Masa Israel Commemorates Israel's Fallen on Yom Hazikaron

Masa Israel Commemorates Israel's Fallen on Yom Hazikaron

April 15, 2013

Last night, Masa held a moving Yom HaZikaron ceremony for over 4,000 of its participants at the historic site of Latrun. Together, we honored Israel's fallen.
Speaking to 5,000 Masa Israel Journey participants at a Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers ceremony, Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said, "While in the Soviet prison, … I thought about the three Israeli sportsmen who had visited Russia and had bravely met with us. They told us that Israel was a place of great joy."
 
"I later heard that one of the three was killed in the Yom Kippur war. But, mostly I thought about Yoni Netanyahu. The fact that the State of Israel was prepared to send its soldiers to rescue Jews all over the world gave me great strength. Yoni was 29 when he was killed and was 29 when I was arrested. Every time that I felt that I didn’t have the strength to keep resisting the authorities, I thought about Yoni Netanyahu and it gave me the strength to keep going."
 
 
Minister of Econonmy Naftali Bennett also addressed the participants:
 
 

Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim

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Program Description

Achvat Amim, which means "solidarity of nations" in Hebrew, is a new 5 month volunteer experience in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples. Achvat Amim is renewing the conversation on Jewish Peoplehood and Zionism for the 21st century. Together, we build a dynamic learning community in which we explore and shape Jewish culture and identity as individuals and as part of a greater whole, engage with the challenging realities in Israel and the West Bank, and build on the rich history and traditions of which we are a living part.
 
Achvat Amim is a framework for meaningful volunteer work with leading Israeli human rights organizations, including Rabbis for Human Rights, which do grassroots work with Israelis and Palestinians in and around Jerusalem. Achvat Amim focuses on developing practical skills in community development and education through intensive volunteer projects and engaging with social change and human rights movements. The program combines learning programs, outdoor experiences, seminars, and trips around the country with working on real projects with leading human rights organizations.
 
Join us in building a future rooted in the Jewish values of Tzedek (Justice), Shalom (Peace), Tikkun Olam (Repairing the world) and Achvat Amim (Solidarity of Nations).

Highlights

- Volunteer doing grassroots work with leading Israeli human rights organizations
- Live in Jerusalem, a city of diversity, conflict, and beauty
- Build Jewish community and shape a collective culture
- Develop leadership and community organizing skills by taking responsibility for Tikkun Olam on the ground Learn Hebrew and Arabic
- Make lifelong connections with Israelis, Palestinians and people from all over the world
 

At Lamidbar

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Program Description

At LaMidbar is a five-month Masa Israel program designed for 21 – 30 year olds. You are invited to join a unique desert community and undertake a personal journey of deepening your understanding of yourself and your place in the world. Guided group meetings provide a forum for raising questions, listening, and dialogue.
 
The two program tracks, the Farm Internship and the Art Apprenticeship, provide an arena to learn a new skill and work with the land or with natural materials, as well as serving as a basis for observation, connection and growth arising from our daily interactions with people and the environment. The Farm Interns will join a Kibbutz work-team: organic agriculture, goat husbandry, goats’ cheese making, organic vegetable garden, organic date cultivation. The Art Apprentices will work closely with a master craftsman in metal-smithing, stained glass, ceramics, carpentry, or weaving. Both tracks will converge one day a week to work on a group green building project.
 

Highlights

- Immersion in a unique community 
- The inspiring desert atmosphere of the Negev
- Focus on reflection and personal learning from your experiences
- Ecological building in desert conditions
- Learn a practical, hands-on skill (organic agriculture, goat herding, cheese-making, natural materials)
-Apprenticeship with a master craftsman
 
 

My Typical Day With Saving the Stones

<div class="masa-blog-title">My Typical Day With Saving the Stones</div>

Officially, our days usually start around 8:30am, unless we have commitments further out of down which requires getting up earlier. However, wake-up is somewhere between 7 and 8 for us, when we hop (or stumble) out of bed, gather around the electric kettle, and assemble breakfast and lunch.
 
 
We have intensive Hebrew instruction, or Ulpan, twice a week at 8:30.
 

400 Emerging Jewish Leaders Gather in Jerusalem for Masa Israel Leadership Summit

400 Emerging Jewish Leaders Gather in Jerusalem for Masa Israel Leadership Summit

400 Emerging Jewish Leaders Gather in Jerusalem for Masa Israel Leadership Summit

March 12, 2013

This week, nearly 400 students, interns, volunteers and gap year participants from all over the world have gathered in Jerusalem for an intensive week of social activism and community organizing training at the Masa Israel Leadership Summit.
Now in its third year, the Masa Israel Leadership Summit provides training, tools and networking opportunities to young adults who are in Israel for five months to a year on gap year and post college programs and have demonstrated a commitment to leadership. By partnering with renowned educational organizations such as Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and PresenTense, Masa Israel is providing cutting-edge programming for summit attendees, and valuable contacts for them when they return to campuses and Jewish communities in their home countries and pursue leadership roles.
 
