Mary-Brett Koplen
Sarenka Smith
Career Israel, 2010-2011
Shoshana Wineburg
Yahel Social Change, 2010-2011

I Found Love

<div class="masa-blog-title">I Found Love</div>

 
By Shoshana Wineburg, Yahel Social Change Program
 
Several weeks ago, I walked leisurely down Shapira Street, taking in the neighborhood that I had spent a year volunteering with—the neighborhood that in three weeks I would leave.
 
Joelle Mintzberg
Career Israel, 2009-2010
Leora Raphael
Career Israel, 2008-2009

Leora Raphael

Leora Raphael

Career Israel
Program: 
After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in human biology and psychology, I, like so many other recent graduates, still did not have clear career goals. I decided to explore my options in Israel and enrolled in Masa Israel’s Career Israel five-month internship program.
 
Growing up in a traditional home in Edmonton, Alberta, I was no stranger to the importance of Israel and Judaism. I had attended a Jewish day school, and I had been involved in several Jewish youth groups during high school and in Hillel during university. Spending a year on a Masa Israel program seemed like a natural step, but I had no idea how life-changing the experience would prove to be.
 
My previous trips to Israel consisted of family trips and structured programs. Career Israel was the first time that I had the freedom and time to really live in Israel. At the same time, I was able to take part in trips through the country and brush up on my Hebrew in an ulpan course.
 
I had two internships in Jerusalem that allowed me to gain experience in my field from different angles. At the Ministry of Health, I was responsible for compiling information for the health promotion department, researching programs designed for people living with HIV/AIDS and proper pharmaceutical use. Working in a governmental department gave me the opportunity to learn about the different health throughout the country and attend the Healthy Cities Conference.
 
I also interned in the public relations department at the ALYN Hospital, a non-profit pediatric rehabilitation hospital. There, I worked to spread awareness of its annual five-day charity bike ride, a cause I truly supported.
 
In addition to taking part in internships that opened my eyes to new options in my field, I found new meaning in Jewish holidays. On Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s remembrance day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, I attended the Masa Israel ceremony on French Hill, where Israeli battles had been fought and people had lost their lives for the State. The program was extremely moving, with speakers that included victims of terrorist attacks and family members of brave fallen soldiers.
 
During my five months in Israel, I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of Jewish peers from all over the world, and get to know Israel with them, traveling the country on weekends. I now have friends from South America, France, England, and the United States, and was able to stay at the house of one of my Career Israel friends when I traveled to Europe after the program ended.
 
Since returning to Canada, I was hired as a science research assistant at the University of Alberta, a position that I am sure my internships helped me land. While in Israel, I had time to seriously think about what I wanted to do in the future and applied to nursing school.
 
I am truly grateful for my Masa Israel experience because it gave me the opportunity to deepen my connection to my homeland, while discovering my professional goals. I encourage more young adults to pursue a Masa program in Israel. It will change their lives.

Vanessa Friedman

Vanessa Friedman

Otzma
 
I have been living and volunteering in Israel for seven months but I am still not zorem. That is the Hebrew word for fluent, and I like to joke that I forget it often because it does not apply to me: the Hebrew language does not roll off my tongue easily and the Israeli way of life does not come naturally. 
 
As an avid reader and writer, and a recipient of a BA in English Literature, I have always thought of words as my ultimate currency. Living in Israel has made me question that truth but has enabled me to enjoy the feeling of being lost in translation when it comes to both my words and my actions. 
 
I do miss the comfort of effortless knowledge. I sometimes long for the days when I knew what every single street sign meant, could read every menu, and was able to eavesdrop on any conversation that piqued my interest. But discomfort has a way of making one work hard, and it is my complete lack of zorem that has shaped my experience in Israel. 
 
When I first arrived in Israel I moved into an immigrant absorption center in Ashkelon with the other volunteers on my program. We were the only native English speakers in the three building complex; every other resident was an Ethiopian immigrant. We were encouraged to hang out and play with the children, but I was uncharacteristically shy. I felt embarrassed that I couldn't offer more than a smile or a high five to the kids who were willing to interact with me, and then I felt weird about worrying about myself rather than just being present and having fun with the children. 
 
Then one day, while doing laundry, something happened. A group of children wandered in while my friend and I were doing about a month’s worth of laundry. They looked at us quizzically; one boy held up a slightly deflated basketball and waited expectantly. My friend nodded, and the boy threw the ball. Soon we were engaged in a lively game. We giggled when the ball landed out of my grasp, groaned when it rolled out of the laundry room, and applauded wildly when the smallest child in the group achieved a successful catch. 
 
The game eventually dispersed naturally, and the children started humming a familiar tune. I was shocked when I realized what they were singing: “Baby” by Justin Bieber! Much to my friend’s embarrassment, I immediately started singing along, bopping up and down to the catchy tune and making the children laugh. We sang the same verses over and over. I have no idea if the kids understood what they were singing, but we could not stop smiling. 
 
I now live in Haifa, Boston's Partnership 2000 sister city. I work at several different places, but the one where I am most comfortable is a woman’s shelter. In the afternoons I play with the children who live there while their mothers do work around the shelter or simply take some time for themselves. Lest I started to feel cocky about my somewhat firmer grasp on the Hebrew language at this point in my stay here, the shelter threw me a curveball: one little boy, Aron, does not speak any English or Hebrew. We do not have a single word in common. 
 
Aron is four. He speaks Arabic and Russian. He is usually bubbly and happy, eager to play on the swing set outside or engage with the other children in arts and crafts activities. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, however, he was neither bubbly nor happy. One of the other little boys had pushed the bike he was riding too hard, and Aron was scared. I watched the scene unfold from a few feet away, not wanting to interfere immediately. I was feeling unsure about what I would say or do if I did step in, and I also wanted to give Aron a chance to handle the situation on his own. 
 
But, Aron was not okay; his small hands rose to his face as tears started to leak from his eyes. His mouth opened wide and he began to sob. I rushed over and before I could even think about what to do, he reached both arms up, initiating a hug. I immediately hugged him back, rubbing his back and smoothing his hair until his tears subsided. When he pulled away he was laughing, and soon he rode away to continue his afternoon fun. Through the entire exchange I did not have to speak a single word. 
 
I have surrendered my belief that language is my strongest tool. I am still working on strengthening my Hebrew, but I do not rely on it as a means to conduct my life in a satisfying way. I’ve found that the world can make sense even if I don’t have words to name the ways in which it all functions. Playing catch and singing silly pop songs are universal (guilty) pleasures that can be enjoyed even without the word for “ball” or the correct pronunciation of the word “baby.” 
 
When Aron reached for me as a source of comfort, the action resonated in ways that transcend the word “hug.” My world is no longer hinged on nouns and verbs but rather on feelings, which are often difficult to contain in one or two words, regardless of the language. 
 
I may be forgetting some of my English and most of my Hebrew, but thanks to Israel and my lack of zorem, I absolutely excel at feeling.
Orli Kessel
Career Israel, 2009-2010
Lisa Wilder