A Unique Gap Year Experience With Aardvark

<div class="masa-blog-title">A Unique Gap Year Experience With Aardvark</div>

by Miranda Levingston, from Philadelphia, PA.  

My ravkav (Travel fare card) and I have a love/hate relationship.  I’ve been to the ravkav offices on 3 different occasions to issue a new card, because I’m always losing it for some reason. I also happen to look homeless and confused in my ravkav ID photo, because the last time I got a new card, the apathetic employee didn’t clearly indicate when the picture was being taken, and where I was supposed to be looking. But, I love my ravkav nonetheless.


I love my ravkav because it’s an essential tool to adventure. No matter where you want to go, you usually need some kind of public transportation to get you there.  Riding the bus is an essential part of living in a different country, any gap year kid will tell you that.  And, while public transportation can seem like a major inconvenience, it’s actually taught me a lot about my surroundings and myself. So, here are the 3 things I’ve learned this year from the bus.



Lesson one: Be present. Be present because every second of your life is an experience, good or bad, and its up to you to make the most out of it.  Your adventure begins the minute you leave the apartment, not when you arrive at your final destination.  Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been on the bus on our way to some weekend excursion. For however long your bus ride is, your life is at a thrilling halt.  There you are, hurdling forward down the highway, while also stopping time.


And that’s kind of like this year. We’ve hit the pause button of the western education system, and this year feels like it’s flown by.   On Aardvark, feeling present extends further then just bus rides. Last month, we took a giant Aardvark camping trip in honor of Julia’s birthday.  It was open invite and so many awesome people showed up. For 2 whole days on the shores of the Kinneret, our mornings began when the sun came up, and the only thing on our to-do-lists was to chill.  I got to know so many people on a deeper level because everyone had one thing in common-we were all present, not just physically, but also mentally. Everybody brought such a genuine energy to the campsite that weekend, and it was beautiful to be a part of it.


Even when we don’t go all the way to the Kinneret to chill, we preserved that mentally-present quality of our down time in Jerusalem. One of my favorite activities this semester has been Saturday afternoons at the park, playing sports, music, and Cards Against Humanity. Those are the times when we are all collectively present.  We are all focused on living in the moment, and it’s so much fun to be part of such an authentic and joyful group of people.



Lesson Two: Say yes to adventure.  I love riding the bus with my roommates, planning on going to the shuk or something, and then ending up somewhere else just because we passed by somewhere cool and impulsively decided to get off.


Saying yes to adventure means being open to exploring the world around you at any moment. Saying yes to adventure means being ready to take risks, in pursuit of a potentially wonderful experience. Saying yes to adventure means to welcome the feeling of leaving your comfort zone in honor of the magic and authenticity that comes with spontaneity.


This year, I’ve found that stepping outside your comfort zone is the best way to experience not only the world around you, but also your true self.  It’s in the moments when you’re genuinely excited, seriously scared, and full of energy that you learn the most about who you are and what you are truly capable of.


And, it’s safe to say; we’ve all made a habit out of going on random adventures and taking unplanned detours. I’ve loved exploring and living in two of the most interesting and diverse cities in the whole world. I’ve learned from impulsively going to cities near and far and roaming around.  I’ve relished having out-of-body experiences when jumping into different bodies of water, and sleeping tent-less under the stars.  All of these experiences have taught me something about the world around me, and brought me closer to myself.



Lesson three: Everything is better when shared with people you love.  Even when there aren’t any seats on the egged and you have to sit on the floor for six hours, it becomes an adventure and a bonding experience, rather then a burden. At every twist and turn this year, I’ve been so grateful for the family that all of us have created.  For the highs and the lows, we’ve become an unbreakable net of support that ebbs and flows to meet each-others needs.


When experiences are shared, they become better. Hard times strengthen relationships.  Ordinary things become great. Great things become extraordinary.


This gap year was an incredible adventure, and it was largely because of the positive, creative, hilarious, and kind people I was surrounded with.

I want to end this speech with a quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.


“How wonderful it is to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”


To learn more about Aardvark Gap Year Program, click here. 


What We've Been Up to in 2016

<div class="masa-blog-title">What We've Been Up to in 2016</div>

It's hard to believe we're almost half-way through the year! 


