Alisha Deluty
Alex Holder
Haifa University, 2009-2010
Amy Oppenheimer
Haifa University, 2006-2007
Joel Portman

Vicky Tobianah

Vicky Tobianah

Hebrew University of Jerusalem
 
When I made my decision to study abroad at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University, my home university, McGill, required me to attend a pre-departure lecture. At this lecture, they informed us of the basic protocol to arrange a study abroad program. Health tips, packing advice and room accommodations were all reinforced throughout the lecture. It was one thing, however, that stuck with me: You are embarking on a trip that not many students take, and that all students treasure. Keep a journal and record everything you do, see, learn and feel. 
 
It sounds simple enough but it was only once I was actually in Israel that I realized how important this tip was. Even for a girl who loves writing, keeping a daily journal was difficult. I tried to record all the adventures and trips I went on, the people I met and attempted to evaluate my feelings. But time flies, as it always does, and as I settled into a routine, I wrote less frequently until I was writing weekly or monthly. 
 
I may not have as many entries as I would like, but I do have something. I have an account of my journey and more importantly, of everything I learned. I have a story to tell and proof that my semester was valuable. When I meet future employers, I can easily look up the skills I used and the experiences I had and explain how they will benefit their organization. I studied in a foreign country for five months, met friends from all over the world and learned how to live with strangers - now my close friends. The ability to plant yourself in any situation, and feel comfortable, is a skill employers treasure. Proving I can master another language is also a great asset.
 
When I continue my studies, I have a record of the things I learned and the people I met along the way - people who will become important contacts in my future career and education. One of my professors told me to contact him if I need a reference for graduate school. Among many of his impressive jobs, he once worked in the Ministry of Finance and in financial companies in the US. Another professor told me to always keep in touch. A knowledgeable and well-respected individual, who works in Israeli politics, is another great contact for me - a Political Science student. A friend of a friend who I met works at a top newspaper in Israel and offered to help me break into journalism in the future. While researching possible fall internships, I came across a great program in Montreal. It turned out the program has offices all around the world and one of them was in Israel. I met the coordinator for coffee to discuss my future possibilities.
 
Most importantly, when the memories fade, and years pass, and I ask myself did I really just see a six year old helping his two year old off the bus? Did those two old ladies really just physically fight for a seat on the bus? And is my bus really stopping right in the middle of a highway? I’ll have the blog posts and the journal that reminds me it happened. 

Josh Nason

Josh Nason

Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Growing up in a family that was active in the Jewish community, Josh Nason’s entry into the Jewish world came at a young age. As a child, Josh attended Young Judaea camp. As a teenager, he joined U.S.Y. and was eventually elected international president. At Cornell, Josh was instrumental in reintroducing the Jewish fraternity, AEPi, to campus. But, though Josh had visited Israel several times during his youth, it was not until he spent a semester studying atHebrew University and living in Jerusalem that Israel became a fundamental part of Josh’s Jewish identity and involvement.
 
“On a teen tour, you see Israel as history. But, when you’re living there, you really get a sense of what Israel is,” he said. “It’s part of the decisions you have to make every day—Where will I shop for food? Will I take buses?” 
 
With Israel as his temporary home and its everyday happenings as part of his reality, Josh recognized the importance of Dr. Meron Medzini’s Israeli foreign policy class at HebrewUniversity. “I had always been a strong supporter of Israel, but I was suddenly able to really wrap myself around the significance of Israel’s relationship with its neighbors and the security of the state of Israel,” Josh said. 
 
When Josh returned to Cornell, he became a Masa campus representative. After his positive experience, Josh enjoyed promoting the long-term Israel programs to his peers. “It’s human nature that if you enjoy something, you want to share it with other people,” he said. “And it only helps that there’s a real hunger out there for students who want to spend time in Israel.” 
 
After his extended period of time in Israel, Josh believes that an Israel experience—even if it means investing several months to a year after college for it—is essential to building a strong Jewish identity. “We’ve been in lockstep in America. Everyone has to go straight from high school to college and then get an entry level position or go straight to graduate school. But it’s okay to say that being Jewish is important and spending time in Israel won’t only not kill you, but it will be a fun and rewarding experience.” 
 
Upon graduation, Josh took the position of campus coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America, which combines the sort of work he did as a Masa campus representative and his studies at the Hebrew University. With a strong foundation in Israeli history and a better understanding of Israeli life, Josh feels confident in his work, which includes developing responses to anti-Israel biases on campuses, bringing pro-Israel speakers to colleges, and creating lobbying trips. “Every day I tap into the knowledge I’ve gained,” Josh said. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job well without it.”
 

Josef Newman

Josef Newman

Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
 
In February 2009 I arrived at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies after five years of working in construction. Ready for a change, I was looking to explore my new interests. Having participated in Young Judaea’s Year Course program after high school, I was enthusiastic about being in a professional environment in a setting that held positive memories for me. The desert landscape that surrounds Kibbutz Ketura was a change from the traffic of southeast Florida and I was excited for a new experience.
 
Greeted by two Jordanian staff members upon my arrival, it was immediately clear that The Arava Institute was a unique place. At other academic settings, I have been accustomed to seeing a large divide between Muslim and Jewish students, but at the Arava Institute, environmentalism is an avenue for building peace and joint projects between Jews and Arabs is the norm.
 
Having grown up in an environment where Israel was a popular topic of conversation, I always assumed that peace was something political, something that was brokered by officials who drape their pens over official documents in big conference rooms. I never considered the possibility that working together on the restoration of the Jordan River would be a way for Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians to form friendships, bonds and a common identity.
 
I spent six months at the Arava Institute soaking up skills and knowledge related to the environment. Course topics ranged from the Middle Eastern water management policy to environmental politics. The professors came from all over the world with diverse backgrounds, but they all shared the belief that peace is something that happens each and every day by people who want to make a difference. We may not all have the power to sign a declaration on behalf of our country, but we certainly have the power to embrace people who are not as different as we may have first assumed. Before people are Israeli, American, Muslim, or Jewish, they are all human beings living in the same world, a world that requires our help.
 
I sincerely believe my time at the Arava Institute was among the six most meaningful months of my adult life. It has forever changed the way I view Israel, the way I view my friends over the river and those behind the fence. It inspired me to further my education in environmental science, leaving behind five years in the construction industry in pursuit of a new calling. I hope that other young adults will look into similar Masa Israel-sponsored opportunities in Israel.
 
In August 2009 I returned to Southeast Florida to begin my studies at Florida Atlantic University. I enrolled in the biology department and began the track I knew I was meant to take, but also began a new track as an environmental activist. Having taken home the message that it is we as individuals who create change, I quickly found FAU’s local student activist group, the Mission Green Student Association. Together with other likeminded students, we continue to push the message through education and action. Whether through small activities like beach cleanups and nature preserve maintenance to larger activities like planning speakers and dedicating a day on campus to new green initiatives, the message remains.
 
The Arava Institute opened a new chapter in my life. Recognizing the consequences not only of my actions, but also of my inactions, has made me more aware of the need to act in daily life. With a new perspective not only on Israel but also on myself, I look forward to a future where I can share with others that which I was so blessed to receive, and I will continue to work on behalf of the earth and all its citizens.

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