nutritious meals are served three times each day, including Shabbat. A kitchenette with a refrigerator is available in each apartment.
As most of our talmidim are Israeli, the food at Hakotel is primarily Israeli fare. Many dishes/amenities popular amongst overseas talmidim are added to supplement the menu.
Each month talmidim receive (included in tuition) coins and tickets for the possibility of doing one load on available machines and sending one out to an external cleaner. Talmidim are welcome to independently supplement use of the machines/external service for any amount of additional laundry.
Hakotel’s campus has a gym (work out room) which is open to talmidim during the afternoon breaks. There are basketball courts and other fields available at nearby (ten minutes walk) parks.
Hakotel feels that sports are a healthy outlet and encourages talmidim to use breaks and weekends (Friday/Sat. night) to play sports. Many of our talmidim participate in organized sport leagues (football, basketball, hockey etc.).
Hakotel sees chessed as a basic part of being a Ben Torah. Although time in yeshiva should naturally focus on Talmud Torah, it is essential that some time be devoted to doing chessed. We encourage each talmid to be involved in at least on of the number of chessed opportunities we offer during the week and on shabbatot. These opportunities generally include amongst other things visiting hospitals, packaging for for the poor, volunteering in soup kitchens, helping eldery and/or boys from weaker socio- economic backgrounds.
Hakotel sees Yedi’at Ha’aretz (familiarity with the Land of Israel) as a basic part of the Israel Yeshiva experience. Our tiyulim include four multiple day trips (Midbar Yehuda before Sukkot, four days in Negev and Eilat over Channuka break, a week in the Golan before Pesach, and Miyam L’yam after Pesach), over six shabbaton weekends out of yeshiva (which generally include a trip on Friday), and approximately twenty other sightseeing days/afternoon.
Hakotel’s trips are unique in that most of them are meant to teach talmidim about the history of our connection to Eretz Yisrael- from Tanach (many with Tanach) thru Medinat Yisrael till today.
Hakotel tuition includes emergency medical and hospitalization insurance. Our medical coverage is provided by Wolfson Medical clinic (during day hours) and Terem Emergency Services, a 24-hour full service medical clinic, that are both generally staffed by US-trained physicians. Students who are taking medication for a chronic condition are asked to bring a sufficient supply, as mailing or Fedexing medications is often prohibited by law.
Despite our coverage, please DO NOT CANCEL YOUR AMERICAN HEALTH INSURANCE, as it may cover you here if certain treatments are not included in our coverage, or should you need to return to the USA for any reason. Dental, optical, psychological, psychiatric and ongoing treatment costs are also not covered.
A Health Care Professional is present in the building Tuesday and Thursday mornings afternoons. He is also available by phone for consultations with our students.
Bein Hazmanim (Intersessions)
Talmidim have rooms available to them from their day of arrival until the end of their year (tish’a b’av). Even during intersessions the yeshiva ensures that each (interested) talmid has a room in the yeshiva dormitory.
We encourage and facilitate visits of prospective talmidim and their parents. Amongst other things, these visits include sitting in on classes (mothers too) and open conversations with our talmidim and faculty. We find that visitors gain significantly from these visits.
Parents are always welcome at Hakotel. We encourage you to come and sit in on classes and learn in the Beit Midrash (fathers). We encourage talmidim to spend some time (usually a day or two) with their parents during parent’s visit. In particular, we encourage you to join the yeshiva for a Friday night at the Kotel.
Yeshivat Hakotel is an intensive program that treats talmidim as mature Bnei Torah. It is most appropriate for talmidim interested and ready to:
a) focus on learning for a full day five days a week
b) live as complete Bnei Torah
c) make mature decisions
Because Hakotel takes a limited number of overseas talmidim (to preserve the yeshiva’s Israeli character), acceptance is generally very competitive. Spots are offered to those deemed most appropriate.
No. Most overseas applicants do not speak Hebrew well. This is why we offer a full array of English shiurim. That having been said, we believe that ideally learning should be done in Hebrew. This is why we encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities (formal and informal) to improve your Hebrew skills to the point where you can learn in Hebrew as well.
Many universities give credits for study at Hakotel. In addition, Hakotel has official joint programs with Yeshiva University and Landers/Touro College which include 32 credits for the year.
Hakotel takes the worry and hassle out of this process. All of our students enter Israel on the tourist visas they receive in the airport. We then take care of all paperwork and get the boys’ visas extended so as to save our students the time and aggravation and allow them to focus on their studies.
Our (overseas) rebbeim all attended university. We see university as an essential to both getting a proper job as well as a broad education.
That having been said, continued limmud HaTorah and religious growth are obviously of primary importance. Most of our talmidim (who return to the US) attend YU. That having been said, many attend other (including secular) universities. We believe that these other options are best for many of our talmidim to grow religiously.
Hakotel does not believe that Shana Bet, staying in Israel, and/or joining the army (or anything not in the Torah) is right for every talmid. That coupled with our belief that part of maturing is making one’s own decisions is why we do not push boys to do any of the above. Although most of our talmidim decide to stay for a second year, many do not.
We hope that all of our talmidim will continue to live as B’nei Torah who continue to have limmud HaTorah, Eretz Yisrael, and Am Yisrael as central components in their lives and seek to best realize their potential as ovdei Hashem.