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The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'">The Jerusalem Post: Hey America, 'ma Nishtana?'

Publish Date: 
April 24, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey

 

Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

Every spring, Jewish people across the United States and around the world sit at a table with their friends and family to retell the story of our exodus from Egypt. The first leg of our journey back in time begins with the “Ma Nishtana” (“What has changed?”), also known as the Four Questions.

 

As we prepare to retell the story of the liberation of the Israelites and the birth of the Jewish people, it is also worth exploring the current state of our Tribe. This Passover, I have four slightly different questions for the American Jewish community.

 

These are the four major questions that are worth asking:

 

1. How can we increase young American Jews’ interest in Jewish life and Israel? 

 

If you just read the headlines, it might seem that engagement is on the decline and anti-Israel activities are expanding. But the sky isn’t exactly falling.

 

One thing we do know is that it takes a transformative Israel experience with a lasting impact for Jewish young adults to reestablish, or even establish for the first time, their personal connections to the Jewish people and to Israel – to discover the Tribe.

 

Now, I am not talking about a single event, happening, or “aha” moment. Though for some it may only take one spark to reignite the Jewish fire inside. I’m not talking about the classic structure of organized Israel trips that include a bus tour of the country’s sites like Masada and Yad Vashem, meeting Israelis, learning to count to 10 in Hebrew and stuffing your face with more hummus and falafel than you ever thought possible.

 

These are clearly cornerstones to a young Diaspora Jew’s introduction to Israel – the state, the land and the people. However, the personal moments, conversations and observations enabled by a long-term Israel experience are the lasting connections that help our young people realize they are part of something bigger than themselves – Am Yisrael.

 

I’m talking about your first trip to an Israeli mall, when you see the clothing and accessories covered in Stars of David instead of crosses. The grandmotherly women you encounter on the bus that offers unsolicited life advice and a bite of their snacks as if you were their own grandchild.

 

The way in which everyone wishes you “Shana Tova” in the fall, not because they’re religious or on the way to synagogue, but because it’s as natural as wishing someone “Happy Holidays” in the winter in America.

 

These are the local Israeli moments that stay with young Jews as they go back home and reflect on their experience and newfound connection to Israel and their Jewish identities. They are what make that connection durable.

 

2. How do we empower our students to authentically change the Israel conversation on college campuses across the country?

 

Young Jews who spend substantial amounts of time living in Israel are much more equipped to deal with the often hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and activities on campus. Having spent significant time in Israel, they know more about what’s happening (and has happened) on the ground. As such, they are not only able to take part in discussions and debates, but also have the knowledge and tools to change the tone and content of the conversations.

 

By bringing their own Israel stories and experience into campus dialogue, these students have the power to change a combative debate into a personal conversation. Having a trove of deeply personal experiences on the ground in Israel allows individuals to speak more knowledgeably and comfortably about Israel and its politics.

 

Spending significant time in Israel also enables young Jews to better differentiate between legitimate criticism and uninformed, misguided hatred. Rather than feeding into the entrenched, polarizing propaganda war, these students are empowered to respectfully confront dissenting viewpoints. They can go beyond traditional hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts and pro-Israel talking points to have nuanced and intellectual conversations about the reality of the challenges facing the State of Israel, its leadership and its people.

 

3. What will the US Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership look like in 10 years?

 

With the number of unaffiliated Jews in America on the rise, one might think that the American Jewish community’s professional and lay leadership is shrinking or narrowing. However, the pipeline is actually expanding. One key indicator of young Jews who remain engaged and take on leadership roles in Jewish life are those who have spent an extended amount of time in Israel.

 

The variety of opportunities to spend meaningful time in Israel has consistently grown over the past several years. Today, there are more options available than ever before for young people to experience Israel, whether for days, weeks, months, or an entire year.

 

In 10 years, the majority of Jewish adults in the United States will have participated in an immersive Israel experience. We are talking about an unprecedented reality for the American Jewish community.

 

Throughout my and my American colleague’s meetings with our numerous Jewish communal partners, from Jewish Federations to Hillels to synagogues and beyond, it becomes more and more apparent that alumni of immersive Israel experiences, particularly those who have spent between five to 12 months in Israel, are overrepresented in the Jewish professional world. They are everywhere, in every organization, and they are the future leaders of the Jewish community.

