Posted November 23rd, 2010
By Cara Frazin, Masa Israel Campus Intern, University of Illinois at Chicago
On September 15, 2010, I had the rare opportunity to meet Natan Sharansky before the annual Jewish Federation Annual Meeting Luncheon where he was the main speaker.
As an active participant with the Levine Hillel at the University of Illinois at Chicago and as the Masa Israel intern for my campus, I spend a lot of time educating people about Israel and promoting Israel advocacy. When I was invited by The Hillels o
Posted November 18th, 2010
Posted November 16th, 2010
By Leora Lana Kaufman, Young Judaea Year Course, Rye, NY
This post would be way too long if I described everything in detail, so I’ll list a few highlights since Sukkot Break.
A few days after returning home from our break, nearly our entire section took a bus to the Dead Sea to attend a Matisyahu concert. The bus was noisy, packed, and short a few seats but we all made it there in one piece.
Posted November 11th, 2010
Hannah Kotzen, Young Judaea Year Course, Seattle, WA
Just recently was the Nike Tel Aviv Night Run, a 10K through the streets of Tel Aviv. IT WAS AMAZING! Let me preface by saying that I am not a runner whatsoever so the mere fact that I attempted to run the race was incredible. But what was even more incredible is that I finished!
Posted November 10th, 2010
Before winter hit, the Masa Israel North American team decided to have a Yom Kef (staff day). Being part of an Israeli organization, we did what any Israelis would do—a hiking trip! We woke up early and headed up to Bear Mountain.
After scaling the rocks, we stopped for a break.
Of course, no staff day would be complete without a snack and a call to our Israel office.
Halfway through the hike, are we having fun yet?
We made it to the top—what a view!
Now, if only we knew how to get back. Trail markers aren’t as good as they are in Israel…
We had a great Yom Kef, spending time outside the office and enjoying the tail end of fall.
Now back to work getting more people on Israel programs!
Posted November 4th, 2010
By Amy Schmidt, Young Judaea Year Course, Los Angeles, CA
Our last two culinary adventures have taken us around the Mediterranean Sea. Earlier this month, our lesson was Italian-themed, and yes, we did learn to make not only spaghetti, but also gnocchi from scratch. I was partnered with my friend Ben on the tapenade while the others worked on the other sauces, including a fresh pesto and a tomato-garlic-basil sauce.
Posted October 22nd, 2010
By Melissa Rosenbaum, Young Judaea Year Course, New York
My alarm was set for 8:45 on Monday October 4; I was packed and ready to leave for 10 days of isolation at the Beit Yehudah Hostel in the outskirts of Jerusalem for the Magen David Adom training course.
The Medical Track was participating in this training course in order to become first responders for MDA (Magen David Adom), the Israeli Red Cross organization.
Masa Israel recognizes that spending five to 12 months interning, volunteering or studying abroad is a big commitment. Before you select your program and apply for a Masa Israel grant, it’s important that you learn as much as you can about where you’re going and what to expect – both before you go and after you return.
Talk to an alum to get a feel for how unique each person’s Israel experience can be. Learn more.
Posted October 15th, 2010
Now that the chagim are over, you’ve finally started a regular schedule, whether it’s studying, interning, or volunteering (or a combination of those). But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of your weekends and explore Israel!
Supplement your program’s siyyurim with your own—as any Israeli will tell you, there is no better way to get to know the country than to go out and explore it yourself.
Posted October 14th, 2010
By Jessica Louise, Boston, Kibbutz Ulpan
I grew up always being the lone Jewish girl. I would be the one who always missed school in September for the High Holidays, who would always be asked to explain “my peoples’ special holiday” to the class, and of course, the one who was always asked “so really, why did you guys kill Jesus?”
I suppose it didn’t help that I spent my high school years attending an all girls Catholic school south of Boston where my lack of Irish step dancing and red hair made me stand out like a sore thumb. It was always this wanting for a Jewish community that motivated me to someday find one; I just didn’t know where to search.
Additionally, freshman year had been a rough year for me and I felt myself slowly sinking. I didn’t know where I fit in at my university where everyone was super motivated and being a type-A personality wasn’t a nuisance, but a necessity. All I knew was that I needed to get away and slow life down before I would suddenly find myself cherishing my last few days of freedom before my senior year of university.
That is when I decided to go back to my roots and head for the Holy Land. Thus, in the first semester of my sophomore year at university, I did something so shocking and unbelievable to all my fellow students at my university- I decided to take a leave of absence and live on a kibbutz in Israel.
I found out about Masa Israel’s Kibbutz Ulpan experience on a late night Google search and made the impulsive decision to sign up. All I knew was that I would spend four hours a day learning Hebrew and another four doing menial labor.
Fast forward to four months later and I am peeling my sweaty shirt off of the bus seat as I was dropped off in what I described to as my mother as “the middle of nowhere, Israel.” I had somehow landed at Kibbutz Maag’an Michael in northern Israel with not a word of Hebrew to guide me, and a suitcase the size of an adolescent child.
I had no idea whatsoever what living on a kibbutz entailed and as the rest of the 130 ulpanists from over a 100 different countries drifted on to the kibbutz, I realized that this experience would be like none I had ever had in my life.
Life on the kibbutz reminded you how sweet life could be. The most stressful decisions of the day were whether to go to the pool or the beach. Our days alternated between four hours of work and four hours of learning Hebrew. I got lucky and was assigned to work in the laundry where I was privy to all the gossip of the kibbutz and I quickly learned that nothing is too private, and if you have a secret lover, someone will inevitably find out and spread it like wildfire.
It was here that I found out how the kibbutz used to offer condoms in a small bowl where the soldiers would come to pick up their laundry. They stopped doing this when one year the kids of the kibbutz decided it would be funny to poke holes into every one and nine months later the kibbutz experienced a baby boom of its own.
It would be impossible for me to pinpoint any one moment that truly defined my five month experience. As is the case with most significant life moments, it is sometimes the simplest ones that mean the most. For me, I truly realized how far I had come when our entire ulpan went to spend our last weekend together in the Bedouin camps in the Negev.
We had come so far together; we had laughed, cried, celebrated and mourned together and this last night would be a culmination of all those experiences. The next day we would literally be dispersing across the globe and hugging each other tearful goodbyes. That night was particularly memorable as news had just broken out about tensions on the border and some close friends had already been deployed to Gaza.
As we leaned on each other for support, we all felt an especially deep bond as we knew, finally, what it felt like to be Israeli. It meant taking the good with the bad, the painful with the sweet. It meant that we had to muster up our energy and spirit and light the Hanukah candles. So as we sat there, in the middle of the Negev desert, with nothing but the Hanukiah illuminating our faces, I never felt so much at peace.
Now, as I am sitting here typing this, I am cherishing my last few days of freedom before I begin my senior year of university. The path that led me here was not the most traditional, but it was the best path for me.
Deciding to take a semester off and fly across the world to spend five months living on a kibbutz turned out to be the best decision that I ever made. It shaped me into the person I am today and forged relationships that continue on to this day. Most importantly, those five months on the kibbutz planted a seed for me in Israel that has now grown into a beautiful tree.
I have returned to Israel twice since I left that kibbutz in December, first to spend a semester studying at Tel Aviv University and most recently, this summer to volunteer with African refugees in Tel Aviv.
Perhaps my most significant journey back to the Holy Land will be next January when I will descend off of the plane as an olah hadasha and continue my life that began three years ago on a kibbutz in the middle of nowhere, Israel.