Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : September 07, 2010
By Vicky Tobianah, Rothberg International School of Hebrew University
When I made my decision to study abroad at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University, my home university, McGill, required me to attend a pre-departure lecture. At this lecture, they informed us of the basic protocol to arrange a study abroad program. Health tips, packing advice and room accommodations were all reinforced throughout the lecture. It was one thing, however, that stuck with me: You are embarking on a trip that not many students take, and that all students treasure. Keep a journal and record everything you do, see, learn and feel.
It sounds simple enough but it was only once I was actually in Israel that I realized how important this tip was. Even for a girl who loves writing, keeping a daily journal was difficult. I tried to record all the adventures and trips I went on, the people I met and attempted to evaluate my feelings. But time flies, as it always does, and as I settled into a routine, I wrote less frequently until I was writing weekly or monthly.
I may not have as many entries as I would like, but I do have something. I have an account of my journey and more importantly, of everything I learned. I have a story to tell and proof that my semester was valuable. When I meet future employers, I can easily look up the skills I used and the experiences I had and explain how they will benefit their organization. I studied in a foreign country for five months, met friends from all over the world and learned how to live with strangers – now my close friends. The ability to plant yourself in any situation, and feel comfortable, is a skill employers treasure. Proving I can master another language is also a great asset.
When I continue my studies, I have a record of the things I learned and the people I met along the way – people who will become important contacts in my future career and education. One of my professors told me to contact him if I need a reference for graduate school. Among many of his impressive jobs, he once worked in the Ministry of Finance and in financial companies in the US. Another professor told me to always keep in touch. A knowledgeable and well-respected individual, who works in Israeli politics, is another great contact for me – a Political Science student. A friend of a friend who I met works at a top newspaper in Israel and offered to help me break into journalism in the future. While researching possible fall internships, I came across a great program in Montreal. It turned out the program has offices all around the world and one of them was in Israel. I met the coordinator for coffee to discuss my future possibilities.
Most importantly, when the memories fade, and years pass, and I ask myself did I really just see a six year old helping his two year old off the bus? Did those two old ladies really just physically fight for a seat on the bus? And is my bus really stopping right in the middle of a highway? I’ll have the blog posts and the journal that reminds me it happened.
Vicki keeps a blog at
Published : September 03, 2010
By Daniel Rotman, Career Israel, Toronto, Canada
My first images of Israel are from TV clips during the Intifada in 2001: Israeli gunships were shown hovering over modern day ruins.  This was all I knew of the land that my parents had defended in their teens and left soon after for a different life in Canada. Then, after over 25 years in Canada, re-living old fears, they second guessed our upcoming family trip.  Too young to realize the impact of my statement, I told them, “If we don’t go now, we will never go.”
Growing up in Toronto, Canada, and raised by secular Israeli Jews, my identity was something of an enigma. My family was not a part of any Jewish community nor Canadian community. It wasn’t until my years at York University that I began to seriously inquire as to whom I was. I felt a clash between Eastern and Western culture that I could not reconcile by joining the necessary student groups on campus. I decided that identity via birth or via proxy is not enough to compel personal ownership.
After completing university, to discover what it really meant to be Canadian, I moved to northern Canada.  Experiencing the vast Canadian wilderness humbled me but the extreme cold made me crave warmer weather. In search of a place where I might feel a deeper connection, I decided to give Israel a chance and registered for the Masa Israel program called Career Israel, a five-month internship program for recent college graduates which features Hebrew language lessons and culturally significant trips throughout Israel. Based in Tel Aviv, I lived only 10 minutes from the beach.
I was completely unprepared for the intensity of life in Israel. From the moment the program started, the diversity and vigor of Israeli society was immediately evident. Upon meeting in Jerusalem, my fellow participants were animated with stories of verbose taxi drivers and pushy citizens.  Once we arrived in Tel Aviv, we noted the staggering difference between the weekdays’ vibrant local market and Shabbat’s quiet streets. The danger that I believed would permeate daily life was entirely absent.  On Tel Aviv’s 100th birthday, my celebration included donating blood for injured soldiers at a mobile clinic. Every Israeli celebration seemed to involve complex combinations of emotion and history.
This complexity was also evident in every one of Career Israel’s cultural trips. Topics such as Israel’s borders, the Bedouin population, the Kassam-struck city of Sderot, and even the design of the Supreme Court contained stories deeply rooted in cultural and political conflict. Even those who agreed on the solution to any particular conflict could not agree on how to implement it. Israel is home to many people and not one voice speaks louder than others, although all shout at the top of their lungs. With over a dozen political parties in power, Israel’s identity is in a constant state of flux. My internship with a Tel-Avivian photography studio provided me with yet more perspectives as I accompanied the artists to photograph all types of people from business owners to actors, and surfers to butchers. Identity, I learned, is not reached through any simple decision-making, but through enduring the trials of life that exists between the past and the future.
Amidst all the chaos that left no Jerusalem stone untouched, I was surprised to find myself discovering a sense of inner peace. This peace is not shown in the simple deceptive TV images from outside of Israel. Controversy and conflict—shown as negative in the world stage—gave me the opportunity to experience the richness of over 5700 years of my identity packaged in a beautiful landscape not longer than a five hour drive top to bottom.
When the program ended, I left Israel still not satiated but filled with desire and hope.  Despite the world’s view on the small and maturing country, life in Israel is roaring forward with a deeply passionate pace—and that passion is a feeling that I am now proud to call my own.

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