The Magic of Masa Israel by Julie Katz, Career Israel Alumna

<div class="masa-blog-title">The Magic of Masa Israel by Julie Katz, Career Israel Alumna </div>

I learned more in my five months in Israel than I did in all four years of college.


My parents don't enjoy hearing this (sorry Mom and Dad!). Of course, college was incredibly valuable in many ways. But you learn by experiencing, and I have never experienced more than I did through Masa Israel.


Masa Israel is one of those beautiful organizations whose sole purpose is to give: to give money, to give awareness, and to give the beauty of connecting with your heritage and a story that goes back thousands of years. They want to invest in you, and they go above and beyond to do so.


One of the most important things I was given was a deeper understanding of Israel. My Masa Israel program, Career Israel, did an especially impressive job of exposing us to all different aspects of Israeli society. We heard from politicians on the left and on the right, Palestinian school children, Ethiopian community leaders, religious scholars, leading army figures, and African asylum seekers, just to name a few.


I was continually amazed by the vast array of opinions and knowledge, and my program's willingness to show us Israel’s strengths and weaknesses.


Masa Israel also gave me several other opportunities, one of which was my internship with Innovation: Africa. Innovation: Africa brings Israeli solar technology to African villages, using the principle of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, as its guiding force. My colleagues at Innovation: Africa were generous in their willingness to teach and guide me, they also entrusted me with a huge deal of responsibility.


I worked on several research projects, as well as the organization’s social media and donor outreach. I also attended several conferences, where I learned how Israel’s incredible start-up industry and culture of innovation was applied to the humanitarian sector. These included the Israeli-California Water Partnership , IsraAID’s seminar on Haiti’s post-earthquake development, and a competition involving inventions geared towards improving the quality of life in Africa. The uniqueness of these experiences and the skills I learned, helped me land my current job.

 

Through their Global Leadership Institute, Masa Israel gave me exposure to Diaspora Jewry and the ability to tap into the incredible potential of our upcoming generation. My first experience with GLI was the Global Leadership Summit, a week-long conference where we explored the concept of adaptive leadership. The quality of speakers and seminars was unbelievable, and I gained incredible knowledge and insight.


Masa Israel was very intentional about having participants from every different background, and I walked away with friends from Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, England, and France, just to name a few. Masa gave us the opportunity to turn our thoughts into action at the GLI Shabbaton, where we reunited with friends and discussed our role in tackling the challenges that face global Jewry.

 

A few moments from Julie's year in Israel!

 

These experiences allowed me to learn, discuss, and connect with many special people. I think back on them often, and I also find myself talking about Israel frequently. Sometimes it's about one of these experiences, but usually, it turns into me urging someone to go, to just do it, and not to worry because Masa Israel will help you make it happen.


Most people politely nod their heads at my insistence. They can tell the enormity of the impact it has had on me, but can't quite understand the magic of it.


As much as I want to be able to explain, I can't. So thank you Masa Israel, for allowing me this experience that was so incredible it became unexplainable. And to whoever is reading this, don't just nod your head. Go, just do it, and experience the unexplainable magic for yourself.

 

Julie Katz is a Career Israel 2015 - 2016 Alumna who currently resides in Marietta, GA.


 

 


 

Meet Devorah Serkin, Sofaer International MBA Alumna

<div class="masa-blog-title">Meet Devorah Serkin, Sofaer International MBA Alumna</div>

Before pursuing my MBA, I worked in the non-profit sector as the Director of Young Leadership at Save a Child’s Heart, an Israel-based organization dedicated to providing life-saving pediatric cardiac surgery to children from developing countries. The position encompassed a range of activities from fundraising to marketing and program development. When the time came to move on, I opted to pursue a higher degree where I could learn about the business world, which by and large supports non-profit organizations.

 

 

Several aspects of the Sofaer International MBA program appealed to me, aside from the prime location in Tel Aviv.  It is a full-time, one-year program, which meant that I could be fully dedicated to my studies without taking off too much time from my professional life. Also, during the application process, I found that Sofaer looks at applicants as the whole of their experiences and their potential, not just their grades, and I greatly appreciated that mindset. The diversity of the student body was also highly appealing. In addition to it truly being comprised of an international population, there was also diversity in the professional backgrounds of the students. Finally, the course structure provided exactly what I was looking for: a broad introduction to many areas of study to which I had little or no prior exposure while at the same time courses and tracks that would help me to delve more deeply into specific areas.

