8 Awesome Pics for 8 Awesome Gap Year Moments

<div class="masa-blog-title">8 Awesome Pics for 8 Awesome Gap Year Moments</div>

Aardvark Israel participant Mati Davis decided to think outside of the box when it came to college. A few months ago Mati, embarked on the journey of a lifetime when he decided to boost his future college career and take a gap year in Israel. 


Check out some of Mati and friends' gap year highlights below!



The Top 8 Beaches in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">The Top 8 Beaches in Israel</div>

Written by Andria Kaplan-Aylyarov


Yes, BRRR. The weather is cold outside and as you kindle the Hanukkah flames and spin that dreidel, warm yourself up and imagine you’re under the Tel Aviv sun, soaking up the rays on one of these beaches.

…Because seriously, where else would you rather be?


1. Banana Beach
Located on the southernmost edge near Jaffa this beach is home to Friday night drum circles, hula hooping-bikini wearing girls, endless games of Matkot and sunbather after sunbather. Think of it as a Bohemian paradise right next to Tel Aviv.


2. Gordon Beach, Frishman Beach, Bograshov Beach
Welcome to beach-mania. These three beaches offer endless white sand, beautiful people and the perfect dose of sunshine. Located right in the center of Tel Aviv these beaches offer a great getaway with tons of bars and restaurants. Each beach is the perfect place to catch the addicting Tel Aviv sunset plus, there’s a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream stand at Gordon Beach. #YUM

3. Trumpeldor Beach
Walking down the beach in Tel Aviv you’ll spot an unusual statue and you know you’ve arrived at Trumpeldor Beach. This is a quieter beach amongst its neighbors since there are no facilities or lifeguards.

4. Jerusalem Beach
Formerly known as Geula Beach, Jerusalem Beach is located right off Allenby Street and near the very well-known Opera Tower building. You’ll find falafel shops and bodegas everywhere, so don’t worry about packing snacks for the day. It’s not touristy and is the perfect spot to meet all your friends for a relaxing beach day.

5. Tel Baruch Beach
Tel Baruch Beach may be one of Israel’s cleanest beaches. Fully equipped with green lawns, outdoor workout area, and seaside café it’s the perfect escape from a long week of classes or a big night out. 

6. Metzitzim Beach
If you wake up early enough on a Friday or Saturday morning,  take a stroll down Namal Tel Aviv, and  grab a coffee while you check out Metzitzim Beach. It’s more family oriented but offers three volleyball courts and an outdoor workout area. If that’s not your thing, however, keep walking north and you’ll catch twenty-something Israelis sipping Goldstar and hanging out.

7. The Surfer’s Beach at the Hilton Hof HaGolshim
Besides beautiful people watching all day long check out The Surfer’s Beach and prepare to be amazed at the skill, the surf, and the boys. It’s a hot spot to kayak or learn how to paddle board too!


8. Coral Reef Beach(Red Sea):
Okay, so this beach isn't in Tel Aviv but it's a sun worshipper's paradise. You can go from sand to snorkel to world-class resort within minutes. The best part? There's a good chance your Masa program already has a trip to Eilat planned. #GetReady

Andria Kaplan Aylyarov is a Masa Israel Alumna and content marketing specialist for Masa Israel Journey. She loves a good glass of white wine and wishes she was 85-years-old and living in Boca, but she currently resides in New York.


To learn more about Masa Israel and the programs we offer, click here. 


How To: Convince Your Family to Send You on a Gap Year

<div class="masa-blog-title">How To: Convince Your Family to Send You on a Gap Year</div>

Our families want what’s best for us, but sometimes they don’t know what’s best for us. At a certain point, we start deciding what’s best for us and it may take some convincing to get the fam on board. 

Show your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and the whole clan the benefits of taking a gap year with these four blog posts:



Happy Thanksgiving from Masa Israel Journey!

<div class="masa-blog-title">Happy Thanksgiving from Masa Israel Journey!</div>

Masa Israel participants from the Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit celebrate Thanksgiving from Israel thanking those who inspired them to take their journey and become today's leaders:



Masa Israel Thanksgiving Video

Masa Israel participants from the Masa GLI Global Leadership Summit celebrate Thanksgiving from Israel thanking those who inspired them to take their journey and become today's leaders! Watch and share! #Thanksgiving #MyMasa #Leadership #Thanksgiving2016 Masa Tlalim Career Israel BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture Destination Israel The Jewish Agency for Israel

Posted by Masa Israel Journey on Wednesday, November 23, 2016



Jewish Journal: Election Night 2016: The Sights and Sounds in Los Angeles and Israel

Jewish Journal: Election Night 2016: The Sights and Sounds in Los Angeles and Israel

November 10, 2016

By Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer


11:41 a.m. PST (9:41 p.m. local time), Abraham’s Hostel, Tel Aviv


“Let’s make America great again!” shouts an 18-year-old Texan, standing near the DJ booth as three screens hover above the dance floor of the Abraham Hostel.