 

As a result, they are and will continue to be more determined to connect Israel to all aspects of Jewish life. More than anything, they will make Israel travel an integral part of Jewish life and Jewish experiences. That, my friends, is revolutionary.

 

In a decade, these same young leaders will hold influential positions, whether in the Jewish world, business world, the philanthropic world and beyond. They will be the ones calling the shots and making important decisions. To have their Israel stories to tell and an unforgettable experience to look back on will mold these discussions and decisions before they even begin.

 

4. Yalla, nu, when are you coming?

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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5 Ways to Explore Environmentalism in Israel">5 Ways to Explore Environmentalism in Israel

Posted April 21st, 2016

From desalination to solar energy, irrigation, and literally making the desert bloom, Israelis know a thing or two about green tech and sustainability.


Masa Israel Journey’s environmental programs provide academic, volunteer, and professional opportunities for young adults to gain hands-on experience in sustainable building, organic farming, permaculture, and more.


In honor of this year's Earth Day, grab your hiking boots and get ready for one of Masa Israel’s incredible environmental experiences:


Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

Image Source: Miriam Grunfeld

Located on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Negev desert, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is the Middle East’s premier research and environmental studies institution. Accredited by Ben-Gurion University, the Arava Institute brings together students from America, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and from around the world to study environmental ethics and policy, ecology, water management in the Middle East and sustainable agriculture. Students also participate in a unique weekly Peace-Building and Environmental Leadership Seminar.


Eco-Israel

Image source: Eco-Israel

Eco-Israel combines coursework and hands-on fieldwork to give participants an in-depth experience in sustainable living and permaculture. Upon completion of the program, participants receive an internationally recognized certificate in permaculture design. 

 

Eco-Israel also emphasizes community-development as participants live and work together on the Hava and Adam Farm, Israel’s first multidisciplinary center for sustainable living and education, just outside of Modi'in.

 

LaMidbar: Desert Learning Community

Image Source:  neot-sedemar.com

LaMidbar offers participants the unique opportunity to pursue environmental and artistic interests. Located on Kibbutz Neot Semadar in the Negev, LaMidbar allows participants to truly immerse themselves in the kibbutz community. Working with kibbutz members and program staff, participants gain experience in organic farming. Participants may also choose to participate in an apprenticeship in carpentry, metal work, stained glass, pottery, weaving and other media with local artisans in the kibbutz Art Center.

 

Tel Aviv University MA in Environmental Studies

Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies offers a three-semester MA in Environmental Studies, taught in English. This multidisciplinary program emphasizes the unique geographic and geopolitical challenges facing Israel and the broader Middle East. Courses cover a broad array of topics including sustainable development, marine conservation, and environmental policy. The program specializes in water issues, one of Israel’s most pressing environmental challenges, from both a scientific and political approach.

 

Environmental Internships

Looking for an environmental internship? Our internship programs offer a wide variety of opportunities for college graduates to gain hands-on work experience in environmental nonprofits, green tech companies, government agencies, and more. Click here to browse available positions.

 

 

9 MUST-READS BEFORE STUDYING ABROAD IN ISRAEL">9 MUST-READS BEFORE STUDYING ABROAD IN ISRAEL

Posted April 20th, 2016

 

By Andria Kaplan Aylyarov

 

 

 

1. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, Sandy Tolan

Sandy Tolan dives deep inside the relationship of Bashir Khairi, a Palestinian and Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, an Israeli college student. The book breaks down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the relationship of this unlikely friendship and proves hope and transformation does exist.

 

2. ‘Catch the Jew,’ Tuvia Tenenbom

Written by Tuvia Tenenbom, a Jewish journalist, who disguises himself as a German reporter so he can wander Israel for seven months. Tenebom visits Gaza, the West Bank and numerous Israeli cities to break bread and mingle with people of all kinds to unfold the unknown truths of the Holy Land.

 

3. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit

Ari Shavit is one of the most influential journalists in the Middle East and in this book, a personal narrative we are introduced to Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who comes to Israel on a Thomas Cook tour in 1897. The book will help grasp your personal understanding of “why did Israel come to be, how did it come to be, and can Israel survive.

