Enduring Love: What I Learned During my Year in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">Enduring Love: What I Learned During my Year in Israel</div>

By Shlomo Klapper, Yeshivat Har Etzion

 

Ah!  What a romance! The times we had.  Nothing could go wrong.  Visiting her was Seventh Heaven. All the wonderful places and memories – the Israel Museum, the Kotel, Machaneh Yehudah – imbued with excitement, culture, history and mystery.

 

 

Masa Israel Journey Volunteers from Around the World Join Israel's Public Diplomacy Efforts

Masa Israel Journey Volunteers from Around the World Join Israel's Public Diplomacy Efforts

Masa Israel Journey Volunteers from Around the World Join Israel's Public Diplomacy Efforts

November 19, 2012

By Margot Saffer
 
On Monday, November 19th, The Jewish Agency for Israel and Masa Israel Journey opened an International New Media Center in Jerusalem which isstaffed by volunteers from around the world who are participating in Masa programs. 
The center will allow the volunteers to share their personal experiences of living in Israel under rocket fire with people aroundP the world through social media, in multiple languages.
 
The volunteers were briefed by the Jewish Agency’s Head of Social Media, Avi Mayer, on Israeli public diplomacy efforts and on the use of social media to get one’s message across. Members of the local and international media also reported on the opening of the Center and interviewed the volunteers, with several additional news outlets - IBA news in English, Channel 1 in Arabic, Kol Israel Radio, and Ha'aretz among them – due to visit Tuesday. 
 
Benjamin Dannenberg, a volunteer on the Israel Teaching Fellows program from Connecticut in the U.S. said: “It feels great to contribute in some way, if not to the IDF, then to the state of Israel. We came to volunteer in some capacity. Since we can’t teach now, this is a great way to broaden our message to the world.” 
 
The volunteers come from English, Spanish, Russian and French- speaking countries and are workingin various capacities through Masa, volunteering as English teachers in Israeli schools (ITF – Israel Teaching Fellows) and interning in various government offices (Israel Government Fellows (IGF), and Real Life Israel). Manymembers of the group are living in Be'erSheva and Ashdod where, over recent weeks, they have experienced how difficult life is for residents of southern Israel living under rocket fire.
 
Josh Neuman is a 22-year-old graduate of Penn State University where he studied Political Science and History. It was his experience volunteering at an arts and sciences day camp for elementary school children that made him choose the ITFtrack of the Masa Israel Journey program. 
 
He tells of how, last Sunday, he was teaching an elementary school in Be’erSheva when a siren was sounded. He had to evacuate his students from the second floor to the basement, even having to carry a young girl who was too shocked to run. “I consider myself to be mentally tough, but seeing these children crying and praying and hugging each other for comfort, I almost lost it. But I had to keep it together for the children’s sake.” 
 
Josh said he became extremely angered by the ignorance of the international media, which he had not until that point understood as clearly. He feels that no children anywhere should undergo the kind of trauma endured as a matter of course by the kids in southern Israel. He began his own campaign to update his community back in the Bay Area. “I joined this initiative of the Masa program because I want to help create a network that ensures the flow of truth – of both sides of the story – and maybe balance out the tides of the media war – which is the war itself! Half the battle is won with the support.”
 
Deborah, a Brazilian from Masa's Real Life Israel program, agrees. She has secured a live interview on Tuesday with the largest radio station in Brazil, in which she intends to share "the real story."
 
Meghan, 21, from Paris, also wants to convey to her friends and family back home the Israel that she has discovered since her internship with IGF started three months ago. She graduated from The Sorbonne with a degree in History and Political Science, and is now volunteering at Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection. 
 
On her social media streams, she finds it difficult to bridge the gap between being accused of being blindly pro-Israel, and conveying what she has personally experienced to be true. “I need to stay. I need to show them [back home] what is happening. I am not going to change my plans because of this. They [the terrorists] will not win.”
 
