The Stories of the Fallen: Young Jews from Around the World Mark Yom Hazikron in Israel">The Stories of the Fallen: Young Jews from Around the World Mark Yom Hazikron in Israel
More than 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world came together this week in Israel for one of the country’s most somber holidays – Yom Hazikaron. Gathering just north of Tel Aviv in Ra’anana Park Amphitheater, they honored fallen soldiers and civilians during an annual commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, a project of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the government of Israel. Honored guests included representatives of those bodies, and also included representatives of Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal (UIA), and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
Honored guests and representatives pay their respects to Israel’s fallen soldiers during the Yom Hazikaron commemoration at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel, organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel. From left to right: Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, world chair, Keren Hayesod-UIA; David Koschitzky, chairman, Keren Hayesod-UIA World Board of Trustees; Dan Lahav, deputy director general, Department of Home Affairs, Planning and Development, accompanied by his wife; Tzachi Hanegbi, minister of regional cooperation and acting communications minister; Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel; Alan Hoffmann, director general, The Jewish Agency for Israel; Avital Elfant, educational project manager, Masa Israel Journey; Liran Avisar-Ben Horin, CEO, Masa Israel Journey; Aaron Abramovich, chairman of the board of directors of Masa Israel Journey; and Yossi Bachar, chairman of Israel Discount Bank, accompanied by his wife. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.
Many of the attendees are in Israel for long-term, immersive internship, gap year or volunteer programs through Masa Israel Journey, and this was the first time they participated in a national gathering in Israel of this scale and significance: it is the country’s largest English-language Yom Hazikaron ceremony, and with simultaneous translations into French, Spanish and Russian, it allowed Jews from around the world to absorb the full meaning of the holiday.
For the American participants, the occasion stands in stark contrast to Memorial Day traditions at home, beginning with the sound of sirens ringing across the country. Allie Donahoo, a San Diego native, shared that the Yom Hazikaron ceremony – and the transition to Yom Ha'atzmaut – was transformative. “It is one thing to learn about these holidays in religious school and to hear about it from the shlichim [Israeli emissaries] growing up,” commented Donahoo, who is currently participating in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program. “But to experience it first hand, to be in the heaviness of the day and then for it to switch from mourning to celebration, from tears to fireworks, is indescribable."
While the ceremony honored all 23,544 who have died defending the State of Israel since the start of the Zionist movement, it highlighted the personal stories of six individuals, whose family and friends spoke throughout the evening, recalling their late loved ones’ dedication to the army, to their comrades, and to preserving Israel’s history and its future.
Aaron Abramovich, chairman of the board of directors of Masa Israel Journey, noted in his address:
“Our mission at Masa Israel Journey is to give our participants – more than 12,000 young people every year who come to Israel to study, volunteer, develop careers, and develop as individuals – a deep and meaningful Israeli experience. Part of that ‘Israeli experience’ is connecting with what it takes to have our independent homeland – the heavy price so many families pay. And so, you are here with every part of Israeli society tonight to hear the personal stories, and our national story. It is our wish to bring you into the Israeli family, by sharing these stories. These individual stories are a source of inspiration – and so is the very fact of our togetherness here, people from around the world, remembering them."
Aaron Abramovich, chairman of the board of directors of Masa Israel Journey, delivers remarks during the annual Yom Hazikaron commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel. Over 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world attended the gathering on April 30, 2017, each of whom are participating in long-term, immersive Masa Israel Journey programs across the country. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.
Some family and friends of the fallen participated in the artistic segment of the evening, honoring the lives of their loved ones. Stories told included that of Sergeant Michael Levin, a lone solider who was killed during the Second Lebanon War at the age of 22 after making made aliyah from Pennsylvania. Following his death, Michael’s parents founded the Center for Lone Soldiers, which offers a place for soldiers to gather, strengthening their community and connecting them to Israeli society.
Sergeant Jordan Bensimon, who made aliyah from France as a teenager, was killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 at the age of 22. Thousands attended his funeral, and during the Yom Hazikaron ceremony, guests watched a video featuring Jordan’s friends and relatives, to learn more about his short but full life.
