Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : September 01, 2010
By Arielle Miller, Teach and Study Program (TASP), Los Angeles
After graduating from UC Berkeley and traveling to Israel with Birthright Israel, I knew that while I needed more time in Israel, I also needed to start developing my career.   On the Masa Israel Journey-accredited Teach and Study Program (TASP), I not only earned a Masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and gained competitive skills for the job market, but I also became a contributing member of Israeli society. I stayed in Israel after the program ended and today I work at an educational publishing house in Israel.
Though my father is Israeli, I did not grow up speaking Hebrew and I first arrived in Israel as a tourist. Upon returning to the United States after Birthright, I decided to leave my job at a Beverly Hills talent agency, and enroll in Masa Kibbutz Ulpan, where I would volunteer on a kibbutz, learn Hebrew, and reconnect with my father’s family. After five months, I realized that I was not yet prepared to leave the country, but was ready to leave behind kibbutz life for the city and start forging a career path—one that would be forgiving of my basic Hebrew skills.
With an undergraduate degree in English Literature and tentative plans to go into the field of education, I enrolled in the Teach and Study Program (TASP), a two-year program that combines a Masters in TESOL and an internship at a local school.With 15 other students in the program, TASP provides the necessary theoretical and practical training for teachers, as well as a support system for both tourists and new immigrants.
Not only was TASP a framework in which an English speaker can excel, but I immensely enjoyed learning about all facets of linguistics, Israeli language policies, the history of the English language in Israel, and the English language itself. The teaching internship at the Israeli public school was challenging, and I felt that for the first time in my life, I was doing what I was born to do–making a real difference in the world. I taught children to read; I introduced teenagers to Shakespeare. I was using English as a conduit to strengthen and sharpen young Israelis’ minds.
Through my work, I became part of the school community; and through it, the Israeli community. I watched as my students’ learning affected all the individuals involved in their lives—teachers, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors. I learned to appreciate how a school is, therefore, an incredibly important community, as well as a channel into the larger nation en masse.
This idea became evident to me during a Holocaust Day memorial service at the school where I interned. Families, students, and faculty gathered to discuss the way the horrors of the not-so-distant past continued to have a very personal effect on all their lives. Speeches were made, performances given, personal accounts shared, photographs displayed, and tears shed. While the touching stories and photographs certainly stirred something in me that night, the most poignant moment of the evening came when the siren sounded. During those two minutes, the entire country paused and the profound juxtaposition of the sound of the siren and the quiet of millions in sad remembrance was astounding.
This was my third Holocaust Day in Israel, but on the school’s basketball court, surrounded by my colleagues, students, and their families, I was utterly aware of the powerful statement made by a nation brought to a total, voluntary standstill. During those two minutes, people throughout the country acted for one purpose only.
After that evening, I realized that by working in education I was not only doing something that fulfilled me on a professional level, but I was also living a life that fulfilled me on personal, human, and spiritual levels. Today, I work as a pedagogical writer and editor at an educational publishing house in Raanana. TASP gave me the tools to pursue a career that allows me to have a nationwide influence on education.
Published : September 01, 2010
By Gabi Gordon, Chicago, IL, Nativ
Having been raised in a Conservative home in Chicago, Judaism was always a part of my life.  I attended Solomon Schechter for elementary school and then got involved in USY.  While a Junior in high school, I took part in the Alexander Muss semester program in Israel.  It was then that I decided I needed to return for another extended period of time.
My chance to do so came soon enough.  After graduation, I enrolled in Masa Israel’s Nativ, the Conservative movement’s gap year program in Israel.  During that year, I had the opportunity to get to know the areas where I lived.  While taking courses in Arabic, Jewish studies and Hebrew at Hebrew University during the first half of the year, I was also able to explore Jerusalem.  I went to festivals, museums, and the market on a regular basis.  I traveled to the Old City and visited the Kotel whenever I felt like it.  On Yom Kippur, when the streets are devoid of cars, my friends and I sat in an intersection and sang, and the Israelis who passed joined in.
I also had the opportunity to volunteer at the Jerusalem YMCA’s preschool, which has both Arab and Jewish students.
I spent the second half of the year in Yerucham, a development town in the south—which allowed me to see a very different side of Israel.  There, few people spoke English and I worked at a religious girls’ school with people who were very excited to learn English from Americans.  My host family was incredibly hospitable, inviting me for meals and to take part in hiking trips.
Leaving Israel was very difficult and, after a year at Columbia/JTS, I decided that I needed to return to Israel.  I have recently made Aliyah through Garin Tzabar, a program that enables me to live on a kibbutz alongside other new immigrants around my age, while enlisting in the Israeli army.
I am currently living on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu and still keep in touch with all my counselors from Nativ, as well as my friends from Yerucham.  I am so glad I participated in Nativ because it really allowed me to explore Israel and discover a place for myself in it.

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