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Study Abroad

HUMMUS TASTES GOOD ON EVERYTHING, VEGEMITE TASTES GOOD ON NOTHING: STUDY ABROAD IN TEL AVIV">HUMMUS TASTES GOOD ON EVERYTHING, VEGEMITE TASTES GOOD ON NOTHING: STUDY ABROAD IN TEL AVIV

Posted May 14th, 2016

 

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.

 

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.

 

Career Israel: Daniel Vapne Profile ">Career Israel: Daniel Vapne Profile

Posted May 13th, 2016

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JON SENDER: THOUGHTS AS STUDY ABROAD ENDS">JON SENDER: THOUGHTS AS STUDY ABROAD ENDS

Posted May 9th, 2016

 

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.

 

What Mothers are saying about Masa Israel">What Mothers are saying about Masa Israel

Posted May 5th, 2016

In the USA, Mother's Day is a special holiday meant to celebrate your mother and shower her with compliments and gifts. Sometimes, a great gift can consist of you going on a long term program in Israel. In honor of Mother’s Day, our gift is to highlight how much impact a Masa Israel participant gives to their parent and the Jewish people. 

 

By Nancy Iankowitz

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother's Day from Masa Israel! 

 

To learn more about Masa Israel programs, click here. 

 

5 REASONS TO STUDY AND INTERN ABROAD">5 REASONS TO STUDY AND INTERN ABROAD

Posted May 4th, 2016

 

The experience you get when you live, learn and work in a foreign country gives your career and life endless opportunities. Here are five reasons to study and intern abroad next semester.

 

When you spend a semester both studying and interning you can apply the knowledge from class immediately to the work environment which, makes your newly attained skills come to life. You'll understand it's okay to make mistakes and fail and that this semester abroad is the perfect opportunity to do so.

 

Unlike in your home country, where you understand the social and cultural norms, when you’re abroad, the context is changed, and your skill set naturally expands. From this point, you better know how to listen to others, understand how to adapt yourself to any situation and communicate across multiple cultural barriers. It's at this moment that you automatically challenge yourself and your senses become sharper than ever.

 

When you intern and study abroad you can have a transformative experience in your choice of career fields and get a taste of different jobs and work environments. It’s entirely okay to say you don’t like one path and then seamlessly switch to another, before it’s too late. So, whether you want to go to med school or work for a tech startup, you’ll get a dose of the real thing here in Israel.

 

Whether you’re in class or at your internship, you have the chance to develop your international network. Your coworkers, classmates, and professors serve as a new platform for connecting you with professional opportunities, resources and personal development in the present and the future.

 

Oh, the real world. Soon enough the four glorious years of college will have to come to an end, and there’s no way to better prepare yourself than by spending a semester in a beautiful country where you’ll live, work and study on your own. It is here where you get to experience real independence. You’ll finish the semester wishing you didn’t have to leave and go back to your dorm. Graduation never looked better.

 

 

Written By Ruti Alfandry, Masa Israel's Director of Academic Programs

 

 

Study Abroad Israel

 

Out of Chaos, Total Clarity">Out of Chaos, Total Clarity

Posted May 4th, 2016

A Yom Ha’Shoa tribute to my late grandmother (Esther Klein, 1918-2011), who did more than survive Auschwitz and Ravensbruck:  She defeated them.

 

To truly do justice to Esther Klein, I ought to invite you to my kitchen as I tell you about her. I would seat you in the corner on a rickety step stool, play some swing music, and let you peel some potatoes for my soup, or very slowly add the ground nuts into the egg whites for the highest rising Pesach cake in Bayswater, if not all of Queens.

 

While you were on that step stool, I would tell you stories about my childhood and my sisters and my parents, all gone. I would never cry. I would tell you in a way that never scared you or depressed you, but instead compelled you to bring the story forward, to your own kitchens, later.

 

I would sing along with the music and laugh at your jokes, whether or not they were funny, and I would tell you my distinct opinion on family life, world politics, fashion, economics, literature, or social etiquette.

 

Later, we would play Rummikub and I would scratch your back until you fell asleep. I would tell you stories about your father, when he was little, and how he reminded me in this way of my own father, and in that way, of you.

 

Without too much effort, I would tie you generations back, and tie myself generations forward, completely by the way, as you were dozing off.

