Naama came to Masa from the ESCO Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship Center, where she served as the manager of social business initiatives and investor relationships. Previously, Naama worked in the Hi Tech and Communications sectors. She and her family spent several years in California, where she initiated several educational projects; among them, the establishment of a Hebrew school for the children of Israeli expats. While in the US, Naama created fundraising events for Israel with the JNF. Upon her return to Israel, Naama worked as director of resource developnment both at a non-profit for at-risk families and at an art school for at-risk youth. Her tenure at ESCO followed, once she realized that her passions for both the business and non-profit sectors could be merged in the form of social entrepreneurship. She likes to run (half marathons), hike, read and cook vegan.
Originally from Migdal HaEmek in the North of Israel, Liran Avisar Ben-Horin joined Masa Israel Journey as CEO in 2013, where she manages the joint project of the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel that provides young adults immersive, life-changing internships, service-learning opportunities, and study abroad programs in Israel.
Prior to her appointment as CEO, Liran served as Chief of Staff of the Director General of Israel’s Prime Minister’s reforms. From 2004 until 2010, Liran worked in the Office, leading a number of governmental and civic Movement, and then as Director of the North American Aliyah Department for The Jewish Agency for Israel. She began her career as a legal assistant to former Israeli Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz. Liran completed her service in the Israel Defense Forces as a Company Commander for the women’s field units officers’ course, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. She holds a BA in Business Administration from Tel Aviv University, an LL.B with Honors from the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University and an LL.M from New York University. Liran is an almuna of the prestgious Maoz Fellows program for social change-makers.
Liran resides in Tel Aviv with her husband, Itay, and her daughter, Eshkol. In her spare time, Liran studies Judaism at Kolot, a pluralistic Beit Midrash.
The experience you get when you live, learn and work in a foreign country gives your career and life endless opportunities. Here are five reasons to study and intern abroad next semester.
When you spend a semester both studying and interning you can apply the knowledge from class immediately to the work environment which, makes your newly attained skills come to life. You'll understand it's okay to make mistakes and fail and that this semester abroad is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Unlike in your home country, where you understand the social and cultural norms, when you’re abroad, the context is changed, and your skill set naturally expands. From this point, you better know how to listen to others, understand how to adapt yourself to any situation and communicate across multiple cultural barriers. It's at this moment that you automatically challenge yourself and your senses become sharper than ever.
When you intern and study abroad you can have a transformative experience in your choice of career fields and get a taste of different jobs and work environments. It’s entirely okay to say you don’t like one path and then seamlessly switch to another, before it’s too late. So, whether you want to go to med school or work for a tech startup, you’ll get a dose of the real thing here in Israel.
Whether you’re in class or at your internship, you have the chance to develop your international network. Your coworkers, classmates, and professors serve as a new platform for connecting you with professional opportunities, resources and personal development in the present and the future.
Oh, the real world. Soon enough the four glorious years of college will have to come to an end, and there’s no way to better prepare yourself than by spending a semester in a beautiful country where you’ll live, work and study on your own. It is here where you get to experience real independence. You’ll finish the semester wishing you didn’t have to leave and go back to your dorm. Graduation never looked better.
Written By Ruti Alfandry, Masa Israel's Director of Academic Programs
The Forward: Why the U.S. Presidential Election Matters for Israel’s Environment">The Forward: Why the U.S. Presidential Election Matters for Israel’s Environment
By Toby Mirman, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow
Israelis are interested in the U.S. presidential election. But who ends up in the White House does not only impact the most obvious foreign policy initiatives – military aid, the future of the Iran nuclear deal, a potential two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. I see the future of U.S. environmental policy as the most critical issue to Israel’s interests, as it affects both Israel’s physical climate and economy.
As the climate changes, countries like Israel – small, densely populated states with limited natural resources, and near the coast – will likely face the brunt of negative consequences. In 2013, the Israeli Environmental Protection Administration reported that climate change would likely put more than five million Israelis at risk of not only flooding due to the rising Mediterranean and greater rainfall causing rivers to overflow, but also of increased transmission of infectious diseases from mosquitoes and other carriers.