Meghan was walking with a friend in Jaffa last Shabbat when they heard the Code Red siren. She saw the missile explode after it was intercepted by the Iron Dome. Her terrified mother told Meghan that she had booked a ticket for her to come back to France. 
 
But she told her mom that she feels safe. “We trust the country,” added Meghan. 
 
The International New Media Centre is being opened in coordination with the National Information Directorate, the Foreign Ministry, and the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. The volunteers will use social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and web comments, among others.Masa Israel Journey is a joint project of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel.  Participants spend 5-10 months in Israel and can choose from a wide range of programs involving volunteer work, studying or professional internships.  Over 10,000 young Jews from 60 countries participate in Masa programs each year. Graduates become" ambassadors" for Israel upon their return to their home countries.

Update from Masa Israel: Community Hotline Established

Update from Masa Israel: Community Hotline Established

November 19, 2012

The safety and security of Masa Israel Journey program participants, staff and partners is our top priority.
As a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa Israel programs receive updated information regularly from the Israeli Home Front Command regarding safety and security and are able to respond to official recommendations. Our staff continues to be in touch with every Masa Israel program to ensure information is shared effectively and to assist as needed.
 
As Operation Pillar of Defense began this past week, the Israeli Home Front Command issued an advisory for individuals within a forty kilometer radius of the Gaza Strip. Masa Israel Journey has maintained direct contact with programs operating in the South of Israel and has assisted in relocating participants to Tel Aviv and further north. All Masa Israel program participants based in the South have been relocated outside of the 40 kilometer radius. 
 
Over the last few days, additional areas of Israel have been affected by rocket fire and Masa Israel Journey continues to be in close and continuous contact with all of its programs and with the Home Front Command to monitor the situation. We will make additional policy decisions as needed per the instructions given by Israeli Home Front Command.
 
We are instructing all Masa Israel programs to update participants regularly regarding security and safety procedures and to ensure access to shelters in case of civil defense alarms. Masa Israel is also working with program directors to make psychological and educational resources available as needed.
 
We are encouraging all programs to help participants communicate with their families. Masa Israel has established a hotline for parents, family and community members needing assistance contacting participants or other information. If you need assistance connecting with a family or community member who is on a Masa Israel program, please call: 
 
6 am EST -  3pm EST (Israel Office) 
1-866-864-3279 / +972-2-621-6049
masainfo@masaisrael.org
 
3pm EST - 11pm EST (New York Office)
1-855-462-6272
masany@masaisrael.org
 
These are difficult days for Israel and for Jewish communities around the world. Masa Israel is committed to ensuring a safe and secure Israel experience for all of our participants, not only during these difficult days, but year-round.
 
Please feel free to be directly in touch with us with any questions or concerns.
 
Thank you for your continued support.
 

Security Update From Masa Israel

Security Update From Masa Israel

November 15, 2012

The safety and security of Masa Israel Journey program participants, staff and partners is our top priority.
Masa Israel Journey maintains strict standards for safety and security on all program sponsored activities. Masa Israel has been in touch directly with programs located in the south and many have either relocated their programs temporarily or have placed participants in communities further north.
 
As a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa Israel programs receive updated information regarding safety and security regularly and are able to respond to official recommendations. Our staff is in touch with every Masa Israel program to ensure information is shared effectively and to assist as needed.
 
If you have questions regarding safety and security, please contact us on Facebook at facebook.com/masaisrael, on Twitter at @masaisrael or speak with our helpdesk at 1.866.864.3279 or masainfo@masaisrael.org.
 

BBYO Beyond

http://www.masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/BBYOBeyond.png

Program Description

Beyond is a fresh and innovative program that emphasizes leadership development while combining the benefits of both formal and informal educational experiences. Living in Israel, for either 5 or 9 months, Beyond offers a unique balance of academics, experiential travel, enrichment education, cultural immersion, and community service. Open to applicants of all Jewish backgrounds and nationalities, the program is forward looking and exposes participants to a variety of ideas without advancing a specific religious, political, or ideological approach.
 