 

You would never guess that my own wonderful childhood ended at the train tracks, until I would tell you that part, too. There was a perfect sense that nightmarish evil was absolutely real, and also that, most decisively… “Ve Von.”

We won because, when you are not sitting on that step stool, I am using it, well into my 80’s, to climb to reach things from the top cabinet, teaching you that it’s all about balance.

 

I tell you about my very religious and learned father who learned at the Shabbat table with my mother, back when most European women were learning the Tzena Re’enna. Who sent his sons to yeshiva and expected them to work, like he did. I would tell you how my mother, Nechama, prepared blueberry jam for stomach ailments, because she was known as something of a medicine woman around town, and, like my father’s dry-goods store, her kitchen was a regular stop for the local poor.

 

I would create a seamless flow from the Hershkowitz’s charitable and intellectual kitchen in Seredna to my short but horrific stay in Auschwitz and then Ravensbruck, where I was sustained by my nieces, teenagers of whom my sisters put me in charge… and then right back to the kitchen where we now sit, making potato soup.

 

Which, if I were my grandmother, would bring me back to my mother, who told me on our first day in Auschwitz, when we were being processed into our potato sacks, to ignore the SS, just as I had ignored the goats and the cows back home. My mother had reminded me, in those two weeks we were together before she disappeared in a cloud over Poland, who was the human being in this situation, and what that demanded of me. I remembered, and reminded, every day since.

 

What it meant to be human was to have both determination and balance. Empathy and a sense of justice. Respect for the dead and a total dedication to the living. To living. A sense of reverence and a sense of humor. Balance. Living modestly but mindful of aesthetics. A dedication and deep gratitude to America, and a complete devotion to and support of Israel. Work outside the home well into her 70’s, and family always first. Being equal parts emotional, intellectual, and physical. Torah classes, survivor’s meetings, family events, the gym. Shul and the beach, both healing.

 

Being realistic and optimistic – living on that delicate edge of facing down yesterday and expecting a reversal tomorrow, while completely in the present, today. My Grandma was Zen before anyone knew what that was, except maybe my uncle.

 

My grandmother’s life, you would soon see, was a “Dayenu” story. Thankful and disbelieving of every victory, and also always pushing the envelope toward the next one, the one that her father demanded that she pursue.

 

Esther Klein did things on her terms. She accepted God’s will. But to the greatest possible extent, it would be God’s… and Esther’s.

 

It was the endless winter that began 1945. My grandmother and her nieces had just been marched through the snow from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck. The Nazis felt that the end was near, and the final solution needed final solving. To accelerate matters, they put the women in an outdoor tent in sub-freezing weather. The calculations were correct. Half died the first night there. The survivors, my grandmother told me, slept very little, and when they did, it was standing or sitting, huddled in groups.

 

They also didn’t let go of their tin cups, because that way, they could drink hot soup, when it was available. Being and asthmatic since age 13, my grandmother got sick. Very sick. She did the forbidden and fell asleep. She thought she would not wake up. But then something crazy happened. She had a dream.

 

In that dream, her father, whom she had not seen since getting off the train on Shavuot of 1944, was standing near a window in a long white robe. She said it looked like a kittel. He asked her to come look out the window. He pointed actively to a tree with white blossoms, and told her: When the trees start to blossom white, you and Ibby and Helen will be free. Please wait.

 

So she woke up. She stood up. And she waited. And encouraged others to do the same. As her father promised, they were liberated in spring. The Swedish Red Cross took my grandmother and her nieces back to Sweden. When they disembarked this more benevolent train, they found that they had arrived in an orchard in full bloom. On every tree, white flowers.

 

This story, which every Klein grandchild has heard more than once, was Grandma’s way of saying that you need an inner guide, one that is firmly planted in your own authentic roots, but that you make yours, and tell it your way. You need to hang on and believe in God, but you need to do your part to make it so. She believed in Divine miracles made real only via human effort, which is the message of the first Esther, too. She believed in bearing witness to the past, and she believed in writing your own story going forward.

 

Grandma, I miss you terribly. A world without you is a strange place. But you taught us what your idyllic life before Auschwitz, and your unthinkable time there, taught you: how to balance on a rickety step stool while singing and reaching higher.

 

What more could we have asked to know?
 