 

4. Startup Nation, Dan Senor and Saul Singer

Have you ever wondered how a country so young, surrounded by enemies on all sides is able to produce more startup companies than any other country? Authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer examine the adversity-drive culture and workplace informalities that shape the great country that is now called, Startup Nation.

 

5. Commander of the Exodus, Yoram Kaniuk

The books describe the story of a man, Yossi Harel, known to some as a modern-day Moses, who commands a ship carrying 24,000 Holocaust survivors to the shores of Palestine despite what the British Mandate says.

 

6. In the Land of Israel, Amos Oz

The famous Israeli novelist Amoz Oz interviews dozens of his fellow countrymen from every corner of Israel, every cultural background to paint a diverse portrait of their fears, hopes and prejudices.

 

7. Our Man in Damascus- Elie Cohen, Aaron Eitan Meyer

Calling all espionage enthusiasts! This book is the amazing story of of Elie Cohen, who managed to infiltrate the hierarchy of an enemy nation to a degree completely unheard of.

 

8. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

If you’re coming to Israel and looking to travel to countries close by for the low then this book is a must-read. Twain’s book describes his journey on a charted vessel with numerous stops in Marseilles, Israel, Rome, Odessa and Morocco.

 

9. The Seven Good Years, Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret, one of Israel’s most well-known authors, wrote The Seven Good Years, his first memoir to document his life between the birth of his son and his father’s death. The New York Times says it’s a brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a genius.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Brooklyn.

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Jordan Goldschmidt">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Jordan Goldschmidt

Posted April 19th, 2016

alt="jordan goldschmidt"

Jordan Goldschmid graduated from the University of Kansas with a BGS in religious studies and a minor in film. He is currently in sales as a store manager with Tradehome Shoes. Originally from Wichita Kansas, Jordan is now living in Springfield,Illinois. He has been very active in his community ever since his experience with Masa Israel Teaching Fellows Rehovot 2012-2013, becoming a Poland delegate for Masa and JAFI, as well as a Shalom Hartman iEngage Fellow.

 

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


I had the opportunity to teach English in a low income school in Rehovot. The students were between the third and sixth grade!

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


My experience in Israel was the most rewarding thing in my life thus far. I would love the opportunity to share my passion with others in hopes that they also could gain a valuable experience. As Jews it's important to teach the next generation about what we represent and by being a fellow I believe I will do so .

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?


I would like to plan an event with an Israeli dance party and food, to give people a glimpse of the Israel experience.

 

To learn more about Masa Israel's Teaching Fellows, click here.
 

 

Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Molly Radler">Masa Israel Alumni Fellow of the Week: Molly Radler

Posted April 13th, 2016

alt="molly radler"After graduating, Molly did a Masa Israel Volunteer Program, for 10 months in the city of Akko, as well as various Druze villages in the North. There she taught English and other subjects in both formal and non-formal settings to young Jewish, Arab, and Druze teenagers. The connection Molly built with the students from different backgrounds was what lead her to want to further facilitate connections for students in the United States. Soon after she joined The David Project and became a Senior Campus Coordinator with, working with college campuses throughout the state of Florida. She helped guide pro-Israel college students to advocate for Israel on campus to the non-Jewish community, speaking on behalf of their own narratives and connecting those to their peers, making the Israel discourse on campus more inclusive and relatable.

 

Molly will be going to graduate school to pursue a Master's in Social Work with the Greater Rochester Collaborative Master of Social Work (GRC MSW) Program of Nazareth College and The College at Brockport, SUNY. 

 

 

What was the most meaningful aspect of your Masa Israel experience?


The most meaningful aspect of my Masa Israel experience was the network of people and connections I was able to take with me after my year with Masa. The bond that we formed while doing the truly amazing and unique work of our program is something that has bonded me to the group of my peers that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In addition, Masa provided opportunities to connect with other Masa participants throughout the whole country of Israel, and some of my closest friends and some of the most inspiring people I have met are ones I met on Masa.

 

What inspired you to become a Masa Israel Alumni Fellow?