 

Moreover, Sofaer offered small class sizes, creating a conducive atmosphere for developing strong friendships and professional relationships. I still have many friends that I met in the program, and have many fond and fun memories of the time spent with my classmates.  The small class size also allowed me to form relationships with my professors.  One of my strongest memories is a discussion with a professor during which I asked something along the lines of “Why do you teach in this program; do you enjoy it?” The response was memorable; they liked the approach international students take towards school and learning. Many Israeli students have to stretch their studies out over a period of years while balancing work and in some cases families. Their attention and their dedication are divided, while students in Sofaer are focused on school and they pour themselves into the program. This was a gratifying conversation because I understood that the professors cared about the quality of education they were able to provide.

 

 

As my year at Sofaer was drawing to a close, I was unsure of my professional direction because my views on non-profits had shifted and my initial reason for pursuing my MBA was less relevant. Ultimately I opted to make the transition to the business world. I leveraged my years of experience in the non-profit world and landed a job at a fantastic company in Israel.  After three years, I was ready to move on in every sense. I moved back to New York City in January 2016 and soon secured a position at the great company, which also happens to be a customer of my previous company in Israel.

 

My year with Sofaer pushed me, engaged me, challenged me, and exposed me to many new things. The intensity of the program taught me how to prioritize, time manage, manage relationships and more. These are just a few of the core experiences Sofaer provided that have allowed me to advance my career. 

 


 

San Diego Jewish Journal: Inspired to Give Back

San Diego Jewish Journal: Inspired to Give Back

San Diego Jewish Journal: Inspired to Give Back

August 29, 2016

By Caline Chitayat

 

Jamie Gold, a San Fernando Valley native, was 25 years old when she went on Birthright.

“I actually had no desire to [go to Israel], but I was in a job that I couldn’t stand and I wanted to go on vacation,” Gold recalls. A couple of her friends convinced her to join them on the trip to Israel. “I was the naïve person who thought there would be camels everywhere. I really had no concept of Israel; it just wasn’t on my radar.”

 

When Gold arrived, she says she immediately fell in love with the country.

 

“The community, the culture, everything just hit me, and I realized I wanted that in my life.”

 

During her trip, Gold bumped into a girl on another Birthright trip who told her about Masa Israel, a public-service organization that offers unique study, service and career development experiences to young Jewish adults from around the globe. Gold learned of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program, which combined what she wanted to do with where she wanted to be, and was very affordable option for a life change. Gold applied to the program and was accepted when she landed back in the U.S. She quit her job and moved to Israel five months later.

 

“Everything in my life has changed as a result of the program – personally and professionally.”

 

Find out how Masa Israel Teaching Fellows can help you change careers.

 

Masa’s Israel Teaching Fellows program is a 10-month program for college graduates between the ages of 21 and 30. The program allows these graduates to teach English to Israeli students and to immerse themselves in Israeli society. Masa coordinates trips to various destinations around Israel throughout the 10 months. The organization also provides participants with an apartment. Gold lived with five other girls.

 

“I was in Rishon LeZion. My necklace has the coordinates, so it’s always near my heart,” she says. “In the first month or two, we did ulpan and then [Masa] gave us 100 hours of teaching preparation, in order to make us feel comfortable in the classroom. There was no requirement for going on the program – you didn’t have to have any teaching background at all – so they wanted to make sure all of us were comfortable.”

 

After the High Holidays, the Teaching Fellows arrived in their classrooms. Most were assigned to elementary school, but Gold landed in a middle school. Her experience was probably different because of that, she says. Gold would take out groups of between eight and 10 students, typically a mix of very advanced English learners and some intermediate ones. The goal was to have the advanced learners motivate the intermediate students.

 

Although it was a very exciting time, Gold says she thought she was going to quit on the first day.

 

“The school environment in general is so different. It’s crazy to me because some of the smartest, most innovative people in the world come out of that country.”

 

She remembers kids running around, throwing things and talking to each other incessantly. It was very different from the way she grew up in California. Gold does note that the students completely respected her. Even though they seemed to look at her as more of a peer, she says she could tell they truly wanted to learn from her.

 

“It was really cool because they looked at me like I was a gift. If they got chosen to go with me, it was special because not everyone was able to. It was also cool that I didn’t speak a lot of Hebrew because if they wanted to talk to me, then they really had to force themselves to speak English. I found that naturally, they were doing better in their English classes because they wanted to converse.”

 

Gold was participating in the program during Operation Pillar of Defense through the fall of 2012.

 

“That was really hard for me. But it was amazing because I got to go and talk to these students and they were having conversations about these really deep, meaningful things. They made me feel better. I was teaching them English, but they were also teaching me.”

 

At the end of the school year, Gold watched her students go through graduation. The program came to a close, and it was time for her to head back to the States. As exciting as it was to see her family and friends, Gold says it took her many months to adjust back to life on the American West Coast.

