Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : February 02, 2012
By Zoe Goldstein-McKay, Medford, NJ, Young Judaea Year Course
This past weekend, I was invited to a Shabbaton by Masa. The idea was to bring American and Israeli teens together to get to know and discuss with each other about issues pertaining to Israel.
The weekend started with a friendly game of paintball. As I was running around in a red jumpsuit with orange paint being shot at me, I worried about whether or not I would have anything to say to the Israeli teens. I wasn’t so sure if we had anything in common. It turned out that I shouldn’t have worried for a moment. I started talking to a group of Israelis during lunch and realized that though we lived miles away from each other and shared different cultures, our wants, worries, and excitements were similar, if not, in some cases, the exact same.
After lunch, we arrived to our hotel and got our room assignments. During a two-hour break to prepare for Shabbat, I had a conversation in halting English with my two roommates. I admit that their English was far superior to my Hebrew. We discussed music, movies, and things we liked. One of the girls immediately invited me to her home for a future Shabbat.
Before dinner, we played games that were fun in that no one held anything back. No one was afraid to be themselves and act silly or goofy which made the games all the more fun. During dinner, there was a cheerful feeling of camaraderie in the air as we gabbed like old friends. After dinner, there was more fun and games.
The next day was full of seminars about Israel and its role in the international Jewish community, what it means to be a Jew, and what, if any responsibility Jews in the diaspora have towards Israel and its well being. It was a day full of fascinating discussions and it was great to hear the Israeli perspective on the topics at hand.
Overall the weekend was a success which has launched a Facebook group for us to keep in touch, plus a possible other Shabbaton at the chanichims’ request.
Well done, Masa, mission accomplished!
Published : February 01, 2012
By Shiran Bittan, Israeli participant in Masa Israel'Community's Mifgashim initiative
Hi, my name is Shiran Bittan, 22 years old from Sedot Negev regional council, 4 years active in the Partnership. I would like to share with you my last experience in a joint program between various Partnerships youth and Masa project participants. Masa is the parent organization for all long-term projects of young adults from abroad. 
The program included three meetings. The first seminar was conducted in Beit Shean, where we met with 60 Masa participants and 40 Partnership activists from all over Israel. Ten young adults from Netivot-Sedot Negev region, active in our Partnership, participated in these meetings. During the weekend, hand-in-hand with experiential activities, we learned to know each other, similarities and differences between various cultures and each other world view. The real icebreaker was in a party in one of the neighboring Kibbutzim and its continuation in a bicycle ride along Beit Shean valley. The uniqueness of this Shabbat was each participant's willingness to participate and to get to know the other participants and their communities. During the Shabbat I heard many different worldviews of special people, with cultural differences and various ideals, as well as ones similar to mine, which I would not have been exposed to without this special project—a fact that made the experience more powerful.
The second part of the seminar was conducted in Tel Aviv a month later and already had an atmosphere of good old friends. Conversations were fluent and the excitement was at its peak. One unit that left its mark was the one regarding community: What is a community for me? A trivial term, because as an Israeli I've always lived in a community and questions like: Kosher? Assimilation? Keeping the Jewish identity? All of there were far away from me, because they seemed obvious. In my view, I am a Jew living in a Jewish community with all the Jewish effects. In time I will marry a Jewish man and educate my children with Jewish identity, so I didn't feel the need to deal in these questions.
Suddenly, when we were asked what is community, and I heard so many different answers regarding communities abroad and the difficulties in belonging to a Jewish community in the Diaspora, the entire unit made me look differently at my community, learn to appreciate it and understand its importance.  
The last part of the seminar was conducted three weeks later during Shabbat in Jerusalem. In addition to the spectacular tour in the holy city and the interesting parts along the day, the part that won my heart was the discussion we, the participants, initiated. We talked about things that interest us, in Israel and the Diaspora, and the special thing was that we were drawn into the conversation, which lasted for hours. We all arrived happily to this Shabbat, but with a little sadness because it was the last part of the seminar. For us it was the beginning of a new initiative - we initiate the next meetings, as individuals and as a group. 
I think this seminar reached one of its many goals and the main one - making connections and keeping them. This seminar caused us to want to keep this amazing connection, this beautiful partnership between so many people.  The main reason for the success is the long process we had together. Three meetings over several months had their effect. As a partner to this process I can say that the connections are still strong, even a month after the program, be it through Facebook, or hosting participants for Shabbat, or organizing a group meeting next month.
I will certainly recommend to each Partnership activist to participate in such a wonderful project, and I would like to thank the Partnerships Department of the Jewish Agency that enabled me to participate.

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