Sergeant Udi (Yehuda) Algarbali, who fell at the age of 22 while defending his soldiers in combat in Lebanon. Following his death in 1994, his parents founded the Netivei Udi Association, which leads activities that Udi himself once organized, such as hikes for the cadets in the Paratroopers Teleprocessing Corps, where he served.
Shlomtzion (Shlomtzi) Landau-Halgua, member of the management committee of Gar’in Udi (Nahal post), and Aviad Kitsberg, graduate of Gar’in Udi, honor Sergeant Udi (Yehuda) Algarbali, who fell in combat, during the annual Yom Hazikaron commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel. Over 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world attended the gathering on April 30, 2017, each of whom are participating in long-term, immersive Masa Israel Journey programs across the country. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.
Lance Corporal Hadar Cohen a police officer who was fatally shot just last year at the age of 19 at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, becoming the first border policewoman to be killed in action, was honored by her friend, Corporal Yahav Drori. Yahav described the community center in Or Yehuda, Hadar's home town, which was created in her memory, to inspire young people and serve as a model for their military service. Yahav will soon be a commander in the border police training’s recently renamed unit: the Hadar Company.
Sergeant Dimitri (Dima) Levitas, who loved sports, architecture, and music, was killed by sniper fire during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 at the age of 25. Gilad Appelstein, who handed his command over to Dima, recalled how he cared after his soldiers as if they were his own children – soldiers who continue to celebrate Dima at regular music performances that his family holds in his memory on the kibbutz where he grew up.
For many Masa Israel Journey participants in the audience, the story of Ezra Schwartz hit closest to home – a Masa participant himself, the Massachusetts native was studying at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh when he was killed in a shooting attack while traveling to a volunteer program. A film clip screened during the ceremony showed what Ezra loved about his Masa program, Israel, and the Torah, before his life was taken at the age of 18.
Government officials and IDF representatives also made remarks, speaking to the participants about their obligation to uphold the memories of all those who have fallen. Speakers included Tzachi Hanegbi, minister of regional cooperation and acting communications minister; Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel; and David Koschitzky, chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA World Board of Trustees, and the aforementioned Chairman Abramovich of Masa.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel, delivers remarks during the annual Yom Hazikaron commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel. Over 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world attended the gathering on April 30, 2017, each of whom are participating in long-term, immersive Masa Israel Journey programs across the country. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.
An evening that started with sounding of sirens and was filled with song and prayer ended with pensive silence, as the crowds filed quietly out of the amphitheater, carrying with them the stories of peers they would never know.
By Sydney Peters
Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of traveling throughout Europe, Asia and just the tiniest bit of Africa. I love wandering down side streets and finding out all a city has to offer, even if it’s staring at a masterpiece on a brick wall. Sometimes it's just one graffitied word and other times it’s a whole building that has been transformed into a piece of art.
For these reasons, Berlin was my all-time favorite city for street art. That is, until I moved to Israel to teach English in Be’er Sheva on Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. Here in this gorgeous land that boasts a huge art scene, you can’t walk down a street without finding at least one speckled and worded up work of art plastered on the side of a building.
Israeli street art has a voice of its own. There are some pieces that have been up for decades because the government has found them to be that important. There are other areas where pieces may last only a few hours before someone has something else to say. After all, our people are known for being opinionated. So, enough with the text and on to the beauty of Israeli street art.
Here are a few of my favorites:
12. My parents came to visit recently and while we were walking through the vibrant streets of Tel Aviv I came across this tag. One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to grab a map, orient myself and wander in any direction. I always know I can pull my map out and become ‘unlost,’ but there is no better way to get to know a city than to get lost.
11. This fall, after a hectic first week of settling into our new city of Be’er Sheva, one of our first group activities was a scavenger hunt of the old city (yep, Be’er Sheva has one, too). As we walked by this piece, everyone immediately whipped out their phones, firing up Snapchat to share it with everyone back home. This piece is a friendly reminder of how much I’ve grown since the beginning of September and how much of a home Be’er Sheva has become.
