Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : December 10, 2010
By Ari Rockni, Career Israel
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Business with degrees in Marketing and Risk Management & Insurance, I wasn’t sure what my next step in life would be. Having participated the previous year on the study abroad program, Semester at Sea, and visiting 14 different countries while circumnavigating the globe on a ship, I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to spend more time abroad. However, I wasn’t looking to teach English or do volunteer work. It was very important to me to partake in something worthwhile; something where I can gain useful experience and apply some of the concepts I studied in college.
Growing up in a conservative Jewish family which has always been involved in pro-Israel organizations, I became involved with AIPAC, America’s leading pro-Israel lobby, when I was high school and remain actively involved today. Continuing, I was involved with, and during my senior year became the president of, a pro-Israel group on my campus. Thus, coupling my desire to work abroad with my love for Israel seemed like the perfect combination.
This led me to my campus’s Hillel, where I began to look at different options for post-graduates in Israel. Here, I learned about Career Israel, a professional internship program in which university graduates from all over the world come to Israel to work in either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in their field of expertise. Career Israel is under the umbrella of Masa Israel (The Jewish Agency), an organization that brings recent graduates to Israel, offering them grants and scholarships to participants on its programs. Before coming to Israel, participants work with a placement coordinator to find a suitable and interesting internship. The current Career Israel program has 120 participants, primarily from the United States, with others also from the UK, Australia, and parts of Europe and Latin/South America. In addition to the internship component of the program, we partook a month of ulpan classes, have heard from a wide variety of speakers, and have and will continue to travel around Israel, all as part of a unique group dynamic.
Before arriving in Israel, my work with my placement coordinator and Career Israel director Elana Kaminka yielded a variety of interesting companies and organizations in and around Tel Aviv. After learning about each of them, MATIMOP, the Israeli Industry Center for R&D, captured my interest.  Furthermore, after a coincidental meeting with MATIMOP’s David Miron Wapner on my campus, MATIMOP became my leading choice. But why? While its day-to-day activities may not appear to directly relate to my studies, MATIMOP’s purpose is what really captivated me.  In its most fundamental sense, MATIMOP has two goals. One is to assist in the development of new R&D projects and the other is to promote and market Israel and its companies to the rest of the world. Having gained a tremendous interest in Israel’s many technological miracles after reading the critically acclaimed Start-Up Nation, MATIMOP was the ideal place for me during my six months in Israel.
In my time at MATIMOP, I have been involved with a myriad of tasks and given a variety of responsibilities. It has been a pleasure to be working with Avi Luvton and Merav Tapiero in MATIMOP’s Asian and South American department. To get a feel for how the organization functions and the types of projects and companies it works with, I began by compiling a booklet of “Success Stories,” examining about 15 approved partnerships between Israeli and Asian/Latin American companies.  I’ve also assisted in providing an analysis of and recommendations for Israel’s involvement in the water technology driven India Group. Moreover, I had the chance to study and break down a couple Seventh Framework Programme proposals, pertaining to new environmental R&D ventures. The next project that I will have the opportunity to assist with will be the development of a new CRM based IT System for MATIMOP.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to attend two dinners of the first of four Eureka (a European organization that promotes R&D globally) conferences in Israel this year.  Being the only full non-European member of Eureka and the chairman of the commission put MATIMOP and Israel in a very unique position.  During the conference, I immediately understood some of MATIMOP’s goals for the chairmanship. Despite the many meetings and sessions that were held during the day, MATIMOP understood the uniqueness of having such a high-caliber delegation here and seized the opportunity to really show off and market Israel to them from a non-technological perspective.  When briefly speaking with a delegate from Spain and learning that this was his first time here, I asked him what he thought of Israel.  Not to say that he had a prior negative view of Israel by any means, he was most certainly impressed and in some cases blown away by what he had seen in just a few days, all as a result of MATIMOP strategically using Israel’s annual chairman position.
