Post College | Masa Israel

Post College


Program Description

Join BIG IDEA Gap Year for a year of intensive hi-tech training, social impact, and a one-of-a-kind Startup Nation experience! BIG IDEA Gap Year is the ideal choice for anyone looking to boost their career in hi-tech, affect social change, and experience the vibrant Israeli lifestyle through field trips, tours, and interaction with Israelis. 

BIG IDEA Gap Year is an unparalleled one- to a two-semester hi-tech training program in Be'er Sheva that focuses on programming, design, and app development. Through our unique hands-on courses, you'll gain all the skills necessary to become a front-end developer, and at the end of the program, you'll walk away with not just resume-ready skills, but also an official developer's certification. In addition to the courses, you'll go on weekly field trips around Israel, take immersive Hebrew classes, and intern alongside Israelis at leading startups in Be'er Sheva's CDI Negev.

Boost your future with BIG IDEA Gap Year!


  • Main Subject: Gap Year (Programs)
  • Keywords:
  • Intensive Hebrew Language, internship, Social Action / Volunteering, Technology 
  • Duration:
  • 5, 9 Months 
  • Age:
  • 18-22 
  • Organizer:
  • Program appears on grant application as:
  • BIG IDEA Gap Year 
  • Accommodation:
  • Included 
  • Meals:
  • Not Included 
  • Program Dates:
  • February 19,2018 - July 23,2018, BEER SHEVA, $13950   Apply to this program

The Stories of the Fallen: Young Jews from Around the World Mark Yom Hazikron in Israel">The Stories of the Fallen: Young Jews from Around the World Mark Yom Hazikron in Israel

Posted May 10th, 2017

More than 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world came together this week in Israel for one of the country’s most somber holidays – Yom Hazikaron. Gathering just north of Tel Aviv in Ra’anana Park Amphitheater, they honored fallen soldiers and civilians during an annual commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, a project of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the government of Israel. Honored guests included representatives of those bodies, and also included representatives of Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal (UIA), and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).


Honored Guests

Honored guests and representatives pay their respects to Israel’s fallen soldiers during the Yom Hazikaron commemoration at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel, organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel. From left to right: Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, world chair, Keren Hayesod-UIA; David Koschitzky, chairman, Keren Hayesod-UIA World Board of Trustees; Dan Lahav, deputy director general, Department of Home Affairs, Planning and Development, accompanied by his wife; Tzachi Hanegbi, minister of regional cooperation and acting communications minister; Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel; Alan Hoffmann, director general, The Jewish Agency for Israel; Avital Elfant, educational project manager, Masa Israel Journey; Liran Avisar-Ben Horin, CEO, Masa Israel Journey; Aaron Abramovich, chairman of the board of directors of Masa Israel Journey; and Yossi Bachar, chairman of Israel Discount Bank, accompanied by his wife. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.


Many of the attendees are in Israel for long-term, immersive internship, gap year or volunteer programs through Masa Israel Journey, and this was the first time they participated in a national gathering in Israel of this scale and significance: it is the country’s largest English-language Yom Hazikaron ceremony, and with simultaneous translations into French, Spanish and Russian, it allowed Jews from around the world to absorb the full meaning of the holiday.


For the American participants, the occasion stands in stark contrast to Memorial Day traditions at home, beginning with the sound of sirens ringing across the country. Allie Donahoo, a San Diego native, shared that the Yom Hazikaron ceremony – and the transition to Yom Ha'atzmaut – was transformative. “It is one thing to learn about these holidays in religious school and to hear about it from the shlichim [Israeli emissaries] growing up,” commented Donahoo, who is currently participating in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program. “But to experience it first hand, to be in the heaviness of the day and then for it to switch from mourning to celebration, from tears to fireworks, is indescribable."


While the ceremony honored all 23,544 who have died defending the State of Israel since the start of the Zionist movement, it highlighted the personal stories of six individuals, whose family and friends spoke throughout the evening, recalling their late loved ones’ dedication to the army, to their comrades, and to preserving Israel’s history and its future.


