Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : January 31, 2013
By Israel Katz, Yeshivat Lev HaTorah
We were standing on a hill, looking down at the Valley of Elah, and my Rabbi started telling us the story of the battle between David and Goliath as if we were suppose to relate to it somehow. 
Then he pointed down and said “The valley down there, that’s where David and Goliath fought.” 
All of a sudden I realized the uniqueness of Israel. 
Where else in the world can you come, pull out a bible, and stand in the place where this exact event happened thousands of years later? 
It was at this point that I started to realize how special Israel was to me, and to the rest of the Jewish nation. People study history, some people even enjoy digging up history. 
I’ve come to understand that the center of it all is Israel. 
The feeling that I get when I learn Torah in Israel is different than any other place in the world.  Like I mentioned earlier, nowhere else can you open up a bible and stand in the place in which any specific event took place. 
I strongly believe that the Torah is made for the Jewish people and the homeland for them is Eretz Yisrael. 
There is a feeling of holiness there, that I think applies to every and any Jew, because of that fact. 
Israel is a place where everyone can find themselves. It is a place where history comes alive. 
Anyone from any background can come and find out who they want to be and what they want to become. 
It’s not a matter of being ultra-religious or barely affiliated, Israel is a place for all Jews.
In Israel I get that feeling you can only get when you absolutely love something. 
You know, that priceless feeling where you don’t realize anything else going on. 
It’s like - nothing else matters and everything seems perfect in the world. When I am in Israel that’s the feeling I get I am home, and nothing can change that. 
Israel is the best place to practice my religion, to serve G-d, find myself, become who I want to become, and live the life I dream of, a life that is truly my own. 
Published : January 30, 2013
Max Gottlieb is an aspiring singer-guitarist-songwriter from Philadelphia. In eighth grade he started playing music, and realised that he wanted to do it for the rest of his life. When it came time to come to Israel on a Masa program, Max thought he would be taking a break from his guitar – but that’s not what happened…
So, what made you decide to come to Israel?
In my last year of school, I was totally set on going straight to university and studying music. I went through the entire audition process, and practiced so hard that I got tendonitis in my wrist. I knew I wasn’t ready for music at university, and I didn’t know what to do. But then I heard about Aardvark.
I was curious, and I decided to give it a go. When I first arrived I was just excited to be in a new country. Now I’ve totally fallen in love with Israel. Before I came here I don’t know if I would have put it on my itinerary - but it's starting to feel more and more like home. 
What effect has Israel had on your musical journey?
I thought that coming to Israel would be a nice break from my music - but it’s been just the opposite. Aardvark is a program that gives us a lot of independence. I’ve had the opportunity to go out and meet some incredible people, and get a feeling for music again. One of my best friends here is a dancer. She convinced me that I didn’t want to live a life of regrets, and that I shouldn’t give up on being a musician. 
Thanks to that mixture of independence and the direction I got from the people around me, I’ve come back to music. I’ve got a lot of the confidence back that I had lost – coming back to music now seems so natural. 
What’s the best part of living here? 
Israel is really one big community. I find it amazing how much people trust each other here. I was in Jerusalem, waiting at bus stop. Some kid came up to me, told me he didn’t have a ticket, and asked for my help.  The fact that he had the confidence to ask a total stranger for help really impressed me. People are so comfortable with one another here. It creates a sense of community that’s really special and I love that. 
You just put out a music video set on the top of Masada. Tell us how that happened. 
Some friends and I decided to start making music videos, but we wanted to make them a bit different. So, we started filming them with some incredible Israeli scenery as our backdrops. My program was going on a trip to Masada, so of course I had to do a video there. We hiked all the way up the mountain with the guitar, and got some funny looks. Standing on top of Masada inspired the song choice – Stand By Me by Ben E. King.
Want to support Max? Take a look at his Youtube channel and follow him on facebook!

Explore The Blog