Having been in Israel for just over two months now, I am comfortably settled in and no longer feel like a tourist in a foreign city.  I have a group of new and old friends, a new daily routine, and generally a new Israeli lifestyle.  I am tremendously enjoying my time at MATIMOP and am confident that my responsibilities will only increase and my assignments will only become more interesting.  All of this begs the question: What next?  Despite booking a round trip flight to return in February, I came to Israel more than willing, if not eager, to extend my stay.  So when I’m asked questions about staying longer and even Aliyah, I by no means dismiss them.  If I have a worthwhile opportunity, whether it is to continue at MATIMOP or pursue something completely different, I am enthusiastic to remain in Israel. I’ve studied and cared about Israel my entire life, but this time I’m not touring with my family and I’m not here on a high school pilgrimage trip. Now, for the first time, I am enjoying living here and contributing at MATIMOP.
Published : December 08, 2010
Shnat Sikkum Seminar 2010 began with an opening tekes at the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheva. Brandon Alter, an Israel By Choice participant addressed the ceremony
“I am standing here today as a member of the Australian Jewish youth whose gap year in Israel, in my case IBC, is coming to a close. I could spend hours talking about how this experience has changed me as an individual as well as a collective part of Israeli and Australian society, however what I wish to share with you today, in my eyes means much, much more.
This ceremony here in Be’er Sheva signifies the meeting of two time periods and two cultures. We are here commemorating and celebrating the heroism and valour of Australian soldiers of past, in an empire that only exists in the pages of history. Concurrently, this ceremony exemplifies the interwoven reality of our Australian connection to the Modern State of Israel as young Jewish Zionists. The past meets the future.
83 years ago in what was once a barren desert, Australian soldiers, some of whom were even younger than us, mounted their horses and rode into history. Faced with an impressive display of well disciplined Turkish Soldiers and lethal machine guns, according to Trooper Eric Elliot the boys of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade thundered towards their enemy in the bravest and most awe inspiring charge ever witnessed. The success of these soldiers is not only measured in their stunning military victory, but rather the symbol of heroism, of determination and of a group spirit which still reverberates in our hearts today.
This battle plays great significance to us Australian Jewish youth, for there are many lessons that we are able to learn and replicate in our own lives. What we have experienced in this year away from our families, friends and comforts is extraordinarily maturing. Learning to deal with our own problems and volunteering with people in need have enabled us to appreciate our lives back in Australia and respect the sacrifices made by many, both in Israel and Australia which have made it possible for us to stand here today as Jewish Zionists free and proud.
Upon our return to Australia, many of us will enter University. The reality is, that without the shelter of Jewish Schools, movements and groups, we will be accosted with influences and vilifications which serve to undermine our core Jewish ideals and values. It is unfortunate that in this day and age we are still fighting a losing war against anti-Semitism, and with or without our knowledge, every single one of us plays a part.
The issue that will effect us most on campus however, is Israel. After a year of living in and experiencing every aspect of Israeli society, both the highs and the lows, we are well equipped to deal with the slander and double-standard criticism which is sometimes aired. In my eyes, it is this moment where the past meets the future.
We must take the lessons of the heroic charge of our fellow Australians and stand up for our values, for Israel’s right to exist and most importantly, for ourselves. Our role as Jewish Australian youth is to contribute to society in a constructive and progressive manner which may benefit the democratic and multicultural values upheld and by Australia whilst simultaneously reinforcing and advancing the Jewish People and Israel into a safer, more tolerant and unified future.
For over 2000 years this land has been an integral part of our Jewish lives. 83 years ago, the blood and tears of the 4th Light Horse Division forged an unbreakable connection between Australia and Israel. Today, as both Jews and Australians, this land has never meant more, and it is imperative that despite our geographical dislocation from Israel, she remains in our hearts and in our actions.
Thus, I implore you all, do not be passive nor let others undermine Israel’s right to exist. On behalf of our history, both Jewish and Australian, act to preserve, defend and advance Israel and this land in any way you can, she is both our past and our future.”

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