Aaron Abramovich, chairman of the board of directors of Masa Israel Journey, noted in his address:


“Our mission at Masa Israel Journey is to give our participants – more than 12,000 young people every year who come to Israel to study, volunteer, develop careers, and develop as individuals – a deep and meaningful Israeli experience. Part of that ‘Israeli experience’ is connecting with what it takes to have our independent homeland – the heavy price so many families pay. And so, you are here with every part of Israeli society tonight to hear the personal stories, and our national story. It is our wish to bring you into the Israeli family, by sharing these stories. These individual stories are a source of inspiration – and so is the very fact of our togetherness here, people from around the world, remembering them."


Masa Israel Journey Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Abramovich

Aaron Abramovich, chairman of the board of directors of Masa Israel Journey, delivers remarks during the annual Yom Hazikaron commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel. Over 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world attended the gathering on April 30, 2017, each of whom are participating in long-term, immersive Masa Israel Journey programs across the country. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.


Some family and friends of the fallen participated in the artistic segment of the evening, honoring the lives of their loved ones. Stories told included that of Sergeant Michael Levin, a lone solider who was killed during the Second Lebanon War at the age of 22 after making made aliyah from Pennsylvania. Following his death, Michael’s parents founded the Center for Lone Soldiers, which offers a place for soldiers to gather, strengthening their community and connecting them to Israeli society.


Sergeant Jordan Bensimon, who made aliyah from France as a teenager, was killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 at the age of 22. Thousands attended his funeral, and during the Yom Hazikaron ceremony, guests watched a video featuring Jordan’s friends and relatives, to learn more about his short but full life.


Sergeant Udi (Yehuda) Algarbali, who fell at the age of 22 while defending his soldiers in combat in Lebanon. Following his death in 1994, his parents founded the Netivei Udi Association, which leads activities that Udi himself once organized, such as hikes for the cadets in the Paratroopers Teleprocessing Corps, where he served.


Shlomtzion Landau-Halgua and Aviad Kitsberg

Shlomtzion (Shlomtzi) Landau-Halgua, member of the management committee of Gar’in Udi (Nahal post), and Aviad Kitsberg, graduate of Gar’in Udi, honor Sergeant Udi (Yehuda) Algarbali, who fell in combat, during the annual Yom Hazikaron commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel. Over 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world attended the gathering on April 30, 2017, each of whom are participating in long-term, immersive Masa Israel Journey programs across the country. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.


Lance Corporal Hadar Cohen a police officer who was fatally shot just last year at the age of 19 at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, becoming the first border policewoman to be killed in action, was honored by her friend, Corporal Yahav Drori. Yahav described the community center in Or Yehuda, Hadar's home town, which was created in her memory, to inspire young people and serve as a model for their military service. Yahav will soon be a commander in the border police training’s recently renamed unit: the Hadar Company.


Sergeant Dimitri (Dima) Levitas, who loved sports, architecture, and music, was killed by sniper fire during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 at the age of 25. Gilad Appelstein, who handed his command over to Dima, recalled how he cared after his soldiers as if they were his own children – soldiers who continue to celebrate Dima at regular music performances that his family holds in his memory on the kibbutz where he grew up.


For many Masa Israel Journey participants in the audience, the story of Ezra Schwartz hit closest to home – a Masa participant himself, the Massachusetts native was studying at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh when he was killed in a shooting attack while traveling to a volunteer program. A film clip screened during the ceremony showed what Ezra loved about his Masa program, Israel, and the Torah, before his life was taken at the age of 18.


Government officials and IDF representatives also made remarks, speaking to the participants about their obligation to uphold the memories of all those who have fallen. Speakers included Tzachi Hanegbi, minister of regional cooperation and acting communications minister; Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel; and David Koschitzky, chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA World Board of Trustees, and the aforementioned Chairman Abramovich of Masa.


Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel, delivers remarks during the annual Yom Hazikaron commemoration organized by Masa Israel Journey, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the government of Israel at the Ra’anana Park Amphitheater in Ra’anana, Israel. Over 4,000 students and young professionals from around the world attended the gathering on April 30, 2017, each of whom are participating in long-term, immersive Masa Israel Journey programs across the country. Photo credit: Yishai Nazarov.


An evening that started with sounding of sirens and was filled with song and prayer ended with pensive silence, as the crowds filed quietly out of the amphitheater, carrying with them the stories of peers they would never know.


Alive: It's really not that dangerous here">Alive: It's really not that dangerous here

Posted May 9th, 2017
By Chloe Stuart-Ulin, participant of WUJS Intership program and Masa Influencer
On my first trip to the Carmel Market, weaving through the sweaty, loud, aggressive shoppers, bumping into the wobbly, wooden display tables so tightly packed I can’t make out the crumbling walls behind. The worst place for a terror attack, a bomb in the middle of this moving mass. My focus spreads thin to encompass everything around me, to pick up whatever hint might come before a blast. I know there’s nothing I can do to prepare for a close range explosion, but that doesn’t stop me noticing every shopper with a backpack.
A watery-eyed old man with leathery skin darts into my path, waving a neon “JEW 4 LIFE” t-shirt. It’s four sizes too small, obviously made for a child. He yells something in Hebrew, then stares at my breasts.
I catch myself scanning the roofs and balconies constantly. Three hipster millenials sit on a balcony over the spice shop. Tiny kites blow over the road from a rooftop to the right; an invisible kid laughing, tiny hands pulling their strings. A young woman sits on a stoop behind her stall, head covered, eyes closed, blowing cigarette smoke into the sky.
At my university in Canada, my mentor and journalism professor warned me about going to crowded places in Israel. She’d been here many times for stories, but almost always during wartime. She wrote an award-winning book about the conflict here, with dozens of interviews with locals from both sides. I remember some of her technical advice when I met with her in person: “Are you flying through Turkey?” I was. “Deactivate your Facebook, and don’t tell anyone you’re a journalist.” For Israel the advice was simple: “Don’t go to street fairs.” “Avoid crowded places.”
On my daily walk to work in Tel Aviv, I pass a revolving group of construction workers building the apartment complex next door. They don’t whistle as I pass or stop their steady hammering. A worker leans over a long iron beam with his welding stick and blasts the flare right there on the sidewalk. Sparks the size of snowflakes shoot across the road and fizz out on passing cars. I never see him wearing a face cover, nothing to keep the light from burning out his eyes. Every day I dodge the sparks and pretend it doesn’t bother me.
The Carmel Market crowds thin enough in the evening for me to relax, with shoppers disappearing into side streets and alleys. More stalls than I can count spiral out from the main square. I take a break from my wandering to buy a coffee and rest my feet. A young couple kisses passionately at a corner table nearby, the one drink between them still full and no longer steaming. The girl, maybe 17, wears a large-print t-shirt with some acronym I don’t recognize. The guy, a couple of years older, is dressed head to toe in the faded green canvas of an Israeli soldier. An AK-47 hangs loose off his shoulder, dangling limp with the tip hitting the metal leg of his chair. The couple stays glued to each other and nobody glances their way. 
I sit at the café for an hour sipping at my coffee, bumming their open wifi. When I leave a half hour later, the young couple hasn’t moved: in danger, always, and blissfully alive.

12 Must-See Works Of Israeli Street Art ">12 Must-See Works Of Israeli Street Art

Posted April 3rd, 2017

By Sydney Peters


Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of traveling throughout Europe, Asia and just the tiniest bit of Africa. I love wandering down side streets and finding out all a city has to offer, even if it’s staring at a masterpiece on a brick wall. Sometimes it's just one graffitied word and other times it’s a whole building that has been transformed into a piece of art.