So far, 2016 has been an extremely exciting year for Masa Israel Journey. Here's a look at what we've been up to in Israel and the United States:




alt="Masa at the Birthright Mega Event"

Birthright Mega Event

Masa staff, participants and partners met thousands of Taglit-Birthright Israel travelers and helped them learn how to get back to Israel.




alt="Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Enrichment Day"

MITF Enrichment Day

Masa Israel Teaching Fellows from across the country came to Jerusalem to develop their professional skills and share best practices for teaching inside and outside of the classroom.


alt="Israel on Campus Fair for Gap Year Participants"

Make Your Journey Matter

Masa brought a delegation of Israel on campus professionals to Israel and hosted a back-to-campus fair where gap year participants met representatives from AEPi, AIPAC, CAMERA, Chabad on Campus, The David Project, Hillel, Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Jerusalm U, JNF, J Street U, Stand With Us, and more.


alt="Israel Tech Challenge Hackathon"

Israel Tech Challenge Hackathon

Israel Tech Challenge CTO Coding Bootcamp held its first hackathon at Google Campus Tel Aviv. 


alt="Team Masa Runs the Tel Aviv Marathon"

Samsung Tel Aviv Marathon

Every year, Masa participants run in marathons and other races across Israel. This year, for the first time ever our participants, staff and partners ran the Tel Aviv Marathon together as #TeamMasa.


alt="Ambassador Dan Shapiro addresses Masa and CCAR"

An Evening with CCAR and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro

Masa participants and staff met with the members of the Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv for an evening of networking and entertainment.




alt="Gap Year Leadership Seminar"

Gap Year Leadership Seminar

Participants from various Masa gap year programs gathered in Jerusalem for a day of workshops and field trips to help them prepare for the challenges they may face on college campuses in the fall.


alt="Welcome to the AIPAC Village"

Photo by Michael Robinson, Masa Israel alumnus

AIPAC Policy Conference 2016

Masa brought 40 American alumni to the AIPAC Policy Conference - our largest alumni delegation yet!


alt="Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit"

Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit

Each semester, Masa, in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel's Global Leadership Institute brings post-college program participants from from around the world together for the Masa-GLI Global Leadership Summit. a five-day intensive leadership training seminar, the Leadership Summit gives participants the opportunity to join a network of Jewish leaders and organizations that support their personal and professional growth in Israel and beyond.




alt="Find us on Snapchat"


April tends to be a quiet month for us with our staff and participants taking vacation over Passover, but this year, we joined Snapchat! Follow us at masaisrael.




alt="Yom HaShoah"

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Hundreds of Masa participants attended the offical State of Israel Yom HaShoah Ceremony at Yad Vashem on the evening Wednesday, May 4.


alt="Yom HaZikaron"

Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror)

On the evening of Tuesday, May 10 Masa hosted its annual Yom HaZikaron ceremony at the Yad Lashiryon Memorial at Latrun is the Armored Corps’ Memorial Site and Museum. Masa's annual ceremony is the largest English language Yom HaZikaron ceremony in Israel.


alt="Yom Ha'atzmaut"

Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day)

In Israel, Memorial Day is immediately followed by Independence Day. As the sun set on Wednesday, May 11, the entire country transitioned form a state of mourning to one of celebration. From dancing the night away on city streets, to the unofficially traditional mangal (barbecue) the next day, Masa participants celebrated Israel's 68th birthday like locals.


alt="Masa-GLI Wilf Family Holocaust Education Program in Poland

Masa-GLI Wilf Family Holocaust Education Program in Poland

Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Wilf family, Masa is able to bring a select group of oustanding participants to Poland to explore the local Jewish community's tragic history and its incredibly inspiring revival.


alt="Jewish American Heritage Month with Bibi"

Jewish American Heritage Month

On Wednesday, May 25 Masa participants attended a special ceremony at the Knesset in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. Some were even lucky enough to snap a selfie with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.


alt="Masa Israel Culture Event"

Masa Israel Culture Event

Approximately 2,000 Masa participants gathered in Jerusalem on Thursday, May 26 for our annual cultural event, which featured interactive workshops and performances by Amos Oz, Tom Franc, Cafe Shahor Hazak and many more.


