Inspiration in the Desert

By Brandon Marlow, WUJS Arad Arts Project
During my time in 2006-7 as a participant of the WUJS Arad Arts Project (now WUJS Arts in Jerusalem), one of scores of Israel-based programs subsidized by the umbrella organization Masa Israel Journey, I set for myself the goal of completing a poem-a-day initiative and developing a historical screenplay.
For five and a half months, in addition to working on my independent creative projects in the Writers’ Studio (a local house bequeathed to the program), I was able to experience group field trips, hikes, lectures, Hebrew classes, and occasional volunteering as an English tutor to Bedouin youth in neighbouring Kuseifa. 
By the end of the program, I had enough poems to produce two volumes (Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People, and Judean Dreams), and completed the film script shortly upon returning home.
Artistically, I consider the time well spent and it allowed me to be fruitful and multiply my creative efforts. 
Living in Arad was a special blessing: its artists’ quarter, Monday shuk, proximity to hiking trails, Hassidic and Bedouin communities, and archaeological sites like Tel Arad and Masada were some of the unique benefits. The daily beauty of beige Negev views was inspiring.
While the program has since moved to Jerusalem under Hadassah’s aegis, the capital offers current and future participants its own distinct features and opportunities, as well as ease of travel to the north or south from its central situation.
Those considering a Masa sponsored program should feel confident in their prospects; it should be viewed as ‘taking time on’, not ‘taking time off’. In my opinion, Masa is one of the greatest endeavours the Jewish people have ever come up with.
Through its plethora of offerings, young Jews of all stripes are able, in a pluralistic and inclusive environment, to meaningfully connect with their civilization and culture in their homeland, and foster a stronger bond with their history and heritage.
This adds up to a greater sense of Jewish identity, the most singular and essential aspect of our communal survival.
Whichever program best suits applicants, I can only encourage them to pursue their choice and to take advantage of the generous subsidies Masa offers. Some will find this experience an extension of Taglit-Birthright Israel which will in turn lead to making aliyah; others will simply enjoy the opportunity as professional or personal development.
Either way, participants invariably come away with a greater sense of Israel, Judaism, Jewry, and their own place in each.
Nesiyah tova!

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