The first session of Beyond is centered in Tel Aviv and leverages the city’s many assets – highlighting the innovation of Israel, a taste of campus life at Tel Aviv University, and ample opportunities for exploration.
 
The second session of Beyond is about choosing your own path and making an impact. The core elements include selecting an elective block and a community-based service project in either Jerusalem or in Ethiopia. Together, these experiences are designed to open a window onto a unique aspect of Israeli society and give participants a chance to leave their own personal mark.
 
Although the Beyond year is generally an all-inclusive experience, a number of optional add-ons are available for participants seeking additional enrichment experiences within Israel or beyond its borders.
 

Specialty Tracks and add-ons:

- Community Service Electives – Jerusalem or Ethiopia
- Enrichment Electives – IDF Marva Basic Training, Magen David Adom Paramedic Course, or Volunteering at Kibbutz Kramim
- International Travel Electives – Italy, Spain, and Poland
- Skills Electives – Culinary Arts, Photography & Videography, and Scuba Diving

Highlights

- Choose either a 5 or 9 month experience
- Live in Tel Aviv for the first session
- Combine community service, travel, and cultural immersion in the second session
- Travel opportunities in Israel, Europe, and Africa
- Add a skills elective such as culinary course, video and photography course, or scuba diving course

BBYO starting new gap year program in Israel

BBYO starting new gap year program in Israel

October 18, 2012

(JTA) -- BBYO is launching a new pre-college gap year program in Israel.
The Beyond program, part of BBYO Passport, is in conjunction with Authentic Israel, which runs Birthright Israel programs; Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life; Masa Israel Journey; and Tel Aviv University. It offers an academic experience combined with service opportunities, leadership programming and travel.
 
Registration for the 2013-14 program opens Aug. 22.
 
Beyond participants can join a five- or nine-month experience, both of which are eligible for an automatic Masa scholarship of $1,000, with up to $3,000 more being available based on financial need. 
 
Tel Aviv University serves as the program’s home base, and participants have additional opportunities to travel in Europe, perform community service in Africa, and learn scuba diving and cooking.  

Masa Israel Alumni Leadership Summit

Masa Israel Alumni Leadership Summit

October 14, 2012 - 14:00  -  October 14, 2012 - 16:30

UJA FederationNew York, NY  - 

You returned from Israel last month, last year, 2 years ago…Now what? New York is a big place, and Masa Israel wants to help make it smaller.
Come to the Alumni Leadership Summit to
-connect with other Israel program alumni,
-hone your professional skills, and
-get information on involvement opportunities here in New York!
 
The cost of this awesome opportunity…FREE!! But spaces are limited so sign up in advance by visiting www.masaisrael.org/alumnisummit2012.
Here’s the event schedule:
2:00 Registration & networking
2:20 Greetings
2:45 Breakout Sessions
–How Does My Israel Experience Inform My Career?
–Finding Your Place In the Professional Jewish World
–Get Involved: Where Can I Make a Difference?
3:30 New York Engagement Fair & Networking
 
This event is open to all Masa Israel alumni. Light snacks will be served. You must have an ID with you to enter the event. Thank you to the event co-chairs, Dina Silberstein & Hallie Cohn. Contact Dena Stein (denast@masaisrael.org) for more information.

Celebrate like a local: festivals during Sukkot 2012

<div class="masa-blog-title">Celebrate like a local: festivals during Sukkot 2012</div>

 
Sukkot—the holiday of gathering. No matter where in the world you are, people will be by your side, celebrating in many different ways. And of course, there is no better place to celebrate Sukkot than in Israel, the best and biggest “sukkah” of them all!
 
Make this Sukkot special and exciting at the many different activities going on all over Israel.
 