 

“I just feel so much more connected to Israel than to America. I can’t even compare the two,” she says. “Even when I went on Birthright, it felt more like home. I know everybody says that, but it’s true. It’s a feeling that I didn’t have in America.”

 

In the five months between Birthright and the Teaching Fellows program, Gold sought to find a community like the one she had in Israel.

 

“I didn’t have a community prior, and I wasn’t involved in a Jewish community by any means. I had a friend who went on Birthright with me and told me we should go to a Moishe House event. I had never heard of [the organization], but I ended up going and it was great because I really connected with the people who lived in the house. I think that’s really important,” she says.

 

Moishe House is a nonprofit organization that provides a vibrant Jewish community for young adults in their 20s and facilitates a wide range of experiences, so that they have the leadership, knowledge and community to enrich their Jewish journeys.

 

“I ended up going to all of their events during those few months, and naturally I became friends with them.”

 

Eventually, Gold heard about an opening at the West L.A. Moishe House, so she moved in and lived there for the next two and a half years. Gold did a teaching program called DeLeT at Hebrew Union College and was able to earn her teaching credential. It was the perfect transition from Masa, where she went from teaching in an informal setting to formally teaching. However, after working in a Jewish day school, Gold realized that while she loved the social and emotional aspects of teaching, she wasn’t set on academics for 40 hours each week.

 

“While I was in the teaching program realizing I didn’t want to be a teacher, I had all this responsibility as a Moishe House resident. I was planning seven events each month for the community and doing a lot of outreach. I really, really cared about it, and my roommate asked me, ‘What are you not doing this for a job?’ I started thinking about it, and was really passionate about working in the Jewish community.”

 

Moishe House approached Gold while she was still a resident and informed her of a job opening. After three months, she moved from L.A. to San Diego for the job and has been with them for nine months now.

 

As Director of Alumni Engagement, Gold is able to reflect on her own experiences as a resident and what she wants from the program as an alumni.

 

“I love developing and cultivating deep and meaningful relationships. We have 820 alumni at the moment, and we’ll have more alumni than residents soon, so my job is really just to connect with people who have lived in the house and find out what they want to see.”

 

Gold notes that she feels so lucky because she has the resources now and can bring her own creativity to the job.

 

“It’s not like a large corporation where if you want to do something, you have to wait. At Moishe House, if they hire you, they trust you and give you that creative freedom. I feel that there is such an untapped market right now that I have so much potential to create so many great things.”

 

When asked if Gold would ever consider moving back to Israel, she says that if she would go back, she would definitely want to have a purpose for being there.

 

“The first time it was Masa, but now I’m in a different place in my life, and I would want to have a job lined up there. But yes, I would definitely consider moving back – at least for a short amount of time. Israel will always be my second home, and my kids will be raised with it. It will always be a place that I am constantly thinking about and visiting when I can.”

 

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

 

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Bring on the Tears, an MITF Story By Allison Paisner

<div class="masa-blog-title">Bring on the Tears, an MITF Story By Allison Paisner</div>

And so, one by one the goodbyes commence. Doors are closing and I’m currently in this limbo where none are yet opening. Goodbye to school, to Petach Tikva, to Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, to Israel Experience, to my volunteer project with the Petach Tikva Department of Environment Education, and to my friends and family in this special country.

 

The first farewell was at Yeshurun for the end of the school year. The week before our last day, one of the 7th grade classes we work with threw us a surprise party! We walked into the classroom unsuspectingly, only to be bombarded with 30 students and balloons, singing, food, and an Israeli style מסיבה (meh-see-ba: party).

 

We all shared our summer plans and what we loved about working together. Hopefully, some of our students will stay in touch. We took our balloons with us out of school and released them together in our own little goodbye ceremony. As for the rest of the classes, we didn’t really have an official goodbye, but Emily and I made a video for the Petach Tikva MITF closing ceremony with some of our favorite 8th and 9th graders, which you can check out HERE. The purpose? To debut the video as a thank you from our school to the rest of the Petach Tikva MITF. It was my first time experimenting with iMovie… let’s just say I won’t be the next Spielberg.

 

 

The next goodbye was to my actual role as a teacher. Israel Experience had us plan a closing ceremony, in which we thanked our host teachers, host families, and the people who helped make our transitions this year into the Israel and teaching worlds easier. My host teacher, Shlomit (another teacher we work with who is amazing), and the librarian Batia (whom we got very close to throughout the year) all showed up. We closed out the year together with the rest of the English team (or the “E-Team” as we call ourselves) at Chagit’s house with a little get-together. Potluck style, we shared our thank you’s as well as received many (in addition to beautiful silver Shabbat candle holders) and had a last shebang recapping the year and sharing our future/summer plans. Will miss my Yeshurun community dearly, and only leave with fond (and funny) memories!