Participants are exploring topics focusing entrepreneurship, social activism and community organizing strategy within the context of Israel and Jewish engagement, with the curriculum facilitated by staff and educators from Hillel, Teach for America, Moishe House, Sixth & I Synagogue and others.
 
A joint project of the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel, Masa provides over 100 enrichment activities each year for participants and alumni that inspire these young adults to join the next generation of Jewish communal leaders. In a 2010 study by Dr. Steven M. Cohen and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz that surveyed over 13,000 young Jewish adults, a full 45% of those who participated in both a short-term and long-term program in Israel were “seriously considering or have considered a Jewish career,” compared to merely 12% for those who completed only one short-term program in Israel.
 
Prior Masa Israel Leadership Summit delegates have gone on to become interns and professionals at Hillels, Jewish Federations and nonprofit organizations, and have actively continued developing their ideas for innovation in the Jewish community through PresenTense fellowships and the ROI Community.

Originally published in E-Jewish Philanthropy

Beyond Birthright: Jewish students return to Israel to do some good

Beyond Birthright: Jewish students return to Israel to do some good

Beyond Birthright: Jewish students return to Israel to do some good

March 7, 2013

Masada: check. Jerusalem’s old city: check. Tel Aviv’s nightlife: check. Bedouin tent: check. Yad Vashem Holocaust museum: check. What really is there left to do or see in Israel after a whirlwind, 10-day Birthright trip?
A lot, it turns out – starting with slowing down.
 
“It’s not that I did not love Birthright when I went on it,” says Samantha Sisisky, a 23-year-old from Richmond, Virginia who raced through, and “got into,” Israel during her senior year of college at the University of Virginia – thanks to the famous free trip that has brought some 320,000 young Jews to Israel in the last 13 years. “I totally drank the Kool-Aid and it was totally awesome.
 
“And then I was ready to return and see something more real.”
 
According to Avi Rubel, the North America director of Masa, the joint Jewish Agency and Israeli government umbrella organization that oversees some 200 study, volunteer, internship, adventure and other experiences for young Jewish adults in Israel – these sorts of sentiments are far from unique.
 
Among the fastest growing post-college programs to Israel today, says Rubel, is the genre of so-called Jewish service learning trips. This is where participants come to Israel, dig in their heels in one, usually less-than-glamorous-location, and try and do some good – while at the same time rooting their experience within the context of social change and Jewish values.
 
Sisisky, for example, is spending nine months in a low income, predominantly Ethiopian neighborhood in Gedera, a town of some 20,000 residents in the center of the country. She shares a small house with seven other young Americans, takes Hebrew classes – and sets out every day to be an assistant English teacher in the local school, help kids with homework, tutor adults at the community center, and hoe and weed in the community vegetable garden.
 
Group sessions and lectures tackle such questions as, “What constitutes community, Jewishly, and otherwise,” and “What is one’s role and responsibility to that community.”
 
“Boring? Sometimes,” she smiles. “But I would not trade it for the world.”
 
“Obviously we are not Ethiopian Israelis, but I feel we do become part of the community. We walk around the streets and are invited into our neighbors’ homes. We might work with one kid, and then their older brother, and then with their mom or dad. We have host families. We have a place here.” And, she adds, as if an afterthought, “We also are doing some good.”
 
“I have found that there are a lot of people who crave a different connection to Israel,” says Dana Talmi, who founded the organization– called Yahel, Israel Service Learning – that Sisisky’s program is part of. Done right, Talmi says, such service-learning experiences can both help repair the world – and ignite the Jewish souls of those who serve.
 
There have always been many volunteer programs in Israel, Talmi and Rubel will be the first to admit. But if in the past this community work was done as a component of a broader Israel “experience” program, without much coordination with grassroots groups and without being tied into Jewish values and philosophy – the landscape now is changing.
 
Today, a small but growing number of volunteering programs, as exemplified by Yahel, which Rubel calls Masa’s model “boutique” service learning experience, or BINA, a popular program run by the Jewish Center for Identity and Hebrew Culture, that places North Americans in struggling Tel Aviv neighbors, where many of the African asylum seekers live, are becoming more serious – and finding a successful balance between community impact and participants’ personal development.
 
Talmi, an Israeli who grew up bouncing between Israel and Europe with her musician parents, returned to live in Israel five years ago, after six years in the United States. There, besides getting a degree in social work from UNC-Chapel Hill, Talmi also worked for the American Jewish World Service, a Jewish values-based international development organization. She spent several years with AJWS taking young Jews on service learning trips to Honduras – and later served as the program officer in charge of all group leading.
 
Back in Zichron Ya’akov with her Venezuelan-born husband and two young children, with a dream of creating a high level Israel-focused Jewish service learning program, Talmi began reaching out to local social action groups to find partners, and then, reaching out in the other direction, to Masa and organizations like New York City-based Repair the World to form alliances and get funding. The Yahel nine-month program, like almost all of Masa's longer programs, is heavily subsidized, with participants paying in the range of just $1000 for the entire program.
 
