jWeekly: Jewish Life on Campus: Beyond BDS

jWeekly: Jewish Life on Campus: Beyond BDS

September 1, 2016

Three Views

 

When Jewish life at universities makes the news, it’s almost always about Israel-related controversies. But there’s more to Jewish campus life than that. As the fall semester gets underway, we asked Hillels around the Bay Area to weigh in.

"Because we have to be adaptive and resilient in a hostile climate, our students form sophisticated, passionate connections to Israel. We send many students to Israel on Birthright, Masa and Onward programs, connecting them with internships and educational opportunities, and empowering some to make aliyah."

 

Read the full article in jWeekly.

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?

Jon Sender: Thoughts as Study Abroad Ends

<div class="masa-blog-title">Jon Sender: Thoughts as Study Abroad Ends</div>

Written and published by Jon Sender , Hebrew University Study Abroad Alumnus '16, on his personal blog on July 5, 2016, three days before flying home from Israel.

 

On the shelf above my desk is a box of Q-tips I bought during my first week in Israel. Six months ago I looked at the quantity printed, 200, and thought to myself, that's roughly the number of days I'll be away. So by the time I'm getting ready to come back home, that box would be almost empty. With a little help from the days which I took two showers instead of one, that box is now indeed almost empty, having marked the passage of time on this monumental journey.


 

This past week has felt most bizarre, perhaps even more so than when I was first adjusting to life abroad. I can point to two major comparisons I've noticed.

 

First, both then and now everyone was in finals mode, but only now does that affect me as well. There seems to be this enormous pressure that I can't compare to the one at home. Everyone has no fewer than six or seven exams, plus up to two retakes for each—I still can't believe that's how the system works here—that will occur between now and August. Most of them will count for no less than 100% of the final grade. My suite mates are studying endlessly, taking breaks only to eat and sleep, and claiming they have no time to do laundry, go food shopping, or help me clean the perpetual mess we live in. Though I will soon be gone and miss everyone dearly, no one has time even to meet me for dinner, and I, too, am hard-pressed as I study for my own exams and prepare to displace my life yet again into a suitcase.

 

Second, when I arrived I felt like I knew where I was going, but not where I was. Now it's the opposite. While I have a pretty clear picture of where I am in the present moment, I have very little clue where I'm headed. Quite literally I'm going home, but figuratively I couldn't tell you. I'll be in a place where everything was once familiar, but will now seem a little off-kilter, I'm sure. I'm very conscious of the fact that while I've been away growing as a person, life at home [Cleveland, Ohio] has continued and kept moving forward. I expect that while everyone will behave the same, different people will be dating, and my city will feel different as a whole now that it has won a championship, undergone major renovations, and prepared to host the RNC. I anticipate I'll undergo an initial culture shock when I first return, and then another when I head back to school. I'll probably have to throw out a few new habits like yelling at people who cut me in line at the grocery store, and pick up a few old ones like greeting with a simple handshake rather than a hug and a kiss. I might hate America for a bit and unnecessarily romanticize Israel, even though right now, especially with July 4th having passed; I miss my country and am tired of the one I'm in.


More importantly, then I'll have to ponder the two big questions which will undoubtedly take time to mull over:

 

(1) What did the trip mean? And (2) What happens now?

 

I won't be able to look at the full picture until I'm off Israeli soil for quite some time because objectively understanding something necessitates that you remove yourself from it. But here's a start at tackling those two major queries while I'm still inside the adventure:

 

I find it interesting how on this trip, there have been many moments when I felt myself remembering things from the past, moments that had nothing to do with what was going on in the present, like first moving into my dorm at Case, or singing with Dhamakapella. I'd find myself listening to old songs I love but haven't played in years, and remembering people I once felt close to but haven't seen in a long time.
The only explanation I can come up with is that just as these things are part of my identity, this trip has become part of it as well, reminding me of who I am and leading me to question who I want to be.