For these reasons, Berlin was my all-time favorite city for street art. That is, until I moved to Israel to teach English in Be’er Sheva on Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. Here in this gorgeous land that boasts a huge art scene, you can’t walk down a street without finding at least one speckled and worded up work of art plastered on the side of a building.


Israeli street art has a voice of its own. There are some pieces that have been up for decades because the government has found them to be that important. There are other areas where pieces may last only a few hours before someone has something else to say. After all, our people are known for being opinionated. So, enough with the text and on to the beauty of Israeli street art.


Here are a few of my favorites:


12. My parents came to visit recently and while we were walking through the vibrant streets of Tel Aviv I came across this tag. One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to grab a map, orient myself and wander in any direction. I always know I can pull my map out and become ‘unlost,’ but there is no better way to get to know a city than to get lost.



11. This fall, after a hectic first week of settling into our new city of Be’er Sheva, one of our first group activities was a scavenger hunt of the old city (yep, Be’er Sheva has one, too). As we walked by this piece, everyone immediately whipped out their phones, firing up Snapchat to share it with everyone back home. This piece is a friendly reminder of how much I’ve grown since the beginning of September and how much of a home Be’er Sheva has become.



10. One weekend I visited some Masa friends in Netanya and I was totally shocked when I was greeted by large murals like this one. Until then, Netanya didn’t strike me as the artsiest community, but now I’m counting down the days until I can visit again. This piece was such a wave of nostalgia; I always dreamed riding the Magic School Bus as a kid. And, let’s be honest, who didn’t want Miss Frizzle as their teacher?



9. This unique piece of multi-media street art can be found in Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. The frames are actually made out of wood, there are googly eyes on the bench, and stickers throughout. It adds a whole new level of dimension to the piece and keeps your eyes constantly wandering. I spent at least a half an hour at this wall, photographing it from every angle.



8. Do you know who all of these musicians are and why they’re memorialized here in Florentin? Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, to name a few. They’re all members of the 27 club, meaning they all died when they were the age of 27. You may be asking, who is the man on the far right? It’s believed to be the artist, Jonathan Kislev. According to my guide, there is some argument as to whether or not the pink paint over Kislev’s fast was done by Kislev himself or another artist. One rumor is that Kislev was so disappointed in all that he hadn’t accomplished by the age of 27, that he included paint to cover his face.



7. Ever since street art angel wings starting dominating my Instagram, I’ve been on the hunt for them. I even saw a post claiming that there was a set in Florentin, so I spent over an hour searching for them with no luck. However, did I get lucky when a friend in Netanya sent me a picture of these and they did not disappoint.



6. One of the things I find so fascinating about street art is how it’s constantly changing. This alleyway in Florentin, is one of the very places where you can see a piece one day and the next day it’s covered with something new. I could walk around this alley staring at the different tags for hours.



5. Technology has become such a permanent part of our lives in so many ways. I’ve seen this piece throughout Tel Aviv, but this photo was taken near Shuk HaCarmel. I think it’s a good reminder to put our phones down for a moment and appreciate everything that is around us. I mean, if you have your nose in your phone, would you even see this when walking by?



4. I decided not to save the world today.” Haven’t we all thought this? These are so many pressures in our lives, sometimes it’s just nice to not think about one. I also really love the typography on this piece, which I found meandering down the many streets of Florentin.



3. One of my favorite sayings is “I’m just one wanderlusting soul in this big, bad world.” If I asked someone to create a representation of that, this piece in Netanya would be a great pick.



2. Outside of Machane Yehuda, I haven’t seen a lot of street art in Jerusalem. While my parents were in town, we wandered down a side street and came across a lovely spread of street art. This tree of life was one of my favorites. I bought myself a tree of life ring during first solo trip to Europe in 2014, and I’ve found myself drawn to the symbol ever since.