 

Another goodbye that went out with a bang was with the Petach Tikva Department of Environmental Education. As you’d know if you’ve been reading my blog throughout the year, this center has become one of my homes in Petach Tikva. From volunteering at the garden on Tuesdays and getting a glimpse of the composting program at the gans (kindergartens) in Petach Tikva, to working on a lecture on Adaptive and Resilient Cities with the office staff, it was nothing but a pleasure (in the end). Frustrating for me at times, because of the Israeli work style and process, is topsy-turvy from the States, I learned patience, sympathy in the workplace, and the importance of synergy among a group of people from all different backgrounds and ages.

 

As part of the culmination of my volunteer service, the director of the office and I set a date for me to present my lecture on Adaptive and Resilient Cities to members of neighboring municipalities… in English, of course. For nearly 2 hours I presented on concepts of vulnerability, mitigation, adaptation, resiliency, and sustainability, drawing case studies from around the world for best practices and policy implementation strategies. The entire audience was interactive, welcoming, and receptive to the material so it was overall an amazing experience for me to be able to present my research in a more formal setting to people. The following week I said my final goodbye to the office, where they presented me with a memory jar (sustainably made, obviously) and warm wishes for my future. I know we will continue to stay in touch, and I am genuinely interested to continue seeing the innovative educational initiatives the department comes up with.

   

 

Another tough goodbye was with my host family in PTK. Although I have a lot of blood relatives in Israel, I was also lucky enough to share a host family with two of my roommates. Genuinely some of the warmest and most giving people I know, I will miss Sigi and her wonderful family dearly. I spent a few amazing Shabbats there, but throughout the year we’ve come to get to know each other pretty well, and even though my host mom and dad barely speak English (as well as my two younger “host brothers"), it hasn’t stopped us from connecting and growing closer. I’ve had a taste of the best Yemenite food I’ve had in Israel (by far), the longest Shabbat dinners (seriously talking 6 hours here people), and running out of ways to express that I’m full and don’t want more food. So thank you Sigi for welcoming me into your beautiful family, and for treating me like one of your own <3  

 

And then came the goodbye to MITF at HaYarkon Park in TLV. All of the Israel Teaching Fellows from around the country came to hear the CEO of Masa Israel and our Pedagogical Advisor from the Ministry of Education, among others, thank us for our work and spend a relaxing night celebrating the end of our experience. With free booze, a diploma and dope portable speakers as a little parting gift, it was a beautiful night and atmosphere, with lots of goodbyes to my friends from other cities.


  

The last MITF goodbye was just with Petach Tikva and Rishon, thanks to Israel Experience and our closing tiyul. This is the group we started off with August 27th when we met in Kiryat Moriah for the first time, and it’s the same group we are ending with on June 27th. Thankfully (and amazingly), we had some money left over in our budget, so Israel Experience spared no expense on this one! We rafted down the Jordan River (which had more than 6 inches of water in it this time!), enjoyed a BBQ buffet by the water (wow, how I miss BBQ), spent one day at a beautiful “resort” on the Kinneret, and ended the trip back at Zichron Ya’akov where we had our first seminar back in September. The meals were lavish, and I ate enough kosher meat to last me until my next trip to Israel… or so I say for now.

 

In addition to the physically packed schedule was the equally emotionally packed one as well. In a series of reflection activities, our group shared the ups and downs, favorite and worst moments, and highlights and regrets of the year. The 14 fellows in Petach Tikvah also had our own reflections, where we filled out private notes for each other in little memory boxes, crafted by our Madricha, Amit. I even debuted my ukulele playing skills (or lack thereof) when one of the Petach Tikvah Fellows performed a song he wrote for the group. The whole tiyul was surreal because of a lot of the people in the cohort I really didn’t get to know so well even after a year. It was a strange feeling for the final doors of MITF to be closing, and the tears and sobs began. Two weeks later, and I’m magically hydrated enough to cry nearly every day.

  

But the journey isn’t over yet. I’m still here until July 18th, and after all of these goodbyes to MITF, I still had all of my closest friends and family. For our last Friday Shabbat dinner altogether, we had a giant potluck at one of my friends’ boyfriend’s apartment in Tel Aviv. Roi and I contributed with Mac and Cheese (which apparently Israelis aren’t too familiar with), homemade onion rings, and my favorite Israeli salad with nishnooshim (it’s good, trust me).

 

Emily and I brought the skits we wrote for our English day, and after a few drinks, we had our boyfriends and friends act them out! Hands down one of the funniest things I was lucky enough to witness. Another favorite game is a three-round combination of taboo, one-word giveaway, and charades with the same series of words/phrases. Major כל הכבוד to the Israelis in the house whose first language (and for some, even second language) isn’t English. Truly a night filled with laughter and love that I will never forget.