 

When you travel, it doesn't take long to learn you can't do everything. From far away it looks like it should be easy, but once you arrive you discover that certain buses only run at certain times, or that visas are only available in Tel Aviv. These past couples of weeks I've spent much energy working through my bucket list—including visiting The Technion in Haifa, attending a wrap-up event of an entrepreneur club I've joined, and going to Petra in Jordan—but also realizing that some other items would be unmanageable. When Tal invited me to visit his home, I was already too pressed with an exam looming ahead and needed to decline. This reinforces my belief that if you want or need to do something, you have to take the first available opportunity. But at the same time, by the end, you learn to accept that what you accomplished is what you accomplished, and any time spent regretting is a waste.

 

Trying to plan anything with Israelis, even a few days ahead is impossible. They prefer to go with the flow and act last-minute by nature, which is nothing but a headache for someone like me, who works off calendars and to-do lists. Whenever I waited for others, the plans always fell through, and whenever I went on my own, I missed out on a last-minute party or trip to the market. The few times when I managed to take a last-minute offer, I always had an incredible time. From this, I've learned that proper coordination is a fine balance that requires always having a backup but being ready to drop it in favor or something that pops up unexpectedly.

 

Living on my own for six months has given me a taste of the real world, and it seems odd to think I'll be retreating from it for a year until I finish my degree. Laundry hasn't been new, but grocery shopping, planning long weekends, and especially scheduling an ultrasound in a foreign country (with a foreign medical system, I might add) have all been major tests of my ability to make decisions, rate priorities, and decide what is best for me at the given moment. Let me tell you, living abroad with a hernia has been less than ideal, but if I can manage that, then I'm certain I can take care of myself absolutely anywhere.

 

 

Sometimes to be informed you really have to take a step back and ask yourself, what the hell is going on here? I've been living in the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for half a year, and only now do I have a better grasp of it. Over dinner with relatives Ted and Raisie, we discussed how much of the world prays for peace without realizing that peace is not in the best interest of all parties involved, and therefore sadly does not make logical sense. On another note, I went to Jordan not only to see Petra, where they filmed Raiders of the Lost Ark but also to spend a day in an Arab country and see how it compares, after having been in Israel for so long. Aside from anything political, at first glance the country seemed less put-together, with shoddier infrastructure, displeasing aesthetics of buildings and bathrooms, and poorly paved roads. I'm left to wonder if that's a reflection of Israeli versus Arab values, or whether I wasn't in the country long enough to get a good sampling.


While now knowing Israel is not the right place for me to live, I'm left to wonder, what is the best way for me to support the country from abroad? By vacationing here during the summer? By incorporating "what's best for Israel" into my vote in November? By keeping up my Hebrew, now that I've passed out of it at a university level? I simply don't know…none of them are exactly spot-on. But I realize I should do something, nonetheless.


I came here with three goals, and have accomplished them all:

1. This has been a trip about Hebrew fluency, which I have achieved.
2. This has been a trip about Israeli entrepreneurship, which I better understand.
3. This has been a trip about Israeli culture, which I cannot relate to.


Additionally, I'm leaving with three main takeaways:

1. Always be thinking of your next trip. The average Israeli has seen all of Europe, plus America, India, Thailand, and South America. I promise myself, ironically, not to return to Israel until I've seen more of the world.
2. Be a good host, because people deserve it. You shouldn't have to invite over strangers as the Israelis do, but offering the cable guy a glass of water would be nice.
3. Do not wait, take the opportunity and run. Israelis achieve so much because they listen to what Nike says: "Just do it." I have concluded it's better to act than to mull something over for too long.


What's next? Over here I have an exam, goodbye party, packing day, a final car ride with Tal and Yotam, and a long flight back to reality. At home, ahead of me lies minor surgery, making money again, preparing for the fall semester and searching for the starting point of my career. I'll probably even begin planning my next trip for next summer, after graduation.


This won't be the absolute last post, but it is most certainly the last one I write from Israel. Thank you to everyone who's had the patience to keep up with me. I hope you've enjoyed and perhaps gotten some perspective.


It's been a good trip, but it's time to come home. Catch you on the mainland.