“What I didn’t want to do is just take kids down to Netivot and have them paint murals on walls,” says Talmi. Working with grass roots organizations, such as, in the case of Gedera, an outfit called Friends by Nature, gave Talmi a sense of what volunteer work was needed, and where these North American youngsters, the majority of whom do not speak Hebrew and do not have much if any professional training, could do actual good.
 
Yahel participant Benson Ansell, 26, from Arlington, Virginia, admits he is not sure who is getting more out of the program – him or the community. If anything, he would bet it’s him. “I had never felt super connected to being Jewish, even though part of me was always interested,” says Benson, who grew up with a Jewish father and a Christian mother, and spent a year teaching in Philadelphia as part of the AmeriCorps program City Year, and a stint studying abroad in Senegal before considering a trip to Israel.
 
“But after being here, that has changed,” says Ansell. “I have been amazed by is the diversity of the Jewish people: the history and where they come from. I became aware of minorities and marginalized communities here and it has been a real eye opener.”
 
Talmi dismisses criticism that programs such as Yahel or BINA expose foreigners to the “dirty laundry” of the country, and a Jewish Agency/Repair the World report released recently shows that, in fact, such exposure to Israel’s more difficult social problems engages, rather than turns off, young people. “There is no need to present a rose-colored version of Israel,” says Dyonna Ginsburg, the Jewish Agency’s director of Jewish service learning. “In fact, the more these young men and women learn about Israel – warts and all – the stronger their connection is to the country, their heritage and their Judaism.”
 
What’s next for the Gedera gang? “Aliyah is not a goal for us,” says Talmi. “If they stay, great. But really, what we want is for them for have a nuanced relationship with Israel.”
 
“I am confused now,” admits Jessica Braverman, another Yahel participant. The 26 year old from Atlanta, Georgia with a master’s degree in social work and non-profit management from the University of Georgia, did Birthright in 2009, and felt she had put the requisite “check” in the Israel box.
 
“I thought I would not come back afterwards. I felt like I had “done it” and was going to move on to bigger and better places,” she says. But, looking for an opportunity to go abroad after her masters, and with one foot out to door to a teaching program in Tbilisi, Georgia, she found herself browsing the MASA website.
 
“The decision to come here has really changed me,” she says. “I have learned how incredibly complex Israeli society is, and I have also grown a lot Jewishly this year. And now, I flip flop between thinking I will go home after these nine months and move on with my life, and thinking I might like to stay, move to Jerusalem and study some more. I am confused.”
 
“Confusing them,” concludes Talmi with a laugh. “That is our goal.”
 
This article was written by Danna Harman and originally published in the March 6th, 2013 in Haaretz. You can find the original publication here. 

Becoming Israeli 101

<div class="masa-blog-title">Becoming Israeli 101 </div>

By Yael Tzalka, Israel Teaching Fellows 

 

Take note: Israeli's tell it like it is.

 

They don't believe in standing in line, apologizing, or sweet talking. When they like you, they say it. And when they don't, you know it just the same.

 

 

Masa participants revel at Israeli mega-cultural event

Masa participants revel at Israeli mega-cultural event

Masa participants revel at Israeli mega-cultural event

February 26, 2013

The youths, part of over 200 Masa Israel Journey programs being held throughout the country, were the guests of The Jewish Agency for Israel's three-day Board of Governors meeting, also being held in the capital.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - More than two thousand Jewish youth from around the world packed into Jerusalem's International Convention Center's halls Monday evening to attend a series of master classes and performances held by some of the country's top entertainment, literary, and artistic talents.
 
The event, which hosted parcipitants from over 200 Masa Israel Journey programs being held throughout the country, coincided with The Jewish Agency for Israel's three-day Board of Governors meeting, which also took place in the capital.
 
Masa Israel Journey offers young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 immersive, life-changing gap year, study abroad, post-college and volunteer experiences in Israel, connecting them to programs that meet their interests, offering scholarships, providing expertise, and supporting them throughout the entire process.
 
The evening opened with a screening of the award-winning Israeli film, Fill the Void, and a master class held afterward by the film's starring actress, Irit Sheleg. 
 
Later, performing in more intimate halls alongside one another, some of Israel's top cultural icons shared their perspectives on Israeli culture with the Masa participants.
 
The performers included music, poetry and prose, by classically-trained pianist and composer Shlomi Shaban and singer and guitarist Yali Sobol of the band Monica Sex; a solo show by indie groove diva Karolina (Keren Avratz), songs by pop sensation Harel Skaat, a reading by award-winning author Etgar Keret, a dramatic performance by a troupe from the Vertigo Contemporary Dance Company. 
 
The evening was capped by a scorching performance in the main auditorium by hip-hop and reggae singer Mooke and his band, who raised the roof and brought the audience to their feet and rocking in the aisles for the entire set.
 

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Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

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