     

 

And with that, I'll end the last bit of my Masa experience. 10 of the most amazing months that were the best gift I could've given myself. Rolling into July, I am lucky enough to have three weeks of "Israel Closure." Stay tuned for following posts about my trip to Eilat, my goodbyes to friends, family, and loved ones, and for my closing tiyul (self-planned) to Jerusalem at Neve, a Women's Jewish Learning Program. While the tears are still coming, it's time to start getting excited about the future because... no one knows what it will hold...

 


 

Israeli 9 - 5: In the Life of WUJS Alumna Rachel Ethridge

<div class="masa-blog-title">Israeli 9 - 5: In the Life of WUJS Alumna Rachel Ethridge</div>

Originally published on Finding Florentine on October 2015 by Rachel Ethridge, WUJS Alumna '15

 

My life in Israel has always had an end date.

If you've met me since I've moved here you know that on February 7th my butt will be seated on a double decker plane headed out of the Middle East towards the city where I left all of my friends, lovers, long sleeve shirts, good sushi, and deep dish pizza.

For a lot of people interning and living alongside me, this program is a trial run for their future lives as Israelis. When I touch down in the states, they'll be making aliyah (moving to Israel with a lot of perks from the government), an act of immigration I have never considered, one they all know the answer to when they hear new friends ask if I would ever make the move. But this past week made me think.

Photo by Rachel Ethridge

The life I lived. Work I completed. Waterfalls I rappelled down. Food I made (cut up cucumbers and tomatoes). Mouth-dropping meals I bought. The not so tasty ones I tossed down with chilled glasses of riesling. All the boulders I climbed. Trips I planned. And the people I jumped, ate, walked, talked, cooked and sat with, made me rethink everything.

Photo by Rachel Ethridge

Mom don't worry, I'm still going be booking a flight back to the United States, but last week was the first time I gave this country a chance at showing me all its got. You all know I love the food, the culture I'm being immersed in, the new things I'm learning and the people I'm meeting, but I've always proudly defined myself as an American, and nothing else.

I'm all in now.

I'm pulling the Israeli card. I feel a camaraderie with these people as they live under constant threat from their neighbors. The sand and setting sun over the Mediterranean sea are all mine. I'm realizing that every part of this program I thought was a long vacation , is actually my real life.

On Sunday I went to work and left with every intention to mad plan, with my mad planning friend, a weekend up north that would probably never happen (it did). I walked home from her house after googling the life out of my computer for hostels and how to rent a car, stopped at my favorite bread shop on the way and continued my carb-binging diet with a brick-oven cooked calzone and a coffee on the house. That's right, I drink coffee now, sometimes, once in a while, when it's free. Full disclosure, I had my first drag of a cigarette in a club a couple weeks ago, I also wear a bra as little as possible these days.

I'm Israeli.

Sunday finished with scrubbing the bathroom, skyping with my people back home, and passing out with Netflix on at a normal hour for the first time in forever.

Monday had the same comforting, smiling on my bus ride home from work, and completely satisfying vibe as the day before. I volunteered at the Israeli Tennis Center in Jaffa that night and played tennis with teenagers for two hours. It was incredible. I'll be playing with them two nights a week for the rest of my time here and can already tell some of my biggest tears in February will happen on those courts.


Photo by Rachel Ethridge


I get a little nervous when I know my day is over and I don't have a DVR to turn on, but Monday night changed that. I walked in the door, caught up with my roommates, kept all our doors open, blasted Amy Winehouse, colored on our living room floor and forgot I was in a foreign country.

On Tuesday I went to a museum with my program that lets you experience life as a visually-impaired person for one hour. It was terrifying, beautiful, really hard, so much fun and a life changer. We walked through a market, went on a boat ride, danced, and had a conversation all as blind people and walked back into the light with a new perspective on everything we see every day. Coming off the bus from that field trip a couple of us went to our market while most Israelis were still at work, which is weird, it seems like they're always eating and enjoying life instead of working, but the shuk (market) was quiet that afternoon and I walked though it sipping on freshly-squeezed lemonade and my mouth full of samples of cheese without being bumped into or stepped on.

Tuesday and Wednesday night looked the same, but were full of different tastes and people.

I ate at the Argentinian restaurant down my street with a new friend, finished planning our trip up north, went to work and left once I had finished everything I needed to get done (sometimes this is at noon, sometimes at four, sometimes I work from home).

Thursday began the coolest weekend of my life. We rented a car and headed up to the Golan Heights. Driving so close to Syria in the pitch black at 10:00PM was not what we had planned, but it lead us to our hostel which housed us the night before we climbed, jumped, rappelled, fell, ate, smelled, and swam for seven hours through Nahal Yehudia. The next day we rode horses through Mount Carmel and I fell in love with an enormous white stallion named Puzzle.