To learn more about study abroad options in Israel, speak with a Masa Israel rep today.


 

 

9 Must-Reads Before Studying Abroad in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">9 Must-Reads Before Studying Abroad in Israel</div>

By Andria Kaplan Aylyarov

1. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, Sandy Tolan

Sandy Tolan dives deep inside the relationship of Bashir Khairi, a Palestinian and Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, an Israeli college student. The book breaks down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the relationship of this unlikely friendship and proves hope and transformation does exist.

 

2. ‘Catch the Jew,’ Tuvia Tenenbom

Written by Tuvia Tenenbom, a Jewish journalist, who disguises himself as a German reporter so he can wander Israel for seven months. Tenebom visits Gaza, the West Bank and numerous Israeli cities to break bread and mingle with people of all kinds to unfold the unknown truths of the Holy Land.

 

3. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit

Ari Shavit is one of the most influential journalists in the Middle East and in this book, a personal narrative we are introduced to Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who comes to Israel on a Thomas Cook tour in 1897. The book will help grasp your personal understanding of “why did Israel come to be, how did it come to be, and can Israel survive.

 

4. Startup Nation, Dan Senor and Saul Singer

Have you ever wondered how a country so young, surrounded by enemies on all sides is able to produce more startup companies than any other country? Authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer examine the adversity-drive culture and workplace informalities that shape the great country that is now called, Startup Nation.

 

5. Commander of the Exodus, Yoram Kaniuk

The books describe the story of a man, Yossi Harel, known to some as a modern-day Moses, who commands a ship carrying 24,000 Holocaust survivors to the shores of Palestine despite what the British Mandate says.

 

 

6. In the Land of Israel, Amos Oz

The famous Israeli novelist Amoz Oz interviews dozens of his fellow countrymen from every corner of Israel, every cultural background to paint a diverse portrait of their fears, hopes and prejudices.

 

7. Our Man in Damascus- Elie Cohen, Aaron Eitan Meyer

Calling all espionage enthusiasts! This book is the amazing story of of Elie Cohen, who managed to infiltrate the hierarchy of an enemy nation to a degree completely unheard of.

 

8. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

If you’re coming to Israel and looking to travel to countries close by for the low then this book is a must-read. Twain’s book describes his journey on a charted vessel with numerous stops in Marseilles, Israel, Rome, Odessa and Morocco.

 

9. The Seven Good Years, Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret, one of Israel’s most well-known authors, wrote The Seven Good Years, his first memoir to document his life between the birth of his son and his father’s death. The New York Times says it’s a brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a genius.

 


Andria Kaplan Aylyarov is a Masa Israel Alumna and content marketing specialist for Masa Israel Journey. She loves a good glass of white wine and wishes she was 85-years-old and living in Boca, but she currently resides in Brooklyn.

 

JTA: For 'Jewish Valentine's Day,' Meet 5 Couples who Found Love on Israel Trips

JTA: For 'Jewish Valentine's Day,' Meet 5 Couples who Found Love on Israel Trips

JTA: For 'Jewish Valentine's Day,' Meet 5 Couples who Found Love on Israel Trips

August 14, 2016

By Gabe Friedman

 

In the two-part finale of the third season of “Broad City,” the show’s main characters, Abbi and Ilana, embark on a “Birthmark” trip — a thinly veiled allusion to the famed Birthright Israel trip that sends Jews aged 18 to 26 on free 10-day trips to Israel.

Upon boarding the “El Ol” plane, the best friends are assigned seats next to guys based on their “match potential.”

 

It’s hilarious — partially because it hits so close to home.

 

Programs such as Birthright and Masa Israel Journey, which offers study abroad and volunteer and internship opportunities in the Jewish state, are known — anecdotally, at least — for their high matchmaking rates. Even the receptionist for Birthright’s alumni community network who fielded this reporter’s phone call met her husband on a trip (read on for her story).

 

Thursday night marks the beginning of Tu b’Av, a minor holiday known as the “Jewish Day of Love.” A matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period, before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., Tu b’Av is now a popular romantically themed day in Israel similar to Valentine’s Day in the United States.