I have become a very passionate advocate for Masa and have actively been suggesting that my students and friends apply for Masa programs. I was very active in all the opportunities that Masa provided in addition to my actual program, and love to share my experience with others to hopefully get them involved as well. I hope to help connect the network of Masa alumni across the country in years to come after their volunteership, as well as advocate for many other Jewish people to be able to have a similar experience.

 

Each Masa Israel Alumni Fellow is required to create an Impact project to bring back to their local community, either to increase local alumni involvement or help recruit new participants for Masa Israel programs. What ideas do you have for your Impact project, should you be chosen as a Fellow?

 

I would love to create a network between the various Israel and Jewish organizations for young adults to learn about ways to get back to Israel through Masa. In Boston, there are already things in place for this to be successful, but on a very broad scale. If chosen I would love the opportunity to use this as a resource to start a specific project for students to find their perfect program to get back to Israel and explore their Jewish identity and connection to Israel through Masa.

 

To learn more about Masa Israel Volunteer Programs, Click Here. 
 

 

Israel Government Fellow Alumni: Zane Colt ">Israel Government Fellow Alumni: Zane Colt

Posted April 12th, 2016

By Zane Colt

Zane Colt, Israel Government Fellows 2014-2015


A year-and-a-half ago, I was wrapping up a wonderful Chanukah in Jerusalem. I was surrounded by new friends from around the world, sampling some of the finest sufganiyot in Israel, and trudging through deeper snow than we saw in Toronto this winter. Jerusalem was beautiful and my five months in Israel had me feeling on top of the world.


I was an Israel Government Fellow. The IGF program is a ten month long elite political internship opportunity under the Masa Israel banner. Last year there were fifteen of us from around the world: Canada, the United States, Brazil, France, Argentina, and Bulgaria. We interned at either the Ministry or the NGO of our choice for four days a week and on Thursdays we would gather at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem to hear from engaging politicians, NGOs, judges, journalists, or social commentators. Living in Jerusalem was great, but immersing myself in Israeli civil society by speaking Hebrew, shopping at the shuk, and spending my free time traveling both on and off the beaten path in Israel was even better.


As a political junkie here in Canada I thought that IGF was a perfect fit for me. I had first heard about the program in high school and waited patiently until I finished my undergrad before I could apply. I was involved in Israel advocacy at Carleton University in Ottawa and interning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs working under diplomats and civil servants that have been stationed around the globe was the perfect extension of my hobbies and research interests.


When I returned home to Toronto, I worked as the Synagogues and Small Communities Coordinator for CJPAC. This month, I moved to London to pursue my Masters in Global Diplomacy at SOAS at the University of London. I recommend IGF or any Masa program for those looking to take a year of personal and professional development between the end of their undergraduate degree and either work or further their studies. IGF is a great opportunity to build a CV, build character and build a network of friends and alumni from around the world. I always say that I learn the most about myself by cultural immersion and travel. This is best expressed in my time on IGF and l am certain it will be the same for you.

 

To learn more about the Israel Government Fellows Program, Click Here. 

 

The Jewish Standard: Playing Lacrosse in Israel">The Jewish Standard: Playing Lacrosse in Israel

Publish Date: 
March 24, 2016

Jeffrey Schwartz demonstrates technique. (Sportpic)

 

By Abigail Klein Leichman

 

The head coach of the Israel Men’s National Lacrosse Team is from New City.

Jeffrey Schwartz will lead the 23-man team to the European Lacrosse Federation’s Championships in Budapest, Hungary, from July 27 to August 7.


Lacrosse is not a well-known team sport in Israel, where soccer and basketball reign supreme. But interest is picking up because of the efforts of the New York-based Israel Lacrosse Association, the Amazing Israel Lacrosse Birthright program, and Masa Israel Journey’s new Israel Lacrosse Internship.
 

Read the rest of Jeff's storry in The Jewish Standard.

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A week in the life of Masa Israel Participant: Yari Rostamian ">A week in the life of Masa Israel Participant: Yari Rostamian

Posted April 5th, 2016

Yari Rostamian, Masa Business Fellow and Destination Israel Intern

 

Day 1: Prepping for the young professionals white night with this lovely group of people! Toured the ZOA house then talked business over delicious Roladin burekas, pastries and coffee. 