The next very few years are crucial for the trajectory global warming takes and whether or not we will be able to keep warming to tolerable levels. Indeed, this trajectory depends directly on the environmental policies of the next president.
The United States contributes more than 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is second only to China in total emissions, and is far and away the world leader in emissions per capita, outpacing China almost three to one. Because the U.S. is such a huge contributor to climate change and because the U.S. is typically the least common denominator for international agreements, it is essentially impossible for mankind to keep climate change within controllable levels without genuine and enthusiastic U.S. government-led efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adopt more sustainable practices.
Should the U.S. fail to live up to its commitments and lead the way in reducing carbon emissions, we should expect that other developed economies – those countries that contribute the most to climate change – will follow suit, and continue emitting at unsustainably high rates.
President Obama has set U.S. environmental policy on a sustainable path. This fall, he signed the Paris Agreement, joining almost 200 countries in agreeing to limit climate change through reducing carbon emissions, and his administration has advanced the Clean Power Plan, which aims to transform America’s power grid to rely on cleaner and more sustainable methods of producing energy. The direction of U.S. environmental policy in coming years will direct humanity’s battle against climate change.
The impact of U.S. environmental policies on Israel during the next presidential administration will affect both Israel’s physical climate and, perhaps less obviously, its economy. Indeed, the two nominees have released vastly different statements on their intentions regarding environmental sustainability and climate change.
Donald Trump has promised to rescind many of President Obama’s steps toward a sustainable future, including the Clean Power Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Waters of the U.S. Rule, as well as “cancel” the U.S.’ commitments to the Paris agreements within his first 100 days in office. Moreover, Trump has declared his intentions to eliminate entirely the Environmental Protection Agency. These actions would have catastrophic effects on our ability to combat climate change, not to mention put millions of Americans in immediate and grave danger of being poisoned by pollution currently controlled by government regulation.
Hillary Clinton’s environmental policies leave something to be desired; she has refrained from proposing the politically contentious carbon cap-and-trade and carbon tax policies thought to be necessary to significantly reduce global warming. However, she has adopted positions that extend President Obama’s existing efforts, and wants to install a billion solar panels by 2020 and generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America within the next 10 years.
Climate change will especially injure countries with coastlines as sea levels rise and extreme weather events worsen and become more common, and Israel is no exception. Climate change tends to intensify temperature extremes, while simultaneously raising average temperatures. For a desert country like Israel with already extreme temperatures, this means that summers will be drier, hotter, and longer, while winters will be shorter but with stronger rains. This effect will contribute to increased transmission of diseases as mosquitoes and other carriers encounter less cold weather, and therefore die off at lower rates, leaving more time throughout the year to infect people.
The second way U.S. environmental policy will impact Israel is through its economy. Israel is a leading exporter of environmental goods to the United States, including solar panels, desalination, irrigation, and wastewater treatment technologies, exporting close to $500 million a year. If the U.S. lives up to its commitments to the Paris Climate Accords and remains committed to the Clean Power Plan, demand for environmental goods in the U.S. stands to increase substantially as it invests in new technologies to meet emissions goals and adapt to changing conditions. Israel, a world leader in environmental, biological, and high-tech innovation, and the nation with more start-ups per capita than any other, will have a terrific opportunity to increase exports to the U.S.
The steps the next U.S. president takes regarding climate change will have a tremendous impact on Israel, both in terms of its climate and its economy. If the U.S. takes a strong stance against climate change, Israel will benefit greatly from increased American investment in its environmental sector. If, however, the U.S. chooses to spit in the face of agreed upon science and hamstring decades of environmental progress, Israel will face environmental challenges far more significant than those it has already worked so hard to overcome.
Toby Mirman is currently serving as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, through which he teaches English to middle schoolers in Rishon LeZion, Israel. A native of West Hartford, Conn., he graduated in May 2016 from Johns Hopkins University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Global Environmental Change and Sustainability.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward [and/or Masa Israel Journey].
The Roanoke Times: Lid: Finding My Spark – From Roanoke to Israel">The Roanoke Times: Lid: Finding My Spark – From Roanoke to Israel
By Shaina Lidd
When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2015, I wasn’t full of joy, but panic. It was officially my graduation year, and I felt as lost as ever. In just five short months, I would be graduating with degrees in International Relations and Religious Studies from Roanoke College, but I had no “next step.” My friends seemed to have everything planned out – moving to new cities, finding jobs, getting engaged. I was confused as ever, as far from “figured out” as you could get.
