“I wanted to experience more out of Israel”

 
By Aaron Sholin, San Francisco, CA, WUJS Israel Hadassah
 
Many American Jews come to Israel for short visits on Birthright and other similar programs. I, too, have done that, and enjoyed it, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I wanted to experience more of Israel. This realization led me to the decision to go on a Masa Israel sponsored post-college program.
 
There are a huge number of programs, so it took some time to figure out what I wanted. After doing some research, I decided two things: I wanted to be in Tel Aviv and I wanted to have an internship. I sent e-mails including one to WUJS Israel Hadassah, just one of over 180 program options that Masa Israel works with and received a call from Amy, who is responsible for getting people through the initial signing up process. I was impressed that she took the time to call me (from Israel) and explain in detail what the program was like. It started to become apparent that this was the right program for me.
 
I have been in Israel for a little over a month now, and I am happy to say that I made the right decision. I found an organization online called Transport Today and Tomorrow, whose main goal is to improve sustainable public transportation in Israel. Although it is a very small organization, with only one full time employee, it seems to have built an impressive network of politicians, professors, and transportation experts who are very committed to making change in this area.
 
Since I started my internship, I have met a number of professionals in the field and just recently attended an international conference that focused on ways to make cities more pedestrian friendly.
 
Although I am gaining experience from my internship, there is so much more to my program. I have ulpan classes twice a week. I am in the beginning level since I haven’t studied Hebrew since my Bar Mitzvah, but already I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Another highlight of WUJS is the weekly field trip and other educational activities. Every week we go to a new place. My favorite so far was the first, a hike in Ein Gedi, in the Judean Desert, followed by a trip to the Dead Sea.
 
Recently, I had the privilege of experiencing Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haaztmaut in Tel Aviv. For Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), I attended a ceremony in Jerusalem for Masa Israel participants. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like this scene before. In comparison with the Fourth of July, Israelis celebrate their independence very differently. Instead of just having private parties in houses or backyards, there are thousands of people in the street, to the point where I had to push to get through the crowds. There definitely seemed to be a certain kind of joy in the air that I have not witnessed before and I was happy to take part in it. Being in Israel for a long time really makes it clear how normal life can be here, despite what the headlines may say. I am glad that I made the decision to spend this time in Israel and WUJS is a great way to experience it.
 
Courtesy of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma County blog. Many thanks to the San Francisco Federation for their generous support of Masa Israel.
 

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