Israel Campus Beat: Bridging the Gap - Campus Activists Empowered After Year in Israel

Israel Campus Beat: Bridging the Gap - Campus Activists Empowered After Year in Israel

September 10, 2012

By Emma Goss, ICB Reporter
 
A gap year program in Israel may end after 12 months, but participants say the experiences that they bring back to campus endure throughout their college careers.
Ariella Axler, a sophomore at Stanford University, said that she was already very supportive of Israel prior to participating in a Young Judaea gap year program before starting Stanford. Returning from the program has “made me more excited to share my thoughts with people," she said. "I’m not necessarily an advocate, but more of a cultural representative of Israel.” 
 
Axler said that Israel is a “very politicized” subject at Stanford, where each year Stanford Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER) urges the University to divest from companies that support Israel.
 
According to Stanford junior Noah Linfield, the divestment initiatives “definitely wore out a lot of Jewish students,” but Linfield’s decision to go on a gap year to Israel mid-college gave him the fuel to sustain his strong support of Israel on campus.
 
While most students who participate in gap year programs go before starting college, Linfield went to Israel after his sophomore year, studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion
 
Linfield said that taking a break to study in Israel gave him a new perspective and “a new resolve to come back to campus and be involved in any way I can. I’m looking forward to going back [to campus] and getting involved.”
 
Students who study for a year at Israeli yeshivas and religious seminaries typically learn about Israel through a religious lens, yet many students also bring back to the United States an enhanced understanding of Israeli political and cultural issues.
 
At the University of Maryland, sophomore Naham Shapiro, who spent a year studying at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa and is president of Shalom Zionists of University of Maryland (SHAZAM), said that although he went on a religious gap year program, his energies on campus are focused on advocating for Israel in a political, nonreligious context.
 
“The Jewish community at the University of Maryland is very much dominated by the Orthodox, and many of the various Jewish or Israel groups are centered in Hillel," Shapiro said. SHAZAM, he said, seeks to engage a broader cross-section of the campus community.
 
According to Linfield, who also went to Israel for religious studies, some yeshivas work to encourage students to advocate for Israel both on spiritual and political levels. 
 
“There were several classes and programs that focused on college advocacy and transferring what we’ve learned at the yeshiva back to campus, both in terms of current Israeli-Palestinian issues” in addition to Jewish issues, he said.
 
Often students enter their college campuses post-gap year as independent Israel advocates, without a strong support network.
 
Columbia University sophomore Joshua Fattal was studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion when he spearheaded Engaging Washington from Abroad (EWFA), a program designed to prepare students on gap year programs to become campus leaders in Israel advocacy through continued contact and meetings with peers from other gap year programs.
 
Fattal started EWFA in November, 2010, when he, along with friends and support from AIPAC, reached out to hundreds of students on gap year programs in Israel, and brought approximately 150 students to hear a presentation by AIPAC's director of leadership development, Jonathan Kessler.
 
Fattal said the initial meeting in Jerusalem was “a stepping-off point” for future meetings among gap-year graduates back in the US. This network helps students who advocate for Israel on their college campuses feel like they are part of a larger group of like-minded people.
 
Columbia sophomore Daniel Cohen who also was involved in the creation of EWFA, said that when students start college after a gap year program, they often feel more confident in advocating for Israel because, at least for a year, Israel was their home.
 
“You were there, you saw it on the ground, you made your conclusions. You feel much more qualified to tell yourself that you can be an activist on campus than if you’re just popping out of high school and being told Israel is awesome,” Cohen said. “You feel much more empowered.”
 

Masa Alumni Shabbaton

Masa Alumni Shabbaton

January 18, 2013 (All day)  -  January 19, 2013 (All day)

  TBA, Israel  - 

Want to reconnect with Masa in Israel? Want to reunite with your fellow Masa Israel friends? Want to share your experiences since you've graduated with us? Join us to help shape Masa Israel’s alumni activities in Israel.
The events is designed for alumni who are already in Israel.