Tonight, Masa Israel Journey, which brings young adults to study, intern and volunteer in Israel for several months, united participants through an election viewing event expected to go until 2 a.m. local time (4 p.m. in Los Angeles). Another participant repeats Trump’s campaign slogan.


“I don’t know who’s being sarcastic anymore,” says 24-year-old Michigan native Josh Linden, currently teaching English in Israel. He cast his absentee vote for Clinton. “I haven’t met anyone here voting for him yet but I haven’t been asking.” (The Texan, by the way, voted for Clinton.)


As a DJ tried to rev up the crowd with some hip-hop, with results still hours away, most of the people were lounging around, schmoozing over beer, or playing pool or table soccer. None seemed too worried about the United States, either way.


Maybe their comfort playing “Israeli” for the past two months has contributed to a feeling of detachment in the air. And while Abraham Hostel is so named for being a place that fosters peace among people, the crowd doesn’t seem to need the reconciliatory touch. Judging from a straw poll, Sara Eisen, the program’s chief communications officer, said most of the participants are Clinton supporters. But she attributes their laid-back attitude tonight to the nature of the program.


“I think, in general, people come to Israel to grow and to expand and to change — minds are wider,” she said.


Max Moser, 27, of Los Angeles and currently a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, didn’t want to reveal his choice.


“I’m not excited about the election like most Americans,” he said. “I feel like there’s really a lack of leadership in the United States government.”


Does this make him more inclined to make aliyah? Israel’s newest holiday, Aliyah Day, celebrating immigration to Israel, fell on Nov. 8.


“I’m considering aliyah but not because of the national election, at all.”


Originally published in the Jewish Journal

Northside Neighbor: Weber School Celebrates Israel with Lessons, Travel

Northside Neighbor: Weber School Celebrates Israel with Lessons, Travel

November 16, 2016

By Ross Williams


The hallways of The Weber School in Sandy Springs were decorated in blue and white Israeli flags last week in celebration of Israel Appreciation Week.

“At The Weber School we are committed to providing students with the information and educational environment necessary to empower them to think about and discuss Israel in the most knowledgeable and thoughtful manner,” said Rabbi Edward Harwitz, Weber’s head of school. “Israel Awareness Week is one of the opportunities provided to students at Weber for meaningful and deep Israel engagement.”


The event saw Jewish Book Award-winning author Daniel Gordis speak to students and parents about the history of Israel. His latest book, “Israel: a Concise History of a Nation Reborn,” aims to provide an accessible version of the nation’s history.


“Israel is a story of a homeless people that kept a dream alive for millennia, of a people’s redemption from the edge of the abyss, of a nation forging a future when none seemed possible,” Gordis wrote in his introduction.


Rachel Zebrak hopes students will do more than just read about Israel. She is Weber’s Israel experience coordinator, and she hosted an event for students who are interested in spending a gap year in that country.


A gap year is when high school graduates take a year off before starting college. It is often a time to gain work experience, volunteer or travel.


Zebrak said competitive colleges may find students who have taken the year off to be more appealing applicants.


“They actually go as far as to say they look for candidates that have taken a gap year, as they make much better students,” she said. “They’ve had a year to kind of sow their wild oats. They’re much more serious now about their studies. They might have found during this gap year what they really want to do career-wise.”


Zebrak said one way students might find their calling in Israel is through internships. She said internships in Israel are quite hands-on; students who want to go into medicine might choose to ride along with Magen David Adom, the Israeli Red Cross.


Weber cooperates with Masa Israel Journey, an organization founded by the Israeli government, to provide young Jews from various countries with the opportunity to visit and study in Israel.


The gap year fair was attended by representatives from various organizations including Tel Aviv University, Young Judea and Ben Gurion University.