1. It’s quite common to find the word ‘Coexist’ spray painted on walls near Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel. To me it represents the diversity and acceptance of Tel Aviv itself – a city, packed with tourists from every corner of the world and known for its vibrant the LGBTQ community. Here’s a pic of a spray painted ‘Coexist’ on RamBam Street.








Sydney Peterson is a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Be'er Sheva, where she serves as an English teaching assistant in a local elementary school. Outside the classroom, she seizes every opportunity for adventure in Israel and around the world. She loves searching for street art, immersing herself in new cultures and eating her way through new cities.






Originally appeared in the Forward


8 Need-To-Know Hebrew Phrases To Learn Before Going to Israel">8 Need-To-Know Hebrew Phrases To Learn Before Going to Israel

Posted March 16th, 2017

By Axel Angeles

Living abroad for any period of time can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know the local language fluently.

Here at Masa Israel we understand the struggle and therefore we came up with 8 words/phrases that will make your Masa Israel journey a smooth ride. Oh and not only will you know the local slang, but Israelis will think you are literally a local.


Let’s get started with our first local Hebrew lesson:


1. Achi/ Achoti = Brother/Sister

A.k.a. Bro, Dawg, Homie, Girl, Gurrrrl, etc…


2. B’emet = Really?

A.ka. For real tho?


3. Mesiba = Party


4. Motzash = After Shabbat


5. Mehamem = Gorgeous


6. Metzuyan = Excellent


7. Sababa = Cool


8. Yalla = Let’s go!

A.ka. Hurry, Get Moving



To learn more about Masa Israel and the programs we offer, click here.


6 Things I Learned When I Quit My Job And Moved To Israel">6 Things I Learned When I Quit My Job And Moved To Israel

Publish Date: 
March 9, 2017

By Andria Aylyarov


...if you’re one of those people who thinks adulting is lame, but that quitting a full-time job to become an intern is insane, yet you still find yourself envious of those willing to give everything up, keep reading....

If you swiped through my Instagram to February 2015ish, or browse that far back on my Facebook page, you’d probably think, “damn, this girl had the time of her life.” In the year or so following my college graduation in December 2013 I got a full time job, quit that full time job, packed a backpack, moved to beautiful Tel Aviv and became an intern all over again.


Kind of sounds like taking a step back in life, right? Well sort of. I prefer to think of it as pressing the restart button.


At the time, I was working at a publishing company underneath a very thick glass ceiling, dabbling in freelance work on the side and simply going through the motions of life. Then it hit me, was I supposed to stay crammed in a dingy office for the rest of my life, hoping the right career path would fall into my lap? No, I was not. So, I decided to say “Yalla, bye” to this adult version of Andria and find a new one.


Many adults in my life, especially my parents and former bosses, likely said I was trying to escape adulthood. Trading my grown-up responsibilities for hummus, white sand and the nonstop nightlife of Tel Aviv. And, to a certain extent they were right: I was escaping a form adulthood — that of a Jewish American 20-something — and trading it to become an adult abroad, in Israel.


So, if you’re one of those people who thinks adulting is lame, but that quitting a full-time job to become an intern is insane, yet you still find yourself envious of those willing to give everything up, keep reading.


Here are six ways I became a responsible adult by traveling abroad:



1. Learning to Take Charge — Startup Nation Style


There’s no point in complaining about something if you don’t have the chutzpah to fix it. While I’d only worked for a year, I was in desperate need of a career change. So, participating in a Masa internship program in Israel wasn’t so far-fetched for me. Additionally, the concept of an intern is still quite new to Israel because Masa practically introduced it to the Israeli market. Whereas interns in the U.S. tend to be college students who need to build their resumes, interns in Israel tend to be college-educated young professionals from around the world.

When I showed up for my first day at WMN, Israel’s first all-female accelerator, the founder handed me the keys to the place and declared me acting manager. Although most of the participating startups worked in Hebrew, I had no choice but to figure out ways to communicate with their founders and employees to help them get the necessary resources to set them up for success. Everyone treated as an equal and a team member. I was given my own projects from the get-go and was responsible for measuring my own success (or failure).