 

In honor of the holiday, enjoy the stories of these five adorable couples who met in Israel.

 

Alissa Platcow and Zeeva Berman, both 24

 

Zeva and Alissa

Zeeva Berman, left, and Alissa Platcow (Courtesy of Platcow)

 

Alissa and Zeeva met at the airport in 2013 on the way to the same Masa program, Jerusalem Sounds, which offered music and other classes at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But they quickly realized that they must have crossed paths multiple times, having grown up about 10 minutes apart from each other in the Boston area and attending the same small Hebrew school for years. They even participated in the same gymnastics program in middle school.

 

 

During their semester abroad, they attended an acrobatics convention together — the only non-dancers there. The women acknowledged perhaps taking the program too seriously, as the dancers considered it vacation time, Alissa and Zeeva both told JTA.

 

Near the end of the convention, Alissa woke up dehydrated — and Zeeva went into “mama bear mode.” With no hospital around, Zeeva forced the convention administrators to call an ambulance. The ambulance workers didn’t put the IV needle in Alissa’s arm correctly — it hurt, so Alissa started talking to the workers to distract herself.

 

“I was like, ‘Let them do their job!’” Zeeva said.

 

By the end of what they jokingly call the “near death experience,” the couple knew they were meant for each other.

 

“It definitely cemented our relationship,” Alissa said.

 

Now they live together in Manhattan, where Alissa is the membership assistant at Temple Israel and occasionally leads services at the Bay Ridge Jewish Center. Zeeva teaches music at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and other temples. (Oh, and she liked acrobatics so much that she now teaches it, too.)

 

Blake Yospa,28 and Rachel Leeds, 25

 

Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds

Blake Yospa and Rachel Leeds in Annapolis, Md. (Courtesy of Yospa and Leeds)

 

Blake and Rachel both spent the better part of a year working as teaching assistants at a school in Rishon LeZion. Blake liked Rachel, but felt he couldn’t make a move for, you know, professional reasons.

 

But with two weeks left in their Masa Israel program, he had to say something. To get her alone, Blake asked her to help him pick out gifts for his family members.

 

“I said, ‘Rachel, I kind of have a thing for you.’ She says ‘no, you’re lying.’ But she was smiling, so I could tell that she maybe felt something for me too,” Blake said.

 

He said he never would have crossed paths with Rachel if they hadn’t met in Israel — after all, she was living in Cleveland and he was in suburban Baltimore. Blake described it as luck that she was dissatisfied with the Cleveland school she was working at — it inspired her to go to Israel — and that the first school she worked at in Israel had a host of logistical difficulties, forcing her to transfer to Blake’s school.

 

The couple now live together in Washington, D.C., where Rachel is an elementary school teacher and Blake is an operations assistant for the Washington Redskins.

 

Arielle Mogil, 30, and Max Mogil, 29

 

Arielle and Max

Arielle and Max Mogil at their costume engagement party. (Courtesy of Arielle Mogil)

 

Arielle and Max met during the first ice breaker on their Birthright trip.

 

Everyone was given a card with a fun fact about someone in the group; the goal was to find the person it applied to. But by the time she sat back down in the group circle, Arielle was disappointed that she couldn’t find the person who played an instrument.

 

She happened to sit next to Max, who immediately told her he played piano.

 

“We joke that that’s his pickup line: ‘I’m a classical pianist,’” Arielle said.

 

Love grew from there and, to commemorate the day they met — which happened to be Purim — they had a costume engagement party. When the couple married in January, 14 people from their Birthright trip attended the wedding.

 

Now Arielle works on the staff at the Birthright Alumni Network. In addition to answering the phone — when she excitedly shared her story — she occasionally staffs Israel trips.

 

And when she does, she always makes sure to play that same ice breaker.

 

“I tell them that’s how I met my husband,” she said.