So far Israel has left me with feelings for food and animals.

Photo by Rachel Ethridge

Waiting for the gorgeous, almost done with med school, still has a full head of hair, loves his mom, will move to Chicago, Jewish prince my Nannie had always dreamed for me to marry, to be dropped right in front of my face before I leave.

If you made it through this whole post you're probably my dad, or you had a little free time before going to Didier farms and taking a hay ride through the pumpkin patches with an apple cider donut in your hand, flannel shirt wrapped around your goose-bump filled body, and crispy, colorful, crunchy leaves falling all around you (please do this for me), then you now know why I would want to move here.

Israel is making me think about things I said absolutely no to two months ago.

Wondering what my thoughts will read like in 100 days.



To read more about Rachel's life in Israel, check out her blog, Finding Florentine.

 

 

A Look Inside MITF's Youth Village Location with Deena Martin

<div class="masa-blog-title">A Look Inside MITF's Youth Village Location with Deena Martin</div>

At the time I decided to spend a year abroad on Masa Israel Teaching Fellows my life was in a whirlwind. For a long time I had a desire to volunteer abroad and with my current situation, I had to take the plunge. I researched different regions and programs throughout the world yet, something within my heart was always drawn to Israel.

 

I knew I could choose to go where ever I wanted, but Israel had a hold on me. I knew it was the right place to spend this year giving back to my people in our homeland. Although the decision to go to Israel was easy, I was concerned about language barriers, since my Hebrew skills from my Bat Mitzvah era were long gone, plus I had no friends or family in Israel.

 

Everyone and I mean EVERYONE thought I was crazy. People asked me "are you scared, isn't Israel always at war?" "Why would you go somewhere you don't speak the language and know no one?" I took these questions in stride and smiled.

 

My only response was "No, Israel is amazing and not dangerous" and "yes, I am crazy."

 

I come from a strong Zionist home where Israel, Jewish life and strong connection to giving to the Jewish people was fostered and encouraged.

 

So, my mind was made up, I was like I said before, taking the plunge and going to Israel. I was so blessed to have a family who not only supported my decision but also encouraged me to go and give back to our homeland.

 

When my plane landed in Tel Aviv, I was every feeling emotion under the sun. It all didn't seem real on the ride over- it felt like a quick trip and then I would home in a few weeks. When I got to the youth village is when it all started to sink in.

 

The first few months of school were tough. I took part in the pilot program of the Youth Villages for Masa Israel Teaching Fellows and we were year one and the very first participants to experience teaching in a youth village. To give the expression, too many cooks in the kitchen would be an understatement. You’ll learn soon that although Israel is the startup nation and uber successful, things can sometimes be a balagon (a mess). With that being said the beginning of my MITF program, there were a lot of people and organizations trying to make it the best it could possibly be, which at times was frustrating.

 

It took until the winter for there to be some clear direction and method to the madness of starting a new program. By the first break, the program seemed to have found its rhythm. Everything was on track. Being with the students in the midst of all the bumps of the program was the highlight and being able to work with them in a way that the teachers were unable to make me feel like I was truly doing what I came to Israel to do, make an impact.

 

I held many late night study groups and early morning prep sessions. I worked with the students on their chores and had meals with them in the evening. The students took me in as a friend and mentor, which made the Youth Village feel like home.

 

Through the support of the village community, I was able to have the confidence to explore Israel and fell in love with the desert, the cities and all of Israel’s wonders. I ventured from the North to the South, heard stories from Israelis, made friends with members outside the Jewish community, learned about the challenges each community faces, saw the diversity and freedom each community has in Israel.

 

I saw the amazing landscapes, enjoyed Shabbat meals with strangers that felt like family, cried when there was conflict, prayed for safety, discovered the depth of social, political and community issues facing this land. My Zionism became even stronger and I reconnected with my Jewish roots in a way that I thought I never would. I have always been an advocate for Israel, now I find myself to be a fierce and loyal ally. Always standing up for her rights, not afraid of engaging with people who want to see Israel off the map or try to misrepresent it.

 

I came back to America stronger in so many ways, but I am strongest now in my love, loyalty, and devotion to protect Israel. I came back home with my heart still in in Israel, ready and prepared to do my part in protecting Israel and the Jewish people.