Originally published in Northside Neighbor

The Jerusalem Post: One Year That is Changing My Life

The Jerusalem Post: One Year That is Changing My Life

November 16, 2016

By Jordana Wise, Aardvark Israel participant


Living in Israel made me feel so much happier, and I felt such a strong connection between myself and this country.

When I was 15 I spent the spring semester of tenth grade in Jerusalem. Sometime during those four months, I decided that after graduating from high school I was going to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and make aliya.


Living in Israel made me feel so much happier, and I felt such a strong connection between myself and this country. Every story I heard about someone who made aliya (moved to Israel) inspired me and I wanted to see myself follow that path.


I came home to Queens and told my parents my plans. They immediately accepted the idea, were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy. I spent every day wishing I was back in Israel, barely able to wait for that day to arrive. I decided that the best way to start was to spend a gap year in Israel. I could experience Israel in a way that I never had before and truly be a part of Israeli culture.


Masa Israel Journey offers a variety of gap-year programs in collaboration with The Jewish Agency for Israel and the government of Israel that cater to different students’ goals in Israel; I decided upon Aardvark because it would allow me to explore Israel in my own way. I choose where I volunteer, what classes I take, and participate in activities based on my personal interests.



A MEANINGFUL experience in Israel is a must for the Diaspora (photo credit: REUTERS) 


Two months into the program and I can’t imagine being on a college campus instead. In this short time I have learned how to live independently, explored Jerusalem, picked up a lot of Hebrew and made new lifelong friends. Every day is filled with volunteering, tiyulim (trips), classes about Israel and Judaism, and of course, loads of fun.


I am soon to begin a program called Marva in which I will live on an Israeli army base for eight weeks, like a real soldier. This particular feature of Aardvark and other Masa programs will be very helpful as I prepare for my future career in the IDF.


I am hopeful this experience will lead me to becoming a stronger and more capable leader.


Going on a Masa program has allowed me to slowly ease myself into living on my own in Israel and getting used to a new lifestyle as I develop a stronger, global perspective on the world around me and deepen my connection to my Judaism.


Gap-year programs aren’t only good for people like me who want to make aliya, however. This type of transformative, immersive experience is also ideal for people who want to experience Israel in a whole new way for a significant amount of time, whether to volunteer, intern, study or just have a unique personal building experience before college.


MOST OF my Jewish-American peers have gone straight off to college, many without even thinking twice about participating in a gap-year program.


But I believe that spending a substantial amount of time living on my own in Israel has helped me build a stronger connection between myself and the Land of Israel as well as with the Israeli people.


Through all of its programs, Masa Israel helps future olim plant their feet in Israel and also creates a way for Diaspora Jews to strengthen the bond with their Israeli brethren. Not only is it important to maintain this connection on an individual level, but as a community it is also crucial for Diaspora Jews to treat Israel as a necessity to our Jewish identities.


By sending thousands of young people to Israel for long-term programs every year, Masa programs have massively contributed to the movement of people who are dedicated to keeping this bond alive and making it stronger.


The author is currently participating in Aardvark Israel, a gap-year program through Masa Israel Journey.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post

72 Hours with Masa

<div class="masa-blog-title">72 Hours with Masa </div>

The Hebrew word Masa translated to English literally means journey and the staff of Masa have spent the last 72 hours on an epic one. Our Masa North America team landed in Washington D.C. on Sunday for the GA, the Business Development team is leading a delegation of top U.S. university professionals through the startup nation and 200 Masa participants have begun the Masa GLI Global Leadership Summit in Jerusalem.

You may be thinking, wow, one company in so many places but for Masa, it’s the norm. Check out the images below for a closer view of our staff, participants and most of all the good vibes from the last 72 hours!


Masa GLI Leadership Summit Gala:




2016 North American Career Development Delegation:


Masa North America at the GA:


To stay up-to-date with Masa Israel Journey, follow us on Facebook and Instagram @MasaIsrael!


eJewish Philanthropy: Thousands of Masa Israel Participants Gather for Welcome Event

eJewish Philanthropy: Thousands of Masa Israel Participants Gather for Welcome Event

November 2, 2016

Masa Dance Party

Masa Israel Journey 2016-2017 gap year participants start an impromptu dance party in the lobby of Jerusalem’s ICC, in preparation for Masa Israel’s annual welcome event; photo by Ran Biran.

Masa Israel Journey held its annual Welcome Event on Monday evening in Jerusalem.


Masa Opening Event

Participants (including interns, volunteers, and students) celebrated the transformative experiences that await them together; photo by Ran Biran.