10. One weekend I visited some Masa friends in Netanya and I was totally shocked when I was greeted by large murals like this one. Until then, Netanya didn’t strike me as the artsiest community, but now I’m counting down the days until I can visit again. This piece was such a wave of nostalgia; I always dreamed riding the Magic School Bus as a kid. And, let’s be honest, who didn’t want Miss Frizzle as their teacher?
9. This unique piece of multi-media street art can be found in Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. The frames are actually made out of wood, there are googly eyes on the bench, and stickers throughout. It adds a whole new level of dimension to the piece and keeps your eyes constantly wandering. I spent at least a half an hour at this wall, photographing it from every angle.
8. Do you know who all of these musicians are and why they’re memorialized here in Florentin? Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, to name a few. They’re all members of the 27 club, meaning they all died when they were the age of 27. You may be asking, who is the man on the far right? It’s believed to be the artist, Jonathan Kislev. According to my guide, there is some argument as to whether or not the pink paint over Kislev’s fast was done by Kislev himself or another artist. One rumor is that Kislev was so disappointed in all that he hadn’t accomplished by the age of 27, that he included paint to cover his face.
7. Ever since street art angel wings starting dominating my Instagram, I’ve been on the hunt for them. I even saw a post claiming that there was a set in Florentin, so I spent over an hour searching for them with no luck. However, did I get lucky when a friend in Netanya sent me a picture of these and they did not disappoint.
6. One of the things I find so fascinating about street art is how it’s constantly changing. This alleyway in Florentin, is one of the very places where you can see a piece one day and the next day it’s covered with something new. I could walk around this alley staring at the different tags for hours.
5. Technology has become such a permanent part of our lives in so many ways. I’ve seen this piece throughout Tel Aviv, but this photo was taken near Shuk HaCarmel. I think it’s a good reminder to put our phones down for a moment and appreciate everything that is around us. I mean, if you have your nose in your phone, would you even see this when walking by?
4. I decided not to save the world today.” Haven’t we all thought this? These are so many pressures in our lives, sometimes it’s just nice to not think about one. I also really love the typography on this piece, which I found meandering down the many streets of Florentin.
3. One of my favorite sayings is “I’m just one wanderlusting soul in this big, bad world.” If I asked someone to create a representation of that, this piece in Netanya would be a great pick.
2. Outside of Machane Yehuda, I haven’t seen a lot of street art in Jerusalem. While my parents were in town, we wandered down a side street and came across a lovely spread of street art. This tree of life was one of my favorites. I bought myself a tree of life ring during first solo trip to Europe in 2014, and I’ve found myself drawn to the symbol ever since.
1. It’s quite common to find the word ‘Coexist’ spray painted on walls near Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel. To me it represents the diversity and acceptance of Tel Aviv itself – a city, packed with tourists from every corner of the world and known for its vibrant the LGBTQ community. Here’s a pic of a spray painted ‘Coexist’ on RamBam Street.
Sydney Peterson is a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Be'er Sheva, where she serves as an English teaching assistant in a local elementary school. Outside the classroom, she seizes every opportunity for adventure in Israel and around the world. She loves searching for street art, immersing herself in new cultures and eating her way through new cities.
8 Need-To-Know Hebrew Phrases To Learn Before Going to Israel">8 Need-To-Know Hebrew Phrases To Learn Before Going to Israel
Living abroad for any period of time can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know the local language fluently.
Here at Masa Israel we understand the struggle and therefore we came up with 8 words/phrases that will make your Masa Israel journey a smooth ride. Oh and not only will you know the local slang, but Israelis will think you are literally a local.
Let’s get started with our first local Hebrew lesson:
1. Achi/ Achoti = Brother/Sister
A.k.a. Bro, Dawg, Homie, Girl, Gurrrrl, etc…
2. B’emet = Really?
A.ka. For real tho?