 

 

Carol Kaplan: One Girl, One Desert, One Journey

<div class="masa-blog-title">Carol Kaplan: One Girl, One Desert, One Journey</div>

Carol Kaplan, Permaculture Design Course Certificate at Kibbutz Lotan and the Shvil Israel with Walk About Love, Alumna ‘12

 

After spending a semester in Israel a few years ago, I have made the choice to attain my MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence under the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

 

Want to know how I got figured this all out? Check out my story or more of a journey below:

 

It all began at Kibbutz Maagan Michael, where I was fortunate enough to have a great taste of Kibbutz life… on the beach! My new life in Israel was simple; as a group, or newly founded family  we walked to the dining hall, אוכל חדר in Hebrew (pronounced hadar ohel) barefoot, enjoyed a heavy Israeli breakfast of cheeses, fresh salads, and warm bread, then rode bikes to Ulpan and later began to our separate work assignments.

 

Being the animal lover I am, I quickly requested to work in the cow shed, רֶפֶת in Hebrew (pronounced refet) and fell in love with newborn baby calves on my first day at work.

 

After herding the cows, I rode my bike to the sea, ים in Hebrew (pronounced yam), where the expert Kibbutzim surfers showed off their mad surf skills to us newbies. There, my thoughts dwelled on the simplicity of life in a small but beautiful Israeli community.

 

Upon completing Ulpan, I then traveled to Kibbutz Lotan, leaving behind the beach and transitioning to the beauty of the silent desert. It was here that I would begin my studies to obtain my Permaculture Design Course Certificate that I hoped to translate into my degree back at the University of Washington.

 

While living in a mud geodesic dome, I learned about sustainability and the possibility of not only growing organic food in the desert, but thriving in the desert sun. Of course, my favorite time of the week was harvest day, when my group and I would make full meals out of fresh vegetables we had just harvested. There's nothing quite comparable to harvesting and cooking together after a long day’s work building mud structures!

 

After my time at Kibbutz Lotan, I then joined a group called Walk About Love, traveling, living and sleeping the Negev, all the way from Eilat to Jerusalem. It was myself and people from Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Americas and Israelis all coming together. Like our forefathers before us, we used rocks as a pillow, stared at the hot hot sun and cried with happiness upon reaching Jerusalem.

 

It was at the end of my journey, after such a diverse experience throughout the country, that I realized Israel and I are inextricably tied. It was not just a country I was exploring; it was MY country I was exploring, not out of curiosity but out of devotion.

 

For how could I help a country I had not touched with my own hands, walked with my own feet and viewed with my own eyes? I now feel truly ready and capable to learn about the creation of peace in a country so disheveled but at the same time vibrant and humane, which takes me back to the beginning of all of this and what’s landed me at Brandeis years later to get my MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence.

 

These last few years have been an amazing time of my life and without Israel I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am.

 


 

 

Quiz: What Israeli Food Matches Your Personality?

The Best Places To Study In Tel Aviv

<div class="masa-blog-title">The Best Places To Study In Tel Aviv</div>

Part of the reason I did my Security and Diplomacy Master’s program at Tel Aviv University was location and curriculum. Of course, the beach and the parties was a huge motivator, but career wise it offered what I needed for my resume.

 

When I say location, I meant the Middle East. I wanted to be in the area, live the culture and travel to surrounding countries.  Curriculum wise, I researched all the professors and syllabus to see if the courses were more than legit and they were. My professors were current and former Army Generals, Ambassadors, and Israeli Intelligence Officers. 

 

The point is, I signed up, I was living in Tel Aviv, and I had A LOT of books to read, papers to write, and people to meet. Looking back, I was blessed with all the study options available. 

 

Here are some of the best places to study in Israel:

 

The beach

 

 

There are 8 miles of beach and the best part? Most of the sections of the beach have a restaurant, beach chairs, and most importantly WIFI! In my case, I would go to Tal Baruch beach because it was super close to campus. You can bring a towel and your books and chill for hours while getting ahead on your research paper. I would spend hours before class just reading about military strategies and the history of war while gazing out into the Mediterreanean Sea and natural background music of the waves crashing along the shore. Oh yeah, and you can work on your Tel Avivi tan.

 

Best beaches:

 

 

1. Tal Baruch Beach: I probably spent most of my time at this beach. It’s the closest beach to TAU’s campus and also considered one of the cleanest of all the Tel Aviv beaches. It is usually very calm and not crowded at all. Sometimes, I would go to the restaurant and lay on their chairs while sipping on my Ice Café and reading about Napoleon’s war strategy.


2. Frishman Beach: A very popular beach. Sometimes I felt like I was in the traveling section of a magazine. You have the colorful Dan Hotel in the background, the Matkot (paddle ball) sounds, languages from all over the world, and just an exciting beach vibe.