 

 

Ellie Rudee and Chris Goldenbaum, both 24

 

Chris and Ellie

Ellie Rudee and Chris Goldenbaum at Passover 2016. (Courtesy of Rudee)

 

They met in Jerusalem on Valentine’s Day a few years ago, but it took Chris a long time to win over Ellie. Chris, a native Brazilian, was interning at an organization promoting arts and culture. Ellie was interning at a private counterterrorism firm — and was also dating someone.

 

Months later their first date, a picnic at Jerusalem’s Montefiore Windmill, didn’t start exactly as planned — Chris forgot silverware and cups. Still, they had a great time.

 

“We were walking back and stopped in this restaurant to get drinks,” Ellie said. “We waited and waited, but nothing came. Eventually we were like, ‘Should we just go?’ So we just bolted and ended up laughing really hard.”

 

Their similar attitudes may have sealed the deal — but Ellie says it doesn’t hurt that he can do spot-on impressions of people they used to have Shabbat dinner with during their Masa program.

 

“We met a lot of people who said really crazy things,” Ellie said.

 

Both are journalists and now live in Jerusalem, although Chris is currently in Brazil working on film projects related to the Olympics.

 

Daniel Behrman, 32, and Jenna Kruger, 31

 

picture

Daniel Behrman and Jenna Kruger (Courtesy of Behrman and Kruger)

 

Daniel and Jenna met at a weekend conference in Jerusalem through their Masa internship programs. When they saw each other at the same lectures, they thought it was just coincidence. But they didn’t stay “just friends” for long — soon they were frequently traveling back and forth between Tel Aviv, where Daniel was interning at a marketing firm, and Jerusalem, where Jenna was interning at Hadassah.

 

“We joke that Jerusalem is a ‘city of love’ even though it isn’t [known as] that,” Jenna said. “I think it’s just a less stressful environment when you go out and you don’t have to worry about the religious aspect because everyone is Jewish.”

 

When they were both back in the States, Daniel immediately flew her out to see him in Seattle, where he worked.

 

“Before I went over, my mom told me not to fall in love with an Israeli,” Jenna said. “Moving to Seattle wasn’t quite what she had in mind either.”

 

The couple will marry in September.

 

Originally Published on JTA.org.

6 Foods to Cook in Your Israeli Dorm

<div class="masa-blog-title">6 Foods to Cook in Your Israeli Dorm</div>

By Andria Kaplan Aylyarov

 
When you move into your dorm or apartment in Israel, there’s a solid chance you won’t be cooking on a stove. You might even scramble and think “How? Where can I cook?”

 

Zeh Beseder Chaver, look in the cabinets and under the sink, and I promise you’ll find your sous chef, The Hot Plate. This small and at times extremely powerful electronic plate will cook your food pretty well and turn your tiny kitchen into an Iron Chef Arena.

 

If the sun is blazing outside and you don’t feel like chowing down on hot foods we’ve included a few chill options too. Happy eating!

 

Here are 6 Foods to Cook in Your Israeli Dorm:

 

1. Shakshuka

If you’re tired of spending your shekels on Israeli brunch, try this Shakshuka recipe in your dorm! 

 

2. Scrambled Eggs

Eggs have to be one of the easiest things to cook. Whether you’re an omelet person or like them sunny-side up eggs are always cheap and super simple to make.

source: kristensraw.com

 

3. Middle Eastern Grilled Cheese

You’ve probably gotten used to buying bags of fresh pita instead of loaves of Wonder Bread, so it’s time to trade the traditional grilled cheese for the pita grilled cheese.

 

4. Israeli Salad

Israeli Salad is an absolute must. Do not go back home until you’ve mastered the art of the Israeli salad.

 

5. Mixed Veggies and Pasta

Veggies and pasta aren’t as exciting as Shakshuka and Israeli salad, but both are super affordable and filling.

source: spoonuniversity.com

 

6. Toasted Israeli Couscous

Another simple and quick Israeli go-to you will fall in love with is couscous. You can find it at any Shuk or Macholet. It can be eaten hot or cold and tastes great paired with just about anything.

source: Brooklyn Supper

 

To learn more about whipping up authentic Israeli meals in your dorm, contact Masa Israel today.