3. Mesiba = Party
4. Motzash = After Shabbat
5. Mehamem = Gorgeous
6. Metzuyan = Excellent
7. Sababa = Cool
8. Yalla = Let’s go!
A.ka. Hurry, Get Moving
To learn more about Masa Israel and the programs we offer, click here.
The Jerusalem Report: A Surprisingly Unorthodox Education Minister?">The Jerusalem Report: A Surprisingly Unorthodox Education Minister?
By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
Education Minister Naftali Bennett has pushed for smaller class sizes with more opportunities for one-on-one instruction.
Bennett also has shifted the focus of the English curriculum from literary to practical spoken and written English, which he believes is increasingly essential in the modern world.
He has explored ways to encourage Israel’s English-speaking community to become English teachers, including potential partnerships with the Association of American and Canadians in Israel.
“It’s easier to train an English-speaking person to teach English than a non-native English-speaker,” Bennett says.
In February, Masa Israel Journey and the Education Ministry announced plans to double the number of participants in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program beginning this year. The expansion will bring 300 young professionals into classrooms across Israel to teach English as a second language.
Masa participants teach throughout the country, though there is a focus on the lowest performing schools which require additional support.
“WE KNOW that for a child entering first grade today, when that child enters the labor market in about 20 years, half of the jobs today will not exist, but [will be] replaced by new occupations,” says Bennett. “How do we prepare a child for such a world of uncertainty? We focus on skills and competencies, on initiative, teamwork, breaking the rules in an organized way – being curious, reading English – these are the skills we have to provide our kids so they can be versatile and adapt to an environment we cannot even anticipate.”
You can read the full article here.
BY AMY SARA CLARK
Masa teaching fellows program set to double as demand increases.
For a week every year, Casey Spellman gets on a plane and flies to the place she considers her second home. She grew up in Plainview, L.I., but the annual trip is to Netanya, Israel, where she taught English for 10 months in 2012-13.
“I don’t have a single family member in Israel, but all of my friends and communities that have welcomed me make it feel like family,” said Spellman, 26, who is now a pre-K assistant teacher at the Horace Mann School in Manhattan. “Every time I go back it feels like home.”
On her trips, she stays in the family home of her madricha (group leader). “There are still three teachers that every time I go back to Netanya I see,” she said, and “there are families of [former] students that invite me over.”
This opportunity to form close ties with Israelis is one of the unique aspects of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program, which has been bringing roughly 150 20-somethings to Israel each year for the past five years to teach English in some of Israel’s lowest performing schools.
Next year, the MITF program is planning to double the number of teaching fellows to 300 to keep up with the Ministry of Education’s plan to strengthen English instruction across the country.
Israel needs English teachers from abroad for two reasons: the country has a growing shortage of instructors, and those that exist are, for the most part, not sufficiently fluent in the language.
In 2013, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics projected that the country would be short 5,300 English teachers by 2019, according to the Jerusalem Post. A poll the same year found that only 18 percent of English teachers in Israel spoke at the native-speaker level, according to the Times of Israel.
The Ministry of Education and MITF’s parent company, Masa Israel Journey, launched the teaching fellows program in 2011 to help fill the need. The fellows are required to live in the communities where they teach and also volunteer in those communities; both requirements are there to help the fellows integrate as much as possible into Israeli society.
“We believe that in order to really get to know the community, you have to do a few things: first you have to live in the community … and you have to interact [with the native population],” Tamar Zilbershatz, Masa Israel Journey’s director of gap and service programs, told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview from Israel.
The volunteer requirement, she added, is “also giving them the ability to express their other talents … in a different platform in the community,” such as running music workshops or ESL classes for adults.
Hal Halper, 28, who was a fellow in Beersheva in 2013-14 used his background in musical theater to direct a production of “The Wizard of Oz” at the elementary school. That was the first time the school had done a musical. The event was so popular that now they do one every year.
“Many of the coworkers shared with me that they had always wanted a theater program,” said Halper, who grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn and went to services at East Midwood Jewish Center.