5 Reasons to Attend Grad School in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">5 Reasons to Attend Grad School in Israel</div>

With more than 2,000 years of history, Israel is a place where ancient meets modern. There’s no better way to get an education than exploring your passions while immersed in an exciting new culture. Besides the historic and cultural experience, there are many benefits of getting an advanced degree in Israel. From lower tuition to building a global network, your grad school experience will be like no other for these 5 reasons:

1. Low Tuition


Getting an MBA, MPH, MSc, LL.M., and Master’s degree is a big decision. Many questions arise when deciding which degree to pursue such as what, where, and most importantly how much? Israel offers top notch degrees in world renowned universities for almost half the price of a US Institution. Most importantly worldwide recognition is a guarantee due to the prestige and high reputation of most Israeli universities around the world.

2. Length


You want to pursue an advanced degree but you don’t want to take many years to do so? In Israel, top universities offer one year programs in various fields. Yes, one year programs that dive right into the subject and provide you with real life experience in the field.

3. Global Community


In Israel, classrooms are made up of people from all over the world. You will be exposed to global perspectives and real-world applications that allow you to master the complexities of today’s demanding and evolving world. Not to mention, the next time you want to go to Italy or New Zealand you will most likely find a place to crash.

4. Expertise


One thing that Israelis do best is become experts in their fields. If you look at the start-up nation there are breakthroughs in almost all areas. From security, archeology, sustainable living, tech, diplomacy, social work, medicine, you name it. Israeli universities are made up of the best of the best, it’s no surprise everyone flocks to Israeli universities.

5. Language


As you're walking down the street in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv you will most likely hear various languages. From Russian to Arabic, in Israel you can explore many languages and cultures in every way. Many Israeli graduate programs offer Hebrew or Arabic courses in order to immerse you in Israeli society and of course learn to bargain at the shuk!

To learn more on how to pursue a higher education degree in Israel, click here.


Top Concerts in Israel this Summer 2016

<div class="masa-blog-title">Top Concerts in Israel this Summer 2016</div>

Are you going to be in Israel this summer? Get ready for a jam packed schedule of amazing performances from world renowned artists. There is something for everyone from EDM to Jazz. Thanks to Tourist Israel, we've compiled a list of what you can expect this summer: 


Elton John, Tel Aviv, Israel. May 26, 2016


“This will be the fourth concert in Israel for the British singer. Sir Elton John is one of the most famous and successful singers in the world and has sold over 300 million albums. Some of his hits include “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Your Song” and “Candle in the Wind”. Sir Elton John is expected to perform at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 26, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.”


Oasis Festival, Arad, Israel. June 10-11, 2016


“The first edition of the Oasis Dub Reggae Festival is taking place near Arad, in the Negev Desert in Israel in June 2016. With the backdrop of the scenic Negev desert, the festival is setting out to bring together all of Israel’s reggae lovers and fans. The set list includes both international and local artists, amongst which Ohnny Osbourne, Ziggi Racado, Skarra Mucci, Mista Savona, Los Caparos, Jah Bless and many more.”

Wiz Khalifa, Tel Aviv, Israel. June 25, 2016


“American rapper Wiz Khalifa has announced one concert in Tel Aviv, Israel in summer 2016. Wiz Khalifa is one of the hottest names in the U.S. rap scene at the moment. His most popular song “Black and Yellow” has reached the #1 Billboard Hot 100 in 2010, and has been later remixed featuring Snoop Dogg, Juicy J and T-Pain.”

Sunbeat Music Festival. June 23-25, 2016


“The Sunbeat Music Festival is Israel’s leading summer music, global beats event. Taking place over one weekend in June in a beautiful green parkland setting in the green mountains of the Northern Galilee region of Israel, Sunbeat draws some of Israel’s biggest home-grown musicians, as well as a diverse array of international musicians.”

Tel Aviv Blues Festival, Israel. July 13-16, 2016


“The Tel Aviv Blues Festival returns this summer for its third edition, with four days of concerts in twenty different locations in the city. Opening the festival is the concert of legendary guitarist Buddy Guy, in Caesarea Amphitheater on July 13. The festival will continue in different clubs and bars in Tel Aviv, hosting the captivating sounds of Blues.”

AVICII in Tel Aviv, Israel. July 22, 2016


“International DJ sensation, AVICII, will be returning to Israel in July 2016 for a concert in Rishon, just south of Tel Aviv. AVICII is one of the world’s hottest DJ’s, ranked 3rd in the world in 2011, 2012, and 2013 following the release of his mega-hits ‘Levels’, “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”. His music and his music has been well received around the world in EDM circles and beyond. AVICII will return to Israel to perform once at the Live Park in Rishon LeZion, just south of Tel Aviv on July 22, 2016.”