 

Day 2: Had a fluffy visitor come into the AOL Nautilus office on Rothschild. Molly kept me company as I growth hacked for the startup I intern for.

 

Day 3: My friends and I went out for a beautiful Saturday morning stroll where we learned about Malabi, a popular dairy dessert in the middle east. We went to “Hamalabia” and had a cup full of goodness!

 

Day 4: I have quite the sweet tooth and Tel Aviv really accommodates. We took a quick dessert break to enjoy yummy ice cream and the beautiful weather. 

Day 5: Even though I applied to intern in the marketing department, our startup really supports us to explore other aspects of a business. Our software developer gave us a lesson on coding a website! That’s the great thing about working in a startup, you get to wear many hats during a work day.

 

Day 6: Only a few steps away from the building I work in is Independence Hall. This is where Jewish independence was declared in 1948. 

 

Day 7: Today ends where I show you a week in the life of a Masa participant and ends on a big night; The Masa Young Professionals White Night Tel Aviv. The Masa Business Fellows worked hard to make it a night of professional growth.  Cheers to the companies who led sessions, the Masa Israel staff and the fellows! We did it!

 

 

To learn more about Destination Israel Click Here. 

 

Why I Left My Life in Canada Behind and Moved to Start-up Nation">Why I Left My Life in Canada Behind and Moved to Start-up Nation

Posted March 31st, 2016

By Marsha Druker, Career Israel

If as early as 6 months ago someone looked into a crystal ball and told me that in January I would quit my job and move to Israel for an unpaid internship at a tech start-up, I probably would have burst out laughing. ‘That’s completely insane’, I would have told them. Yet, here I am, across the world, writing this from a tiny studio apartment in the vibrant center of Tel Aviv. When life gets predictable, it’s time for a plot twist.
 
An outsider looking into my life before this twist would think that everything was just peachy. I was climbing the corporate ladder, traveling to exciting places, and overall, leading a fun and busy life, surrounded by close friends and family. It was the kind of life that I envisioned for myself and worked incredibly hard for – so the fact that I was not content was just as much of a surprise to me as it was to someone looking in from the outside.
 
The truth is, I was craving a change of scenery. And I knew myself well enough to realize that a new job, a short trip, or even a new condo in downtown Toronto wouldn’t be enough (or at least not for long). No, I needed a drastic change. Something that would take me completely out of my comfort zone and challenge me in every possible way.
 
Why now, why Israel?
 
I found a Masa program called Career Israel that let me pursue several lifelong goals all at once: living abroad, furthering my career, and exploring my roots and identity. What drove me to action was the realization that the longer I put an opportunity like this off, the less likely I would be to go through with it. Being in my mid-20′s and unattached, it was a case of ‘now or never’.
 
Through this program, I’ll spend 5 months living like a local in Tel Aviv, working during the week, and exploring Israel on the weekends. A lot of people would look to Europe for this kind of adventure, but for me, Israel made more sense.
 
Here’s why:
 
1) An opportunity to work in “Start-up Nation”
 
I’ve been intrigued by tech start-ups for a long time now. I love the pace of innovation, culture, and exhilaration of being on the ground floor of a company that could potentially be the ‘next big thing’.
 
Israel, and more specifically, Tel Aviv, is famous for its dynamic tech start-up scene. The country has been called the “start-up nation” for years and, today, only Silicon Valley rivals it in number of start-ups per capita. With major companies such as Waze, Wix, Houzz, Payoneer, Fiverr, and Viber making their debut here and countless incubators and accelerators, Tel Aviv is an exciting place to be if, like me, you’re passionate about the start-up world.
 
I’m working at Veed.me, a platform that connects people who need a video with professional videographers from around the world. The platform manages the selection process from a vetted list of incredibly talented videographers, project management flow, and payments. Veed.me has been around for less than three years and already has some amazing clients like Google, Waze, Duracell and others. It’s also on the Forbes list of 16 Israeli Startups Ready To Take On 2016.
 
