Masa Israel Journey Blog

Published : July 18, 2014

Masa Israel is highlighting the voices of our participants and alumni who are in Israel during Operation Protective Edge to give an authentic look at what it’s like to live and work in the country at this time. This account is from Brian Burchman, a current participant of Israel Way - Tel Aviv Internship Experience



Since I went on Birthright last summer, I knew I wanted to come back to Israel. Through Masa Israel Journey, I was able to obtain an internship in Tel Aviv. For the first several months of the program, Israel was exactly the same as last year; beautiful, fun and relaxed.


However, today is definitely not the same as several weeks ago.  I was not prepared for the current state of Israel between the kidnappings, rocket sirens and the Iron Dome. To say it was a culture shock the first time I heard the siren would be an understatement. I’ll admit, coming from the United States and having no military background, let alone experience with guns, the thought of rockets being fired towards you is obviously a bit alarming. With today’s news outlets, it is tough to find an unbiased news source back home, thus I could not grasp the current situation. With every source showing pictures of death, it just created anxiety for my family back home. Ultimately, this created a veil of ambiguity, as I did not fully see nor understand the situation. At first, all I had was my basic instinct, which was to hope for the best and be prepared for the worse.  


As the conflict has progressed, I spoke with others who have gone through this adjustment stage and whom I trust, such as my hockey friends (former IDF officers). This really helped to calm me down as I could get an Israeli perspective of the situation. Having people you can rely upon for news and their past experiences helped me create a better picture of the current situation, thus allowing me to think and react in a more calculated and reasonable manner. Further, by listening as well as seeing how others (both members of my program and Israelis) react during these alarms gives me confidence that I will eventually be as calm and clear headed as they are during these unsettling times.


As I continue to go to work, I still see the same amount of people in the streets, on the buses and even in the workplace. It is actually tough to tell that Israel is in a conflict because Tel Aviv looks just as busy today as it did when I arrived. Looking back on the first alarm I was upset as I did not know what to expect, but now I understand the situation better. Each time the sirens go off, I become a little more level-headed and a little less anxious. I call my parents and assure them I’m okay. When you boil it down, as long as you are smart and do not panic, you will be better prepared to deal with the unknown. It is a learning curve and just like anything new, it takes time to adjust. I only hope things can return to normal…whatever that really means today! 



Published : July 15, 2014

Masa Israel is highlighting the voices of our participants and alumni who are in Israel during Operation Protective Edge to give an authentic look at what it’s like to live and work in the country at this time. This account is from Rachel Jetter, a recent alumna of the Yahel Social Change program, through which she volunteered in an Ethiopian-Israeli community for ten months. Rachel made Aliyah after the end of her program and now the Assistant Director at BOMAH in Jerusalem.

I was at a concert outside of the Old City with some friends last week during the first siren. Everyone knew that the country was facing activity that day and while we were all constantly checking the latest updates on our iPhones, we weren’t going to abandon the concert tickets we purchased out of fear of something that might not even disturb the night’s events. Trying to provide constant comfort to my parents back in the states, I sent this picture with the caption “Safe in Jerusalem - at a concert!”

Nefesh Yehudi Concert

Old City, Jerusalem minutes before a siren


Three minutes later, sirens went off. The concert was shut down and everyone raced home.  The rest of the night was quiet — although if a siren went off, I’m not sure I would have heard it over the volume of my loudly beating heart.  

My anxiety about Operation Protective Edge pretty much ended that night. Reading articles and engaging in conversations with Israelis gives me comfort and enables me to be more informed. Restaurants, stores, and public transportation all operate normally, and continue to do so five minutes after a siren stops. My Israeli friends are calm and go about their daily lives without fear or worry. No meetings or classes are canceled. I worried before thinking about the situation because I felt like I should; because that was what I did when I was back in the States and when I didn’t hear about people grocery shopping, laying out in parks, and going to school on the news. Needless to say, I’ve started reading more Israeli news articles than American ones.


Down town Jerusalem, last week, the evening after a siren


Other sirens have gone off since this first one and luckily I haven’t been by myself during them. The composure of the people around me, the amount of shelter-selfies taken, and the sense of community prominent during these times, all allow me to take these sirens as five-minute disturbances to my day.

So, what’s my reality during Operation Protective Edge? My ears and eyes are alert, my phone provides me with updated notifications, I regularly call family members and I give an extra big smile of appreciation to the guard on the train. I grab coffee at Aroma on my way to my office in Musrara, Jerusalem and I meet a client or two throughout the day. Ironically, I work at an Israeli start-up that specializes in social media and much of our energy goes towards explaining our Israel experiences. In the evenings, I have been going to Ulpan and meeting up with friends.

I am well aware that unlike many other areas in Israel, Jerusalem has seen very few missiles at this point in the operation. I also know that these sirens are not simply disturbances and that they are serious threats. However, my “keep on trucking” mentality is the result of an implicit trust I never before realized I had within me. I trust my Israeli friends around me, the individuals patrolling the streets, and the IDF, specifically the technology of the Iron Domes. Forgetting Hamas for just a minute, I think about that trust and how THAT, not necessarily experiencing the sirens, has made me just a little bit more Israeli.

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