 

3. Banana Beach: I love this beach! It’s relaxed, not a lot of tourist and most people are reading, meditating, and playing the famous Shesh Besh (Backgammon). You can study here and meet the locals as they tend to hang out here to avoid the tourists. The best time to go is on Fridays. Next to this beach you will find a Dolphinarium where locals get together during sunset for their weekly drum sessions. People dance, laugh, and most importantly watch the addictive Tel Aviv sunset.

 

 

 

Cafés

When I wanted to write papers, I would go to the many cafés in Tel Aviv. This was a lot of fun because it helped me meet Israelis (working or chilling) at the café and also get to know the city. Each little neighborhood in Tel Aviv has a hidden gem and popularity. I would go with another friend and we would work for hours on our “National Security Policy” papers while sipping on some Ice Café and Sabich sandwich. Yes, I got all my papers done with good grades, but the best and most rewarding part is that this is where you can discuss openly about any academic thoughts or culture shock you might be going through during your program.

 

Best Café’s:

1. Arcaffe: This café is located right next to TAU, they serve a strong coffee that will help you dig deep into your studies. It’s also very peaceful, which is nice when you want to focus on your work.

 


2. Book Worm: This place seems right out of a movie or magazine, it is basically a library/café. There are books everywhere, and the environment is perfect for those that want the “library” feel but still want to go out and about. They also have a garden in the back where you can get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a nature filled study vibe. Located on the popular King George Street.


3. The Streets: Open 24/7 this place is where you can hang out on the terrace and get things done. They play hip music, and the crowd is very relaxed.

 


4. Nechama Va’Chetzi: If you want to be in the “scene” this is the place for you. This place is popular because of its crowd which consists of celebs and everyone who wants to be cool. If you like to people watch and get work done at the same time, this is a cool place to spend some time.

 

 


Hayarkon Park

This is my little secret. I would bike everywhere in Tel Aviv, and sometimes I just didn’t feel like being in a café, beach or the city. I wanted something more relaxed and with nature. Well, Hayarkon Park is Tel Aviv’s little secret. Here you can sit on a bench or under the trees while overlooking the lake and hearing the many birds that live in this park. One of the coolest things about this park is the Tsapari, a 7.5-acre bird park, and the largest in the Middle East.  

 

Do you want to Study Abroad in Tel Aviv? Click Here for more info. 
 

 

What Is Matkot? And Why You Should Play It On The Beaches Of Tel Aviv

<div class="masa-blog-title">What Is Matkot? And Why You Should Play It On The Beaches Of Tel Aviv </div>

Imagine lying on the beach in Israel, the sun shining on your face and body, the water waves hitting the shore. Life is good! You might be studying abroad at Tel Aviv University or interning at a start-up in Tel Aviv, but then you hear a foreign sound, a sound that is constant with a rhythm that does not stop. If you’re ever on the beach in Israel, you will hear a constant sound that goes, “blap, blap, blap”. What is all that noise you ask?!

 

Well, it’s called Matkot, also known as paddle ball. It’s a beach paddle ball game that almost every Israeli has played in their lifetime and that you cannot miss when you visit the beach in Israel. There are three components: two racquets (usually wood) and a ball (same one used in squash). It’s fun, easy, and all you need to do is pay attention to the ball and your partner.

 

 

Now, when you think of the beach, the usual plan is to lie out and get a tan. An occasional dip in the water and swimming is involved, alright; some of us are not that lazy and will play volleyball. The problem with playing a popular sport is that you have to be somewhat good. On the other hand, with Matkot there is less worry about being good and more focus on keeping the ball in the air. It’s a game for all ages, and it defines the Israeli approach to just take action and go with the flow.

 


Matkot has been played on the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv since the 1920’s. The name of the sport comes from the name of the racquet, matka. It’s been around for a really long time, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Many call it the Israeli national sport; there’s even a paddle ball stadium in Tel Aviv. This game has no rules, no winners or losers; the only goal is to have fun and show off that beach body.

 

 

How do you play Matkot?


It’s easy!


1. Convince your friend or stranger to play with you.
2. Stand in front of each other, at least 20 feet apart. Give your partner some space.
3.  Serve your opponent with the racquetball from the bottom up.
4. When your opponent hits the ball back, try to hit it back to him/her.
5. Make sure to keep the ball in the air without the ball falling on the floor.
6. Get a flow going, it’s okay if the ball falls on the floor, pick it up and try again!
7. Fun games: count your ABC’s until the ball drops, see how far in the alphabet you can get. 

 

Where to buy a racquet?


Literally, any macholet store (corner store) on the beach will have one; they are fairly priced and easy to carry. If you want something more professional, then head to the mall and inquire in one of the sports stores. Life hack: just make friends with the Israelis, they will love showing you how to play their favorite beach sport.

 

To learn more about how to get your Grant and to choose the right Masa Israel experience, click here