 

JERUSALEM > COPENHAGEN: 4 REASONS WHY ANCIENT STREETS ARE BETTER THAN SNOW">JERUSALEM > COPENHAGEN: 4 REASONS WHY ANCIENT STREETS ARE BETTER THAN SNOW

Posted April 30th, 2016

 

Copenhagen may be a top study abroad destination, but wouldn’t you rather spend your semester abroad immersed in a 5,000-year-old city accompanied by a gorgeous Mediterranean climate?

 

We thought so and here are 4 reasons why ancient streets are better than snow:

 

The Culture

Copenhagen welcomes a great European culture which is worth seeing at some point in life. When you’re young and looking to have the best 5 months ever, you spend it amongst as many cultures as possible. There’s nowhere better to do this than in Jerusalem. The city streets are bursting with people from around the world, both locals and tourists. Don’t be surprised if one moment you’re talking to someone from France then the next someone from Yemen, this is an everyday occurrence here. The plus side, everyone your programs speaks English, even if they’re from other countries.

 

The Language

As if Danish will come in handy throughout your life, why not spend 5 months speaking the language you already know… English. Bet you didn’t know that English is the 3rd unofficial language of Israel. Plus, if you want to learn Hebrew, every study abroad program in Jerusalem offers language classes.

 

The Nightlife

Yes, most countries in Europe are known for great party scenes. However, when you’re walking in Machne Yehuda (the Shuk) and the sun begins to set you won’t know what has hit you. All of a sudden fruit stands turn into wine bars and cheese stands turn into beer gardens and before you know it the entire shuk is a club. It’ll be a snapchat story like never before.

 

The Location

In Denmark, you may be miles from multiple seas at any given time, but only in Jerusalem can you be a hop, skip and a jump from floating in a sea, The Dead Sea. There’s no better way to fill your Instagram up than with pictures of yourself doused in mud while floating in an ancient sea. Plus, the sea and the mud are great spa treatments so you’ll go home with a just-got-back-from-studying-abroad-glow!

 

 

 

By: Lauren Katzenstein

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Gidon Frank">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Gidon Frank

Posted April 28th, 2016

From a very early age, Gidon Frank has had a strong connection to the Jewish community in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario Canada.

 

A graduate of Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto and Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, Gidon graduated from Brock University in 2011. During his time in university, he helped grow the Jewish Student Association and became very involved with several local Jewish organizations.


With the help of Masa Israel Journey, he spent the 2013-2014 school year in Israel, earning his MA in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Throughout his time at Hebrew U, Gidon was involved with over 50 different Israeli nonprofit organizations.

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


Masa allowed me to truly experience my personal Israel journey, which I truly treasure. I want to help young Jewish adults experience their own Israel journeys, as well. Nonprofit and Jewish communal work, as well as Israel have always been passions of mine. This in combination with my many years of experience and skills and knowledge gained along the way, will allow me to help guide others toward a positive experience.

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?


I’d love to run a sports event. Like many other Jewish young adults, sports is a big part of my life as well. I have been involved with other successful Jewish sporting events such as Hoop 4 Israel and would like to start a similar initiative. 
 

 

Learn more about the Masa Israel Alumni Fellows Program.

 

The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities">The Jerusalem Post: For those looking to explore Israel, emerging cities

Publish Date: 
April 26, 2016

By Shaina Oppenheimer

 

Integral to the choice of coming to Israel is the eagerness to give back to its people. Masa hopes to inculcate a sense of shared responsibility.

Every year, Masa Israel Journey enables thousands of young Jewish adults to come to Israel on various programs and experience the country as a local, diving deep into Israeli culture. However, the dynamic of these programs is starting to change; as more participants gravitate towards smaller cities, the focus is shifting from “my Israel” to “our Israel.”

 

A service and learning program incorporating gap years, study abroad, volunteer work and other post-graduate work contexts, Masa is starting to radiate waves of change throughout the Jewish community in moderately-sized metropolises, such as Beit She’an, Petah Tikva and Beersheba.

 

Read the full story on JPost.com. 

The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'">The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'

Publish Date: 
April 24, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey

 

Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

Every spring, Jewish people across the United States and around the world sit at a table with their friends and family to retell the story of our exodus from Egypt. The first leg of our journey back in time begins with the “Ma Nishtana” (“What has changed?”), also known as the Four Questions.