2. Living in a New Country - And All that Comes With


Although I’d been to Israel many times before I went on Masa, this time was different. I lived like a local and experienced the country on new terms. Living in a new country is no small task, there’s no one there to hold your hand, there’s a language barrier and a cultural barrier. After a few months I could effortlessly hop on and off the bus, adapt to the culture and communicate with peers from around the world; I knew something in me had changed for the better. I felt accomplished knowing I adapted and grew my professional network in such a short time.


3. Dealing with the Emotions of Missing Family Events


For me, the hardest part of the experience was leaving my boyfriend at the time (and now husband) and missing my grandmother’s 90th birthday, as well as our ever-entertaining family Passover Seders. Still, there’s something beautiful about building new friendships and creating a home away from home. Plus, you know what they say, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ Being home away from home allowed my relationships back in the States to grow stronger and my new ones in Israel to flourish. Most importantly, I expanded my family in Israel and reconnected with distant cousins and shared holidays with them – now we’re like BFFs.


4. Experiencing Real Community


In Israel, whether you’re at work, on the beach, hiking in the Negev or hanging in the park, everyone treats each other (including strangers) like friends and family. I cannot even count how many times I found myself sitting in the park near my apartment in Tel Aviv and women just handed me their kids for a second, or asked me to watch their baby as they helped their other child(ren). It was at this point that I knew wherever I would live next, I wanted it to be a community like the one I experienced in Israel; I wanted to live in a place where strangers can count on one another.


5. The Israeli Work Ethic


Do these people ever stop working? The answer is no. Just when your work day ends at 5 PM in the U.S., another 10 startups are probably founded in Israel. One thing you learn when you intern or study in Israel is what it takes to get things done. If you have a new idea to propose or a goal you want to accomplish - this is the place that can help you make it happen.

I went to Israel with the goals of gaining knowledge of and experience in startups and analytics, and that’s exactly what I did. From the second my internship began, I was swimming in learning opportunities that ultimately allowed me to seamlessly transition back to the professional world in the U.S., and I have the jobs on my resume to prove it. 


6. Embracing Adulthood


By pressing reset, leaving everything I knew, quitting my job, becoming an intern (again), and spending time in Israel, I realized that adulting isn’t so bad. I finally had the opportunity to find my passions and figure out what motivates me. In Israel, it’s totally cool and even expected to make mistakes, because you’ll also figure out solutions. Living and immersing myself in a society that so fully embraces this mentality changed my professional and personal life. While adulting isn’t always easy, my time in Israel taught me how to not only find solutions to my problems, but to find the solutions that work best for me because being an adult is all about taking responsibility For your actions, yourself, and your personal well-being.



Now, nearly two years later, I know that trading one adult life for another was the best decision I’ve ever made. I spent six months discovering who I was as a person, a partner and an employee, in Israel.


You can also read the article here.

The Jerusalem Report: A Surprisingly Unorthodox Education Minister?">The Jerusalem Report: A Surprisingly Unorthodox Education Minister?

Publish Date: 
March 9, 2017

By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman


Education Minister Naftali Bennett has pushed for smaller class sizes with more opportunities for one-on-one instruction.


Bennett also has shifted the focus of the English curriculum from literary to practical spoken and written English, which he believes is increasingly essential in the modern world.


He has explored ways to encourage Israel’s English-speaking community to become English teachers, including potential partnerships with the Association of American and Canadians in Israel.


“It’s easier to train an English-speaking person to teach English than a non-native English-speaker,” Bennett says.


In February, Masa Israel Journey and the Education Ministry announced plans to double the number of participants in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program beginning this year. The expansion will bring 300 young professionals into classrooms across Israel to teach English as a second language.