Having just launched a re-designed interface, Veed.me is at a very exciting time in their journey. My role includes messaging and content creation, PR outreach, and marketing strategy. I’m learning the product and customer experience inside out, and in true startup fashion, wearing a lot of hats and contributing to all areas of the company, not just my specialty.
 
2) An opportunity to strengthen my Jewish identity and ties to Israel
 
Being Jewish was never a big part of my identity. I was born in the former Soviet Union (a place where anti-Semitism was rampant and practicing the religion was not only hard, but dangerous), and after immigrating to Canada when I was eight years old, I spent the better part of my life living in Woodbridge, a predominantly Italian suburb of Toronto.
 
Six years ago, I had my first encounter with Israel. Like most Jewish twenty-somethings, I went on Birthright. I remember many people from my group had a visceral reaction as they stepped off the plane into Israel – they were home. Me? I felt nothing out of the ordinary. I had other things on my mind: Would my new boyfriend lose interest while I was away? Am I safe here? Where’s the best place to party? Wait, do Israelis actually eat salad for breakfast?!
 
Don’t get me wrong – I thought Israel was a beautiful country and had a fantastic time during the free ten day trip, but it was just a vacation in my eyes (highlights of Birthright include floating in the Dead Sea, riding a camel through the Bedouin desert, and rafting through the Jordan River). I tuned a lot of the ‘boring’ historical and political information out. At the end of the trip, I thought I saw everything I needed to see here and had no desire to return. How very childish of me. I’m older (and hopefully wiser) this time around, and I’m here on my own dime. My mind is open, I’m present, and I won’t be missing any learning opportunities. I can’t afford to.
 
I think it’s important to clarify that it’s not a religious experience that I’m after here. Rather, my objective is to gain a better understanding and to develop a more educated opinion on the state of Israel, learn about the history and culture of my people, and pick up the basics of the Hebrew language. Ultimately, I feel this experience will enable me to better relate to Israeli and diaspora Jews from all walks of life.
 
3) The important life experience of living abroad and adapting to a new environment
 
Living abroad takes you out of your trance. It wakes you up. It makes you pay attention to every little detail of what is happening to you and how it’s making you feel, think, and act. Your world is suddenly different and you have to adapt.
 
With its dust storms, sirens, and (sometimes) brash people, Israel is a very unique place to live as a foreigner. Here, I use a Dood and squeegee the floor when I shower, bargain at the Shuk for groceries, attempt to use Hebrew phrases, and constantly get lost (and found). Coming in to this not knowing a single letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Ulpan was no walk in the park, grocery shopping can be perplexing, and if it weren’t for the beautiful miracle of Moovit, I’d probably always miss my bus stops.
 
Through my program arrangements, I’m very fortunate to live right in the center of Tel Aviv. I have great transportation, all the top bars and restaurants, and the beach right at my doorstep. With the great location though, there is a trade-off: the living arrangements are dorm style and very basic, to say the least. To give you an example, the other day, I boiled eggs on a hot plate on the floor. It’s not a glamorous life, but I love it. Every day I’m learning what I’m capable of and I know that I’ll emerge as a stronger person at the end of my experience.
 
4) New friends and personal development
 
After university, it’s not easy to make new close friends. Lucky for me, I am here with 42 other young professionals from nine different countries and all walks of life. It’s a privilege to meet so many great new people and develop friendships with like-minded individuals from all over the world. New friends who I’m sure I’ll stay in touch with years after the program ends. But, since I’m being completely honest here, constantly being with a big group is actually quite intimidating for me. While it’s very reassuring to be in a new place with a big support system and others in the same situation, I’d be a lot more comfortable if I were here on my own or with a couple close friends.
 
Let me explain. I’m an introvert and my voice tends to get lost among big groups of people. It’s something that I’m very self-conscious of, and unfortunately, not something I can easily change. The good news is that I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress over the years by actively putting myself into these types of situations.
 
I’ve actually come to enjoy icebreakers (they used to terrify me), know my way around a networking event, and feel good about my participation here so far (believe it or not, I even karaoke-ed!).
 
5) Much needed time to reflect and explore
 
As part of my program, I am required to work less hours than I’m normally used to. More free time means an opportunity to reflect, spend extra time on my hobbies, and explore new places and interests. I also purposely didn’t bring a lot of stuff and don’t plan on buying anything but the bare necessities for my apartment. Having minimal belongings will help me de-clutter my thoughts and focus on what’s important. 
 