Tomorrowland in Jerusalem, Israel. July 23, 2016



“The king of all electronic music festivals, Tomorrowland, is taking place for the first time in Israel this summer! “UNITE – The Mirror to Tomorrowland” is an international event taking place simultaneously in 7 countries (Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico and South Africa) “mirroring” the father event, the Belgian festival which has become a cult amongst electronic music fans. Broadcasting live from the Belgium stage to the Israeli festival will be huge names of electronics such as Axwell & Ingrosso, AFROJACK, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nicky Romero and many more.”

Bruce Springsteen, Tel Aviv, Israel. July 2016


“American rock legend Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, is expected to give a concert in Tel Aviv, in July 2016. Springsteen has not yet given any concerts in Israel despite a large fan base here, and a one of concert will likely draw thousands of eager Israeli fans.”

Sia Concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. August 11, 2016


“Sia gained international success with her sixth album “1000 Forms of Fear” and the hit “Chandelier”, made famous also by the video clip with dancing performance by Maddy Ziegler. Other hits are “Elastic Heart” and “Big Girls Cry”. Sia wrote songs for international superstars as Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem and she released a new studio album “This is Acting” on January 29th. The singer will perform her first Israeli concert in Park Hayarkon.”

Red Sea Jazz Festival, Eilat. August 27-30, 2016


The Red Sea Jazz Festival will take place again in 2016, first happening in 1987 and running every year since in the last week of August. The Red Sea Jazz Festival is a four day international festival with 8 to 9 concerts per evening, 6 clinics with guest artists and nightly Jam sessions, featuring a showcasing a broad spectrum of jazz music from New Orleans jazz to the contemporary, including Latin and World music.

Beyonce Concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. August, 2016


“Beyonce is in expected to give a performance in Tel Aviv, Israel in August 2016. It’ll be Beyonce’s first concert in Israel. Her fans can hardly wait as this announcement follows years of rumors about her performing in Israel. Beyonce is one of the world’s largest pop stars, most famous for her hits “Halo” “Single Ladies”, and “Crazy in love”.”

Pharrell Williams in Tel Aviv, Israel. Summer, 2016


“American music sensation, Pharrell Williams is expected to give a concert in Tel Aviv, Israel in summer 2016. Pharrell Williams began his career in the 90’s but it was in recent years he rose to mass fame, in large part for his viral mega-hit, ‘Happy’, which caused waves on a global scale. Aside from his solo work, Williams has collaborated widely, and won multiple awards including nine Grammy awards as artist, and three as producer.”


To learn more about Study Abroad programs in Israel, click here. 

Visit touristisrael.com for more information on events, tours, and concerts. 


Haifa University - MA in Social Work


Program Description

The University of Haifa's international Social Work MA program in Multicultural Social Work explores the vantage points of marginalized and minority populations in the context of mainstream society and aims to develop a knowledge and skillset for a culturally competent program of assistance. While exploring the needs and rights of different groups in Israel's complex and multicultural society, the program also explores methods of enhancing cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural communication and will enable students to navigate diverse settings of public practice. The University of Haifa is itself a mirror of Israeli society and reflects its great diversity and cultural variety. As such it provides an important opportunity for engaging in culturally diverse learning. 


Programs Pagehttp://overseas.haifa.ac.il/index.php/graduate-programs/2015-06-28-12-18-34


Track A – with thesis

Track B – non-thesis


Haifa University - MA in Child Development


Program Description

The International Master of Arts Program in Child Development was established with the goal of improving the lives of children at risk in developing countries around the world by training and promoting professional leadership that will advance various agendas to achieve this objective. The program is offered through the Faculty of Social Sciences in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Child Development and the International School, University of Haifa. Taught in English, the full-time, one-year program is designed to train the next generation of international experts who will focus on pressing questions regarding the nature of child development and how it applies to the lives of children and their families in developing countries.
This unique program equips future professionals with a comprehensive theoretical basis and an applied skillset that will be effective in influencing the well-being of children and their families in a positive manner.