Andria Kaplan Aylyarov is a Masa Israel Alumna and content marketing specialist for Masa Israel Journey. She loves a good glass of white wine and wishes she was 85-years-old and living in Boca, but she currently resides in Brooklyn.

 

QUIZ: What City in the World Should You Study Abroad In?

Hummus Tastes Good on Everything, Vegemite Tastes Good on Nothing: Study Abroad in Tel Aviv

<div class="masa-blog-title">Hummus Tastes Good on Everything, Vegemite Tastes Good on Nothing: Study Abroad in Tel Aviv</div>

By Andria Kaplan Aylyarov

 

You were always the friend with the big ideas who dared to be adventurous. Now, it’s your junior year and time to embrace your inner Indiana Jones and go abroad.

Whether you’d prefer the saltiness of Vegemite or the rich, bold flavors of hummus, check out our comparison of studying abroad in Sydney verse Tel Aviv.


The Food
Speaking of food, Sydney and Tel Aviv have fantastic culinary scenes, but depending on your taste one may sound more scrumptious than the other. Instead of putting peanut butter on your PB&J’s you’ll have to take a like to Vegemite, the 
salty, yeast like spread that Australians live on from the age of two.


If you’d prefer to lean away from high levels of sodium, then you would probably rather sit and dip freshly baked bread into hummus, your new favorite condiment. Walk into any café in Tel Aviv for some of Israel’s famous chickpea spread or find hidden spots like Hummus Magen David that is tucked away in Shuk HaCarmel.

source: spottedbylocals.com


Or, are you more of a meat eater? The locals in Australia will amaze you as they throw one of these on the barbie:

 

Ouch. Who would want to eat one of those cute little guys, not you! In Israel, you won’t be afraid to excite your taste buds with a little shawarma action. You’ll find these mouthwatering meat filled pitas on every corner. I’d suggest checking out Dabush

Down with the veg scene? Check out this vegan shawarma

 

 

The Beaches
There’s no better way to spend a semester abroad than on a beach. Tel Aviv and Sydney both have more beaches than one can imagine. The beaches in Tel Aviv rank again and again amongst the most beautiful beaches in the world.


Sydney, located in New South Wales is home to less and fewer beaches that rank, unlike its northern neighborhood of Queensland whose beaches frequently rank but are not situated in big cities. 


Bring it back to Tel Aviv, home to 8 miles of beach, all accessible right from your university. If you want to lay out with a beer, learn how to surf or chill Oceanside all weekend you won’t have to go far. Plus, within one block you’re right back into the city life.

 

 

Diversity & Culture

Nearly 32% of Australians were born overseas (that is if you count being born in England overseas). Let’s not forget how Australia was formed; Captain Cook discovered the Eastern part of Australia in 1770 and the British began sending their prisoners to live in the land down under. Israel, on the other hand, is home to lots of foreign born people making it a real multicultural epicenter. It’s not uncommon to hear Russian, French, Arabic or Spanish begin spoken. Tel Aviv is the melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and food in the Middle East. Also comparable to Sydney is the LBGTQ scene in Tel Aviv. In 2011, Tel Aviv was named the best gay travel destinations from a worldwide survey hosted GayCities.com and American Airlines. The Ministry of Tourism is so awesome that it even backed the Tel Aviv Gay Vibes campaign.

 

 

The Adventure
If you rock your Tevas year round and own numerous Patagonia swag then, of course, you’re looking at both Australia and Israel for their outdoor features. Do your research though and save up since Australia is an enormous country. To see all of it, you’ll need to travel extensive distances to get from the city to the bush, to the outback to the Great Barrier Reef. Israel takes little change and time to discover all of its wonders. In 8 hours you can drive from north to south and experience the forests of the Galilee or the seas of Eilat.

 

The Opera Houses
Okay, there is no way to compare the aesthetics of Tel Aviv’s Opera House with Sydney’s, except that tickets to Tel Aviv’s Opera House are 50% cheaper. Plus, who goes abroad to hang out at an Opera House anyway?