My favorite thing about the area I live in is that it’s less than a fifteen-minute walk to the beach – my happy place. By the water is where I feel most at peace, grounded, grateful, and alive. So, it’s no wonder that almost every evening I practically skip down Bograshov street to the beach to sit quietly and watch the sunset in awe.
 
 
 
Follow Marsha's journey on her blog marshadruker.com.

 

 

A First Look At Israel Lacrosse">A First Look At Israel Lacrosse

Posted March 30th, 2016

By Glen Tobin

 

Being part of the Masa Israel Lacrosse internship has really opened my mind to building a sports program from the bottom up. Lacrosse is very popular in Ashkelon and Netanya, but the goal of the Israel Lacrosse is to continue to grow. One of the newest cities to open its doors to lacrosse is Kiryat Gat. The city is small but full of energetic youth and athletic complexes. The sports community as a whole believes in the benefits of keeping kids active in a safe, team-building atmosphere. When lacrosse was presented to the mayor and his cabinet, they were extremely positive and welcoming. Since the very start, there has been a lot of public support for the sport and the organization as a whole.

 

 

Setting up demonstrations at four of the city’s high schools, has presented extremely positive results in furthering the growth and positivity the sport brings. We practice in a variety of settings, which are all extremely open to the public (one soccer stadium, one synthetic field, and one park across from a busy street and mall). When people see this foreign activity they gravitate to it. Conversations always start, “what is this?” Recently there has been a shift in who explains what the sport is. First it was us, the coaches, who would explain how to play, but now the kids jump right in and speak of the fast, physical, fun nature of the sport. One can see the passion and excitement in their eyes as they hand off their stick to another kid or adult. This is especially evident when we have practice and a new player shows up. Everyone is a new player because of the short time we have been in Kiryat Gat, but those that know how to cradle, catch and throw will instantly offer advice and help the new player along. As a coach, and someone very passionate about the sport, it is extremely rewarding to see.


Aside from the rewarding nature of coaching the next generation of lacrosse players, this Masa Israel internship has taught me a lot of about logistics and all of the little things that go into planning to start a sport in a new city. Being the “new kid on the block,” we have to share space and practice times with the existent powerhouse - soccer. This can be frustrating because the times are late, or right after school, which gives the players little time to get to the field, or we have to delay practice because a soccer game runs late. All of these are the challenges we face but when looked at positively, are necessary obstacles that teach us how to communicate and relay what we need. The field managers see our hard efforts and see the joy on the kids’ faces. When we all realize why we are here teaching, it makes the small logistical problems disappear.

 



Another logistical issue we tackle on a daily basis is how to provide all these kids with protective equipment. Lacrosse is a physical sport, and requires a lot of protective gear. When every player needs a helmet, chest pads, elbow pads, and gloves this becomes a logistical issue. How do we get these pads from point A to point B? Fortunately we have a car that allows us to transport some of this stuff. But we have to pack the car early, get to the field early, fit kids with the equipment based on their size, and make necessary adjustments.

 

 

Additionally, a lot of forethought goes into running a practice on any given day. From this I have learned to be diligent and punctual. Another major challenge is to expect the same from the Israeli youth. In the laid back Israel atmosphere, many people take their time and show up five or ten minutes late. We have attempted to make this a priority with the kids we teach. In the world, when work starts at a certain time, it is expected a person show up early to get set up. When there is a professional game in any sport, it is expected that players warm up before the game not after it starts. This is another challenge, but allows us to instill positive, useable work ethics.

 

Now that lacrosse has been in the city for a few months, it is interesting how it has changed and how the perception of the sport has been almost fully integrated. We have had a few different youth matches in public areas and without promotion, they have gathered fans and interested bystanders. Speaking for myself and the players, it has been really fun to see it all come together when the game starts. To have people cheer you on, in a new foreign sport, not knowing the rules but witnessing the physical efforts, makes one feel really good inside. It makes me very proud as a coach and mentor for these kids to see their hard work, and smiles and to know that lacrosse is in Kiryat Gat for good!