Halper noted that the fellows program not only serves the function of filling teaching positions, it also helps educate students about the wider world.
“It was important for them to say, ‘Hey, there are Jews all over the world, not just in Israel.’ For fourth graders, it was something cool to grasp for them,” he said.
Both Halper and Spellman said they were struck by how warm and kind their Israeli coworkers and students were.
“I was most surprised by the loving environment. It was so welcoming right off the bat,” Halper said. “The kids were always running to you and hugging you.”
Spellman had the same experience. “We did a lot of volunteer programs, painting schools or working with children, we did hoops for kids, a basketball program for underserved communities, and every time they [Israelis] were so happy to have us, to be with us. Teaching in the schools, the same thing. I was very much respected by the other teachers and it was just so nice to be so welcomed.”
Spellman was also struck by the differences she saw between Israeli and American schools.
“Israeli schools seemed to be much more aware of what children need physically,” she said. Instead of having one long recess period, kids were given 15- to 30-minute breaks every two hours. “I thought that was much more conducive for growing children’s minds and bodies,” she said.
She also found Israeli children to be “much more upfront. Whatever they were thinking they would say to you. You really had to be ‘on’ in order to speak, and have a back and forth with them to make sure that your answers were appropriate,” she said.
She also learned how important it was to connect with the students by “being approachable and smiling and being available to children,” she said. “That sets up the relationship to grow together.”
But the most important lesson she learned was how to “moderate lesson plans depending on how the children are feeling or what they’re coming to school with emotionally or socially,” she said, “because you can have the best-laid plan in the world, but if the children are dealing with something personally, socially [or] emotionally, you need to adjust to fit them,” she said.
Zilbershatz and her colleagues will also need to adjust this year, because doubling the program in one year is no small feat. “We work every year to develop this program, but this year we put a lot of effort to answer the need, to bring more teachers and more fellows,” she said.
In order to enlarge the pool of potential fellows, this year Masa added a program for certified teachers. While college graduates serve as teaching assistants, often tutoring small groups of children outside of the larger classroom, the certified teachers will head their own classrooms.
But whether certified or not, fellows have a big impact on the students they teach, said Zilbershatz, especially given the large class sizes in Israel, which often exceed 30 students per class.
“It’s pretty amazing to see, they usually work with a small group of kids. It gives the little kids the opportunity to ask questions and gives our fellows the chance to really answer the question, which is not really happening in the big-sized classrooms that we have in Israel,” she said.
On one school visit, Zilbershatz asked a third-grade student why he liked working with the teaching fellow. “He said, ‘Because here in this space, I’m not afraid to make mistakes,’” Zilbershatz said. “That was really powerful because … if he will experience success, this is something that will definitely affect him, not just in the English study aspect but also in other subjects, and maybe in his social life.”
Israeli teachers, she said, say they notice “that there is a big change with the kids that work with the fellows.” This makes sense, Zilbershatz said: “They’re young, they come with a whole lot of motivation, the kids love them; they’re like celebrities in the school. It’s amazing to see how they come to school and how they really make a difference.”
And the program makes a difference in the fellows’ lives as well. “Teaching in a different culture really enriches your professional toolbox,” Zilbershatz said. “They are facing a completely different environment and school system. … So that requires from them different talents, different abilities.” In addition, she said, “Living in a completely different environment and culture independently is something that for sure improves and empowers them in terms of their personal, not just professional, development.”
Spellman agreed. “I would never trade the 10 months I was there for absolutely anything else,” she said. “It taught me how to be independent and take risks and do something that I love and really see out a dream that I had. And Masa Israel really gave me all those opportunities to do things that I would never else do on my own, or would think that I could do on my own.”
And, she added, “It has given me this amazing place to come back to every year and call home.”
You can also see the article here.
ARTZI - The Artistic gap year in Israelhttp://www.masaisrael.org/sites/default/files/Atzi%20Photo_0.png
Artzi combines the Arts, Judaism and Israel in a way that allows students to deepen their connection to Judaism and their inner selves, hike and volunteer all over Israel while developing their artistic talents. Artzi offers 4 arts tracks: Music, Dance, Theatre and Visual/Fine arts where students get to work alongside famous artists to create a professional portfolio and explore their talents.