Masa participants teach throughout the country, though there is a focus on the lowest performing schools which require additional support.


“WE KNOW that for a child entering first grade today, when that child enters the labor market in about 20 years, half of the jobs today will not exist, but [will be] replaced by new occupations,” says Bennett. “How do we prepare a child for such a world of uncertainty? We focus on skills and competencies, on initiative, teamwork, breaking the rules in an organized way – being curious, reading English – these are the skills we have to provide our kids so they can be versatile and adapt to an environment we cannot even anticipate.”



You can read the full article here.

New Push For Teaching English In Israel">New Push For Teaching English In Israel

Publish Date: 
March 8, 2017


Masa teaching fellows program set to double as demand increases.

For a week every year, Casey Spellman gets on a plane and flies to the place she considers her second home. She grew up in Plainview, L.I., but the annual trip is to Netanya, Israel, where she taught English for 10 months in 2012-13.

“I don’t have a single family member in Israel, but all of my friends and communities that have welcomed me make it feel like family,” said Spellman, 26, who is now a pre-K assistant teacher at the Horace Mann School in Manhattan. “Every time I go back it feels like home.”

On her trips, she stays in the family home of her madricha (group leader). “There are still three teachers that every time I go back to Netanya I see,” she said, and “there are families of [former] students that invite me over.”

This opportunity to form close ties with Israelis is one of the unique aspects of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program, which has been bringing roughly 150 20-somethings to Israel each year for the past five years to teach English in some of Israel’s lowest performing schools.

Next year, the MITF program is planning to double the number of teaching fellows to 300 to keep up with the Ministry of Education’s plan to strengthen English instruction across the country.


Israel needs English teachers from abroad for two reasons: the country has a growing shortage of instructors, and those that exist are, for the most part, not sufficiently fluent in the language.

In 2013, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics projected that the country would be short 5,300 English teachers by 2019, according to the Jerusalem Post. A poll the same year found that only 18 percent of English teachers in Israel spoke at the native-speaker level, according to the Times of Israel.

The Ministry of Education and MITF’s parent company, Masa Israel Journey, launched the teaching fellows program in 2011 to help fill the need. The fellows are required to live in the communities where they teach and also volunteer in those communities; both requirements are there to help the fellows integrate as much as possible into Israeli society.

“We believe that in order to really get to know the community, you have to do a few things: first you have to live in the community … and you have to interact [with the native population],” Tamar Zilbershatz, Masa Israel Journey’s director of gap and service programs, told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview from Israel.

The volunteer requirement, she added, is “also giving them the ability to express their other talents … in a different platform in the community,” such as running music workshops or ESL classes for adults.


Hal Halper, 28, who was a fellow in Beersheva in 2013-14 used his background in musical theater to direct a production of “The Wizard of Oz” at the elementary school. That was the first time the school had done a musical. The event was so popular that now they do one every year.

“Many of the coworkers shared with me that they had always wanted a theater program,” said Halper, who grew up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn and went to services at East Midwood Jewish Center.

Halper noted that the fellows program not only serves the function of filling teaching positions, it also helps educate students about the wider world.

“It was important for them to say, ‘Hey, there are Jews all over the world, not just in Israel.’ For fourth graders, it was something cool to grasp for them,” he said.

Both Halper and Spellman said they were struck by how warm and kind their Israeli coworkers and students were.

“I was most surprised by the loving environment. It was so welcoming right off the bat,” Halper said. “The kids were always running to you and hugging you.”

Spellman had the same experience. “We did a lot of volunteer programs, painting schools or working with children, we did hoops for kids, a basketball program for underserved communities, and every time they [Israelis] were so happy to have us, to be with us. Teaching in the schools, the same thing. I was very much respected by the other teachers and it was just so nice to be so welcomed.”

Spellman was also struck by the differences she saw between Israeli and American schools.