 

As we prepare to retell the story of the liberation of the Israelites and the birth of the Jewish people, it is also worth exploring the current state of our Tribe. This Passover, I have four slightly different questions for the American Jewish community.

 

These are the four major questions that are worth asking:

 

1. How can we increase young American Jews’ interest in Jewish life and Israel? 

 

If you just read the headlines, it might seem that engagement is on the decline and anti-Israel activities are expanding. But the sky isn’t exactly falling.

 

One thing we do know is that it takes a transformative Israel experience with a lasting impact for Jewish young adults to reestablish, or even establish for the first time, their personal connections to the Jewish people and to Israel – to discover the Tribe.

 

Now, I am not talking about a single event, happening, or “aha” moment. Though for some it may only take one spark to reignite the Jewish fire inside. I’m not talking about the classic structure of organized Israel trips that include a bus tour of the country’s sites like Masada and Yad Vashem, meeting Israelis, learning to count to 10 in Hebrew and stuffing your face with more hummus and falafel than you ever thought possible.

 

These are clearly cornerstones to a young Diaspora Jew’s introduction to Israel – the state, the land and the people. However, the personal moments, conversations and observations enabled by a long-term Israel experience are the lasting connections that help our young people realize they are part of something bigger than themselves – Am Yisrael.

 

I’m talking about your first trip to an Israeli mall, when you see the clothing and accessories covered in Stars of David instead of crosses. The grandmotherly women you encounter on the bus that offers unsolicited life advice and a bite of their snacks as if you were their own grandchild.

 

The way in which everyone wishes you “Shana Tova” in the fall, not because they’re religious or on the way to synagogue, but because it’s as natural as wishing someone “Happy Holidays” in the winter in America.

 

These are the local Israeli moments that stay with young Jews as they go back home and reflect on their experience and newfound connection to Israel and their Jewish identities. They are what make that connection durable.

 

2. How do we empower our students to authentically change the Israel conversation on college campuses across the country?

 

Young Jews who spend substantial amounts of time living in Israel are much more equipped to deal with the often hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and activities on campus. Having spent significant time in Israel, they know more about what’s happening (and has happened) on the ground. As such, they are not only able to take part in discussions and debates, but also have the knowledge and tools to change the tone and content of the conversations.

 

By bringing their own Israel stories and experience into campus dialogue, these students have the power to change a combative debate into a personal conversation. Having a trove of deeply personal experiences on the ground in Israel allows individuals to speak more knowledgeably and comfortably about Israel and its politics.

 

Spending significant time in Israel also enables young Jews to better differentiate between legitimate criticism and uninformed, misguided hatred. Rather than feeding into the entrenched, polarizing propaganda war, these students are empowered to respectfully confront dissenting viewpoints. They can go beyond traditional hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts and pro-Israel talking points to have nuanced and intellectual conversations about the reality of the challenges facing the State of Israel, its leadership and its people.

 

3. What will the US Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership look like in 10 years?

 

With the number of unaffiliated Jews in America on the rise, one might think that the American Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership is shrinking or narrowing. However, the pipeline is actually expanding. One key indicator of young Jews who remain engaged and take on leadership roles in Jewish life are those who have spent an extended amount of time in Israel.

 

The variety of opportunities to spend meaningful time in Israel has consistently grown over the past several years. Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

 

In 10 years, the majority of Jewish adults in the United States will have participated in an immersive Israel experience. We are talking about an unprecedented reality for the American Jewish community.

 

Throughout my and my American colleague’s meetings with our numerous Jewish communal partners, from Jewish Federations to Hillels to synagogues and beyond, it becomes more and more apparent that alumni of immersive Israel experiences, particularly those who have spent between five to 12 months in Israel, are overrepresented in the Jewish professional world. They are everywhere, in every organization, and they are the future leaders of the Jewish community.

 

As a result, they are and will continue to be more determined to connect Israel to all aspects of Jewish life. More than anything, they will make Israel travel an integral part of Jewish life and Jewish experiences. That, my friends, is revolutionary.

 

In a decade, these same young leaders will hold influential positions, whether in the Jewish world, business world, the philanthropic world and beyond. They will be the ones calling the shots and making important decisions. To have their Israel stories to tell and an unforgettable experience to look back on will mold these discussions and decisions before they even begin.

 

4. Yalla, nu, when are you coming?

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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