Artzi is co-ed and pluralistic, allowing students to learn in an open environment, challenge themselves to fully reach their potential and have fun! Artzi also runs alongside True Spirit, the artistic Israeli pre-army academy, which allows students to really integrate into Israeli society, learn high level Hebrew, and make new international friendships.
Northern Hemisphere gap year- Aug 27th- May 31st
Southern Hemisphere gap year- Feb 4th- Oct. 28th
Artzi is the ONLY program where students get to live with Israeli peers, learn Art on a high level and experience an amazing gap year (hikes, learning, volunteering, etc.)
- Main Subject: Art
- 9 Months
- ARTZI AMI-Neshima
- Program appears on grant application as:
- ARTZI - The Artistic gap year in Israel
- $ 23500
- Program Dates:
- August 28,2017 - May 31,2018 Apply to this program
Written by Andria Kaplan-Aylyarov
Yes, BRRR. The weather is cold outside and as you kindle the Hanukkah flames and spin that dreidel, warm yourself up and imagine you’re under the Tel Aviv sun, soaking up the rays on one of these beaches.
…Because seriously, where else would you rather be?
1. Banana Beach
Located on the southernmost edge near Jaffa this beach is home to Friday night drum circles, hula hooping-bikini wearing girls, endless games of Matkot and sunbather after sunbather. Think of it as a Bohemian paradise right next to Tel Aviv.
2. Gordon Beach, Frishman Beach, Bograshov Beach
Welcome to beach-mania. These three beaches offer endless white sand, beautiful people and the perfect dose of sunshine. Located right in the center of Tel Aviv these beaches offer a great getaway with tons of bars and restaurants. Each beach is the perfect place to catch the addicting Tel Aviv sunset plus, there’s a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream stand at Gordon Beach. #YUM
3. Trumpeldor Beach
Walking down the beach in Tel Aviv you’ll spot an unusual statue and you know you’ve arrived at Trumpeldor Beach. This is a quieter beach amongst its neighbors since there are no facilities or lifeguards.
4. Jerusalem Beach
Formerly known as Geula Beach, Jerusalem Beach is located right off Allenby Street and near the very well-known Opera Tower building. You’ll find falafel shops and bodegas everywhere, so don’t worry about packing snacks for the day. It’s not touristy and is the perfect spot to meet all your friends for a relaxing beach day.
5. Tel Baruch Beach
Tel Baruch Beach may be one of Israel’s cleanest beaches. Fully equipped with green lawns, outdoor workout area, and seaside café it’s the perfect escape from a long week of classes or a big night out.
6. Metzitzim Beach
If you wake up early enough on a Friday or Saturday morning, take a stroll down Namal Tel Aviv, and grab a coffee while you check out Metzitzim Beach. It’s more family oriented but offers three volleyball courts and an outdoor workout area. If that’s not your thing, however, keep walking north and you’ll catch twenty-something Israelis sipping Goldstar and hanging out.
7. The Surfer’s Beach at the Hilton Hof HaGolshim
Besides beautiful people watching all day long check out The Surfer’s Beach and prepare to be amazed at the skill, the surf, and the boys. It’s a hot spot to kayak or learn how to paddle board too!
8. Coral Reef Beach(Red Sea):
Okay, so this beach isn't in Tel Aviv but it's a sun worshipper's paradise. You can go from sand to snorkel to world-class resort within minutes. The best part? There's a good chance your Masa program already has a trip to Eilat planned. #GetReady
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 New York.
To learn more about Masa Israel and the programs we offer, click here.
How to Reach Ivy League Levels of Tech Innovation">How to Reach Ivy League Levels of Tech Innovation
By Oren Toledano, co-founder and CEO of Israel Tech Challenge
We’re called the “startup nation.”
