Donna Feinstein | Masa Israel

Donna Feinstein
participant year: 
Fall 2009
Through WUJS, I was given the opportunity to work as a photographer for the Haaretz newspaper and a prop designer for the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv-Yafo. As a photographer, it was my responsibility to always have my camera on-hand in order to snap shot of events and places that captured my attention. Haaretz published my photographs in their online gallery on a regular basis. One afternoon while walking home from the Haaretz office, I came across hundreds of motorcyclists protesting the rising insurance rates. My neighbor was one of the protesters and let me hop on his motorcycle, enabling me to get great shots from within the action.
At the Israeli Opera, I designed and constructed props for major stage productions while listening to singers practice their arias and working among the backstage action. For certain props, I had specific designs to follow, and for others, I was able to create freely. The biggest production that I worked on was “The Child Dreams,” a famous Israeli opera by Hanoch Levin. When my family came to visit me, I was able to give them a tour of the Opera House and show them the costume room. My dad tried on the costume that the famous tenor, Placido Domingo wore during one of his performances at the Israeli Opera in the 1970s.
Aside from my great internships, WUJS housed me with peers who became my best friends, and organized weekly trips all over Israel that encouraged the participants to forge strong bonds. I will never forget our visit to Sderot, the small town which suffered endless rocket attacks from Gaza, nor our wonderful trips to Haifa, Jerusalem and Kibbutz Ketura, and our nights out at the discotheques in Tel Aviv. 
Though I was homesick for my parents and brother back in Houston, working and living in Tel Aviv allowed me to strengthen my Jewish identity and establish personal relationships with my extended family. For the first time in my life, I was able to visit them on a regular basis, and celebrate holidays and birthdays with them. I will never forget Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv, when the entire city was quiet with the streets devoid of cars, the shops closed, and the people walking freely in the streets. Something else that stands out to me from my time in Israel was that Hebrew was no longer my secret language with friends and family, as it is in Houston. Now, it was my mode of communication with society.
Aside from having the opportunity to finally get to know Israel, a place I had visited so frequently growing up, but never understood as a resident, I feel privileged to have been able to work at two prestigious establishments so soon after graduation. My artistic work at Haaretz and the Israeli Opera confirmed that I want to continue pursuing a career in the arts and made me feel confident in that decision.