Tuition and Service Fees $9,780 US
Accommodation $450 US per month




Go to program page on the University of Haifa website 


Read the program blog



Young Judaea - Tel Aviv Academy Plus


Program Description

Welcome to TEL AVIV ACADEMY PLUS - A joint program between American Jewish University and YJ. On Tel Aviv Academy Plus, you get the best of both worlds: you will learn about contemporary issues in Israeli culture through top-notch academic studies while also interning with top Israeli companies. All of this is in vibrant Tel Aviv, a city that never stops!

TEL AVIV: The White City, The City That Never Stops. No matter what you are looking for, you will find it in Tel Aviv! On Tel Aviv Academy Plus, you will live in beautiful Israeli apartments in the heart of Florentin- the Brooklyn of Israel. Everything you could ask for is within reach in Florentin, from premiere restaurants to amazing bars and everything in between. You will also be a short bus ride from both the beach and the cultural center of town. By day, step into a thriving international business or arts environment. By night, step out and experience the best nightlife in the Middle East!

ACADEMY: Through Tel Aviv Academy Plus, you will take classes accredited by the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. You will study Hebrew, contemporary Israeli culture, and Jewish Religion and History, and more! Through the program's setup, all of Israel is your classroom.

PLUS: Gain real-world experience while you are still in school with a customized internship! With over 400 different options for placement, you will be able to experience your field first hand, supplement your academic studies with experiential learning, and give your resume a boost.



Haifa University - MPH in Global Health Leadership & Administration


Program Description

The University of Haifa’s International Master’s Program in Global Health Leadership and Administration is dedicated to providing students with a strong foundation from which to critically examine current global health challenges. The next generation of health care leaders will require a comprehensive understanding of society’s many facets and how they each relate to public health issues. They will also need to have sophisticated leadership skills in order to serve an ever more complex society, and to manage cross-cutting, multi-sectoral, top-down and bottom-up comprehensive programs, within and beyond the health services. In an increasingly integrated world marked by growing disparity, public health leaders will also need to be aware of how global and national forces affect health within and between national borders.
The Global Health Leadership and Administration program nurtures the required high levels of sophistication, excellent leadership and communication skills, and a deep knowledge of public and global health in order to prepare future practitioners and researchers for leadership roles in settings across the globe. The one-year program is taught in English over three consecutive semesters, from October through September.


Haifa University - MA in Jewish Studies


Program Description

The International Master of Arts in Jewish Studies is a program in Jewish history, philosophy and thought. It offers a comprehensive combination of Judaic studies that weaves together Biblical and Talmudic Studies, Jewish History, Philosophy and Mysticism. The program’s focus extends from the Biblical to Modern era, and is taught by experts in the fields of Biblical studies, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early and Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, early Modern and Modern Jewish History and Thought. Our parallel Hebrew-language program draws over two-hundred students annually and we are now happy to be able to offer it to students from around the world.


What you will study

The year-long program will be taught over three semesters and includes a final examination. The courses are split according to three chronological groups: the Biblical period, Antiquity (the Rabbinic period); and the Medieval to Modern period. In order to obtain a master’s degree the student will need to accumulate 36 credits over three consecutive semesters. The credits may be made up from any of the three groups of his/her choice and include the following fields of study:

•         Biblical Studies
•         Dead Sea Scrolls
•         Judaism in Antiquity
•         Talmud and Midrash
•         Jews and Christians, from Antiquity to Early Modernity
•         Medieval Jewish History
•         Jewish Philosophy
•         Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism
•         Early Modern Cultural History
•         Genizah Studies


Tuition and Service Fees $9,780 US
Accommodation $450 US per month


Go to program page on the University of Haifa website


Read the program blog



Haifa University - MA in German & European Studies


Program Description

The Haifa Center for German and European Studies (HCGES) is a joint venture of the University of Haifa and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD – Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst). HCGES was founded in 2007 with the goal of exposing students, researchers, and the community at large to a rich spectrum of topics related to modern Europe, and Germany in particular, since 1945.

The international Master of Arts program in German and European Studies at the University of Haifa is being launched as part of the teaching activities of the HCGES. The MA program is designed to acquaint students with topics related to Germany and Europe, highlighting Jewish and Israeli perspectives as well as the relationship between the Middle East and Europe. The program is interdisciplinary and allows students to approach German and European studies from a variety of angles while providing students with the opportunity to engage with other departments for a well-rounded education.


Track A (with MA Thesis)
Track B (with a final exam)