“Israeli schools seemed to be much more aware of what children need physically,” she said. Instead of having one long recess period, kids were given 15- to 30-minute breaks every two hours. “I thought that was much more conducive for growing children’s minds and bodies,” she said.

She also found Israeli children to be “much more upfront. Whatever they were thinking they would say to you. You really had to be ‘on’ in order to speak, and have a back and forth with them to make sure that your answers were appropriate,” she said.

She also learned how important it was to connect with the students by “being approachable and smiling and being available to children,” she said. “That sets up the relationship to grow together.”

But the most important lesson she learned was how to “moderate lesson plans depending on how the children are feeling or what they’re coming to school with emotionally or socially,” she said, “because you can have the best-laid plan in the world, but if the children are dealing with something personally, socially [or] emotionally, you need to adjust to fit them,” she said.


Zilbershatz and her colleagues will also need to adjust this year, because doubling the program in one year is no small feat. “We work every year to develop this program, but this year we put a lot of effort to answer the need, to bring more teachers and more fellows,” she said.

In order to enlarge the pool of potential fellows, this year Masa added a program for certified teachers. While college graduates serve as teaching assistants, often tutoring small groups of children outside of the larger classroom, the certified teachers will head their own classrooms.

But whether certified or not, fellows have a big impact on the students they teach, said Zilbershatz, especially given the large class sizes in Israel, which often exceed 30 students per class.

“It’s pretty amazing to see, they usually work with a small group of kids. It gives the little kids the opportunity to ask questions and gives our fellows the chance to really answer the question, which is not really happening in the big-sized classrooms that we have in Israel,” she said.

On one school visit, Zilbershatz asked a third-grade student why he liked working with the teaching fellow. “He said, ‘Because here in this space, I’m not afraid to make mistakes,’” Zilbershatz said. “That was really powerful because … if he will experience success, this is something that will definitely affect him, not just in the English study aspect but also in other subjects, and maybe in his social life.”

Israeli teachers, she said, say they notice “that there is a big change with the kids that work with the fellows.” This makes sense, Zilbershatz said: “They’re young, they come with a whole lot of motivation, the kids love them; they’re like celebrities in the school. It’s amazing to see how they come to school and how they really make a difference.”


And the program makes a difference in the fellows’ lives as well. “Teaching in a different culture really enriches your professional toolbox,” Zilbershatz said. “They are facing a completely different environment and school system. … So that requires from them different talents, different abilities.” In addition, she said, “Living in a completely different environment and culture independently is something that for sure improves and empowers them in terms of their personal, not just professional, development.”

Spellman agreed. “I would never trade the 10 months I was there for absolutely anything else,” she said. “It taught me how to be independent and take risks and do something that I love and really see out a dream that I had. And Masa Israel really gave me all those opportunities to do things that I would never else do on my own, or would think that I could do on my own.”

And, she added, “It has given me this amazing place to come back to every year and call home.”


You can also see the article here.

TCB - Protection Cybernetic - Cyber

Program Description

  • Main Subject: Professional Studies
  • Duration:
  • 10 Months 
  • Age:
  • 18-30 
  • Language:
  • French 
  • Organizer:
  • Technological College of Beer Sheva (TCB) 
  • Program appears on grant application as:
  • TCB - Protection Cybernetic - Cyber 
  • Price:
  • $ 10500 
  • Accommodation:
  • Included 
  • Meals:
  • Included 
  • Program Dates:
  • March 01,2017 - December 31,2017  Apply to this program

TCB - Practical Electrician

Program Description

  • Main Subject: Professional Studies
  • Duration:
  • 10 Months 
  • Age:
  • 18-30 
  • Language:
  • French 
  • Organizer:
  • Technological College of Beer Sheva (TCB) 
  • Program appears on grant application as:
  • TCB - Practical Electrician 
  • Price:
  • $ 10000 
  • Accommodation:
  • Included 
  • Meals:
  • Included 
  • Program Dates:
  • March 01,2017 - December 31,2017  Apply to this program