Let Israel knock your socks off next semester.


 

P.S. Don’t Forget About the Language

It’s rather obvious that Australia’s official language is English. Israel has several official languages, like Hebrew and Arabic. English is the unofficial third language. So if you are nervous about communicating, don’t be, everyone speaks English and bars and cafes have menus in multiple languages.

 

Andria Kaplan Aylyarov is a Masa Israel Alumna and content marketing specialist for Masa Israel Journey. She loves a good glass of white wine and wishes she was 85-years-old and living in Boca, but she currently resides in Brooklyn.

 

The Times of Israel: The Gap Year Investment in Israel

The Times of Israel: The Gap Year Investment in Israel

August 11, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO Masa Israel Journey

 

For at least a generation, there has been broad consensus on the linear trajectory of education for young people in North America. After graduating high school, college is often considered the natural and only next step.

 

Yet more and more, individuals and families are realizing that going straight to college is not a one-size-fits-all experience. In the halls of academia and in high schools alike, administrators increasingly recognize value in providing students access to immersive, transformational experiences before they make consequential — and expensive — decisions about their futures. Just as higher education itself is a major investment toward a successful future, so too is dedicating time during this brief and influential period in life to discovering one’s passions, values and perspective. As with any big investment, completing one’s due diligence beforehand should be the expectation, not the exception.

 

Gap year programs come in a variety of formats. Some students opt for domestic experiences, working or volunteering at home, while others set off for an organized year abroad. In both cases, studies have shown that students who invest in a gap year experience have higher GPAs, are more engaged with campus activities, and are 75% more likely to report being “happy” or “extremely satisfied” with their post-college careers.

 

Many international gap year programs provide the chance to volunteer or intern while only practicing living independently. The more proactive participants may learn to cook their own meals, coexist with roommates, or glean a few fragments from a new country and culture. The Masa Israel experience, on the other hand, not only empowers its young people to become fully immersed in their local communities, it connects them with a global network of peers they would likely never meet otherwise, who are equally eager to engage in an exchange of culture and ideas.

 

 

Israel is home to an abundance of languages, religions and communities. And on top of that, Israel’s longstanding custom of hosting international guests for extended amounts of time makes its cultural capital uniquely accessible. The expectation that young people from around the world can come here to expand their worldviews, build life skills and discover or refine their interests is weaved into the fabric of Israeli institutions, and the opportunities afforded to gap year participants reflect that.

 

In Israel, young people are exposed to an intense multiculturalism only found in the backseat of Tel Aviv taxis and the ancient stone walkways of Jerusalem, not to mention the smaller Israeli towns in the north and south of the country. And similarly, on Masa Israel experiences, it’s the interactions with thousands of other participants from all over Europe, South America, Australia and elsewhere that make the journey so transformational. Our subsidized, individually tailored programs allow students the opportunity to specialize in their unique interests, gain valuable work experience, and grow as independent young adults. Service and study opportunities provide daily structure, while internship opportunities for our gap year participants in Israel are unparalleled.

 

The truth is, most post-high school internships, no matter where they take place, offer few opportunities beyond fetching coffee, printing and stapling, and organizing Excel spreadsheets. But internships for our gap year students allow them to build real professional skills and tap into actual networks. Because of the mandatory conscription policy, Israelis expect 18-year-olds to be able to handle significant responsibilities, and thus the society is much more dynamic and flexible when it comes to giving young people the benefit of the doubt in a workplace. Additionally, Israel is a global hub for technology and innovation, and it is virtually impossible to avoid the optimistic, entrepreneurial spirit that exists in every sector.

 

 

From behind the scenes of one of the leading organizations for gap year opportunities, I’ve seen first-hand how a student’s taking the time to develop his or her identity before entering the formal structure of college can profoundly enrich personal and professional growth. So, if spending time in Israel in the gap between high school and higher education has not been recognized by American students as an essential investment opportunity, it should be.

 

Originally published in The Times of Israel.