Despite being smaller than the state of New Jersey, Israel has more Nasdaq-listed companies than any other country in the world except the U.S. and China. Our businesses are quick to grow and to create. They are built on a mentality eager to take risks.
But, what is the secret sauce behind Israel’s success? What magic touch do we have that universities around the world are now acknowledging is highly effective and desirable?
This is a question others have asked before – most notably Dan Senor and Saul Singer in their best-selling book. One answer they give: it starts in the military. More specifically, in the unique training program for the young recruits of 8200, Israel’s elite military unit where thousands of bright, technically minded soldiers study deeply and master cutting-edge technology. Having served in that unit, reaching the rank of Major, I’d like to go into this a bit more.
Over the last three years alone, several start-ups founded by 8200 graduates were purchased by tech giants, including Adallom (purchased by Microsoft), Onavo (purchased by Facebook), and CyActive (purchased by PayPal).
In 8200, the idea of “being thrown into the deep end” is taken to a completely new level. The soldiers are expected to learn new skills super-fast and solve complex military problems with limited personnel, in a short time and with surprisingly little guidance. It is a quick, hands-on, intense learning process that leads straight to success.
During their training, the average day begins at 6 a.m., soldiers get exactly five minutes in the morning to wake up and dress themselves – and they get another 10 minutes, on the clock, for breakfast. The rest of their day is just as intense, as well as intellectually challenging and rigorously scheduled – an exhaustingly high-level program of study that generally continues at full force until 11 each night.
If you can keep up with the demands of this program for its full five months, you come out on the other end as a tech master at the age of 18, and with more technical know-how than an average American college graduate with a degree in Computer Science.
And it works particularly well. The unit’s alumni come away with the skills and mentality that are a natural fit for the start-up ecosystem.
The thinking and training of 8200 can be applied anywhere around the globe.
At Israel Tech Challenge, for example, we teach an international group of students about cybersecurity and data science. Working in closed cohort groups, with intensive training and close mentorship, and given the keys to a strong professional network, the students flourish. The method we use creates open-minded, autodidactic, independent thinkers who can even come up with solutions before the definition or emergence of the actual problem.
It is an approach that can help all of us, as an international community, react quickly, adapt to the needs of the market, and create in-demand applications.
Today, American universities have started to recognize the need for educational models spearheaded by 8200-like tech boot camps and crash courses in coding. However, this is just a single application of the kind of new thinking brought to the forefront by the 8200. Israel’s experience can and should be leveraged to jumpstart not only the adoption of a new pedagogical system, but also as a groundbreaking model of international problem solving.
By adopting 8200’s intense, focused, and uncompromising training methods, American companies and organizations can create a workforce that is better prepared, more disciplined, and capable of overcoming technological gaps quickly, adapting in an agile fashion to changing realities, and learning, without judgment, but with great depth, from past mistakes. And they could do this faster, with fewer resources, attracting only the most talented and challenge-ready employees.
Applied effectively, the potential is here for a powerful tool that can shift the way we approach some of the larger issues facing the international community, throwing the most motivated, mentally resilient, and brightest human resources at the problem, while making better use of other resources, like money and time. In other words, we could attack real world problems by engaging technology, and its best practitioners, to help solve national priority issues.
Not only could this model prove lucrative and economical, it could be a game changer in terms of results – tech products for a safer planet chief among them.
Oren Toledano is co-founder and CEO of Israel Tech Challenge, a partnership between the Jewish Agency, The Government of Israel’s Cyber Bureau, and Masa Israel Journey. Prior to his current position, Oren spent three years as Head of the Aliyah delegation of the Jewish Agency in France-Belgium, and before that served for nearly a decade as an officer in an elite technological unit of the IDF, reaching the rank of Major. Oren holds an MA in Political Science and Security Studies from Tel Aviv University, and a BA in Political Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Jacob Shiansky is the Masa Regional Representative for Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. He attended the University of South Carolina and double majored in Business Economics and Management. Prior to joining the Masa Israel team Jacob worked at Robert Half accounting where he worked in Finance Consulting and was a revenue accounting specialist.