The gathering serves to officially welcome thousands of the 12,000 18-30 year-olds who have recently arrived in Israel to participate in dozens of long-term Israel programs including gap years, study abroad, internships, teaching English to young students, and other post-college initiatives.


Masa Hatikva 6

Israeli reggae band Hatikva 6 on October 31, 2016, at Jerusalem’s ICC; photo by Ran Biran.


With Israeli TV personality Jason Danino Holt as emcee, participants were entertained by live music from Yemenite electronic folk band A-WA and Israeli reggae group Hatikva 6. American-Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt hosted a Jewish geography game show.


Masa Opening Event

Participants from the United States and Russia show off their national pride; photo by Ran Biran.


“We bring thousands of Masa Israel Journey program participants together at this pep rally-style event, so they can get a taste of the exciting journey they each have ahead of them,” said Masa Israel Journey CEO, Liran Avisar. “We want all of our participants to understand that they are now part of a community larger than themselves, and a network that goes far beyond the specific programs on which they are enrolled. Together, we will celebrate Israeli culture and get our participants excited about experiencing Masa Israel their way – “My Masa” – so they can make the most of the transformative time in Israel to come.”


Originally published in eJewish Philanthropy

The Forward: Why I'm Not Going to College This Year

The Forward: Why I'm Not Going to College This Year

The Forward: Why I'm Not Going to College This Year

November 4, 2016

By Noa Emas,Young Judaea Year Course


I just graduated high school with perfect grades, an acceptance letter to my number one university, and what I thought was a sense of what I wanted to do with my life. Yet, to the surprise of many, I am not attending college this year. While my friends were choosing their classes and buying textbooks, I packed my bags and got on a plane to Israel for a year.

In America, students are expected to go to high school, immediately enroll in college, find a job, and then settle down. That can leave little room for us to explore who we are and what we want from life. When are we supposed to learn about ourselves outside of a classroom? When we have a job and family, and it’s presumed we already know? I believe the best time is when we’re still growing, and when we can afford to spend time traveling and exploring.


When many people hear “gap year,” they unfortunately — and falsely — assume that the person didn’t get into college, has no drive, or just wants to relax and do nothing for a year. Even my dad was originally completely against the idea of a gap year. But these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. I chose to take a year off between high school and college in order to broaden my understanding of the world, myself, and my connection to Israel as a young Jew.


About two years ago, I went on a month-long trip to Israel with my Jewish youth group. We traveled the country and learned all about our history. I fell in love with everything it had to offer. I got off the plane in America with a feeling of homesickness, and I realized I needed to go back.


I am currently on Young Judaea Year Course, a gap year program supported by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Government of Israel, through which I am spending half my year in Jerusalem taking classes about Judaism and Zionism, and the other half of my year in Bat Yam volunteering with local organizations.


Hiking in Israel

Credit: Pixiby


In Young Judaea’s words, “Year course isn’t a year off between high school and college — it’s a year on.” This program felt like the perfect fit for me, and, soon after I arrived in Israel two months ago, I was proven right. I may not be attending university, but I am learning more about myself and developing as a person — not just as a student. I have met people from every walk of life with every political and religious affiliation.


I am also experiencing living on my own. I have five roommates and together, we have to make a budget, shop for groceries, cook our meals, clean the apartment, make sure any maintenance issue is dealt with, and go to the doctor’s office a few blocks away when we don’t feel well. All of these are things I wouldn’t have to deal with in a college dorm, and now I am prepared to live in a dorm or apartment with the knowledge and confidence of how to manage everything.


The stigma about gap years must be broken down. We need to allow young people to find out what they want from life, and with the variety of gap year programs out there, every individual has the opportunity to find the one that’s right for them. Spending a year exploring one’s sense of self, one’s goals, one’s reason for being will save money, time, and the stress and pressure of seeking to figure out the same things in college, which often isn’t the right environment to develop such conclusions.


By allowing myself to not rush into college, I will attend university next fall with a better understanding of how the real world operates and how I fit into that world. My journey has only just begun, and I already know the rest of the year will impact who I am for the rest of my life.


Noa Emas graduated from Fullerton Union High School in Fullerton, earlier this year, and will attend Johnson and Wales University in Providence in fall 2017, to major in Baking and Pastry Arts and Business Management. She keeps a blog detailing her gap year at https://noasisraeladventures.wordpress.com/ and can be reached via email.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.


Originally published in the Forward