Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : March 28, 2013


By Danielle Blustein, Masa Israel Media Fellows


Everyone thinks they know the "typical Israeli." They wake up to a huge Israeli style breakfast, omlettelady complete, leave their beautiful house made of Jerusalem stone and head off to work where they will either cure cancer, make a computer so smart that the world starts worrying about The Terminator having an Israeli accent and a nice tan, or simply yell at people on the phone all day because hey, "they're Israeli!"    

I'm just starting to think that this stereotype was made by wishful thinking American gap year students.

When I wake up in my Israeli gap year program, it's not the savory smell of eggs cooking that reach my bed. Breakfast is a 17% fat filled cheese and 500% artery clogging milk combo, and while yes, being delicious, I often wonder if I should bother putting it in my mouth or save a few steps and simply slap it on my hips and thighs and just leave it there. 

My Jerusalem stone built house is actually a 1950's communist style building. Square. Grey. Crumbly. My shower fits about half of me and be wary of closing the door too hard! Ceiling pieces fall lovingly on heads like a very angry snow drifting down from a really painful sky. 

But that's my Jerusalem suburb, Kiryat HaYovel, "Jubilee-town," the town that's nice once every fifty years.

My job does not include fixing global issues nor changing Israel's world standing. I teach English at a Chabad School where the only question they have for me about english is if I know Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez and is One Direction my favorite band ever?!?

But really, living like an Israeli means under-reacting.

A few weeks ago many schools planned a trip to Eilat, my school among them. However, flash floods were predicted and every school but mine, backed out. We still woke up early in the morning to go hiking, our Rabbi strapping on his hiking gun. We hiked in the rain, in the snow, and the hail, all the while our Rabbi's five year old son beating us up the mountain. Because rain or rockets, the Israelis don't stop. 

During Pillar of Defense every other school was being put on lockdown, locked-in, locked-up, locked anywhere and everywhere so that they would be "as safe as possible."

My school, called everyone into a room and in a few words told us to "grow up, we're in Jerusalem, not Sderot." And that was the end of it. We continued to take busses to go to our volunteering and only once did we delay our weekly trip twenty minutes to scramble to the bomb shelter. But when my Mom asked me if I felt safe, without hesitation I said yes.  

Because that's the real Israeli stereotype, the Sabra. Thick skinned on the outside but sweet on the inside. Not letting the multiple daily threats that come at Israel affect them at all. Their Sabra coat of armor is the best Pillar of Defense. They may yell at you on the phone for an hour before even asking your name, but they have to. It's how they protect themselves. But stay in the land for a year, and you'll delve into the sweet, sensitive side of Israel. The view from the mountain, albiet is cold, but is so breathtaking you can't help yourself but thank God. Your students use Miley Cyrus for every example, but they also need to know what your being for purim and if you can friend them on Facebook. Kiryat HaYovel is dirty, but that's because it's not touristy. It's Israeli. So now your hebrew is Impeccable. And although you speak with a heavy, for some reason Spanish, accent, you can learn the real secret of the Israeli local, and find your own Sabra Skin to join the Israeli locals with.


Danielle Blustein is a Masa participant studying at Midreshet Yeud, and is a fellow in Masa's inaugural Media Fellows program.

Published : March 19, 2013
By Tamara Raynor Cote, Israel Teaching Fellows
What does it take to make a leader? To take someone uninformed, unengaged and unmotivated and turn them into a spark of hope for an entire community?
Hard work and dedication play their part -- it's certainly not an easy task and leadership, as most believe, stems partially from your belief in yourself and partially from the belief others have in your potential. So how do you get others to believe not only in you but in their own internal strengths?
To begin with I think having a great network of supportive and like-minded individuals surrounding you invigorates you beyond comparison. The Masa Leadership Summit aimed to do just this. To provide us with a supportive network, some 400 participants across the involvement spectrum from dozens of countries around the world working towards one goal and spending quality time together discussing the needs and strengths of their respective communities.
I was impressed by the quality of presentation we saw. The amount of work that it took to organize such an event truly was a shining example of leadership. Excellent staffing and workshops led by experts in assorted fields from philosophy to religion, marketing to social work, political science to business management helped participants wade through the many ideas being tossed into the air like balloons to see which ones would float. Our workshops and group challenges were excellent at encouraging teamwork and partnership, not just through theoretical discussions but on-the-ground activities that pushed us to our limits. Neot Kedumim and its ropes courses, shepherding, and archery training sessions pushed us both perhaps physically and socially, and enabled us to create bonds that cross borders and bridge differences. We developed pride in our abilities to surpass goals and meet expectations and had fun doing it.
Developing a strong team helped participants find their place in a crowded and overly stimulating environment. The Beit Yehuda guest house became our headquarters for the week and familiar faces in the crowd in the dining hall eased us into the transition--and led to some interesting and hilarious conversations.
Each and every day we dealt with issues facing the Jewish global community--and not only this, but issues facing our individual communities. We heard examples and diagnostics, tools and suggestions for improving and invigorating our communities. The skills and ideas I gained from the summit will not only help me when I return to my community back home, but I'm sure I can transfer them to other areas of my life--not only to aid the Jewish people but to accomplish my personal goals. 

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