I knew what I wanted to do long term – I want to go into academia, but I did not know what exactly I wanted to study, or where I wanted to study. The only thing I knew I wanted to do was to research peace and conflict. I spent most of my time senior year planning and executing the first ever Israel-Palestine Peace Month at Roanoke, which I coordinated with two friends – two of us Jewish and one Palestinian. I was learning more and more each day about the Israeli-Arab conflict, and knew that I wanted to learn more. It was much more complicated than I had ever thought, and I knew that I would never get the full story unless I went and experienced it myself.
One thing led to another, and I found myself on a plane to Israel to participate in a Masa Israel Journey program. Masa gave me the chance to choose from hundreds of programs through which I could intern at cutting-edge companies, volunteer, study or teach English. Through Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF), I was first trained in teaching English, and then I was tasked with my own classroom, teaching English in an Israeli school.
However, my program was different than for others who had done it before. For the first time, through a partnership Masa developed with the Ministry of Education due to the needs the ministry was observing in Arab communities, MITF would have a cohort of Americans teaching English in Rahat, a Bedouin-Arab city near Be’er Sheva in the desert while we also spent time learning together at the Bina Secular Yeshiva, an educational institution in Be’er Sheva.
I was drawn to the program in great part because of my experiences as a Jewish student at Roanoke College, a school where only 27 people self-identified as Jewish my senior year. Through a friendship with a Palestinian-American student whose family manages a coexistence project in Bethlehem, and my time organizing Israeli-Palestinian Peace Month, as well as my studies in class, I knew I wanted to explore co-existence in the flesh.
Seeing something is believing in it, but experiencing something is understanding it. I entered Al Huda School in Rahat with little to no understanding of the Bedouin culture or experience within Israeli society, but left with a love and appreciation for the culture and the people. I learned about the people, about the education system within Bedouin cities and Israeli society in general, and about myself. I began to understand the big issues at hand, but also the smaller, less obvious challenges and nuances. The more I seemed to learn, the more questions I had. And as I questioned the world and society around me, I began to understand myself more as well.
Going on my “masa” (which literally means “journey” in Hebrew) taught me that the world is much more complicated and interesting than it seems on paper. There is only so much we can learn from books. Moving to Israel opened my eyes to the world around me, and offered me a chance to explore not only the topics that I found myself drawn to during college, but also to the topics I hope to explore in the future.
My masa changed the direction of my future in many ways, and has allowed me to explore new possibilities. I am making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel) this December and hope to continue to work toward Jewish-Arab peace; I will be studying for my master’s degree in government at the Interdisciplinary Center in Hertzliya. Furthermore, I am excited to be a part of the people of Israel, and to further grow personally. Being in Israel gives me a spark I don’t feel anywhere else, a spark that pushes me to try new things, take risks, study harder and live more. I am so thankful for MITF for introducing me to a whole new world, and I’m so excited to see where my masa continues.
Shaina Lidd of Stafford County, is a 2015 graduate of Roanoke College. She recently returned from a year participating on Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, a program teaching English in Israel, and will soon be making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel).
By Axel Angeles
When you think of Israel, many people only think of the beaches or religion, but seem to forget the diverse landscape. This tiny country offers more than many other countries in the world, and one thing that Israel has are amazing hikes!
Israel is truly a hiker’s paradise, from waterfalls and lush green mountains, to caves and salt mountains, and even canyons in the desert. What more can you ask for? Here are some of the top hikes you can do in Israel.
1. Nahal Jilabun
Photo credit: http://timeout.co.il/
Located in the Golan Heights (North), this is Israel’s second largest waterfall. This is one of the most beautiful hikes in Israel since it highlights the Jilabun waterfall and pools. It will take about 3 hours to complete with moderate effort, but is well worth it at the end. The best part, you can swim in the water right under the waterfall and even get a glimpse of the rainbow that reflects from the sun!
2. Nahal Amud
Located near Tzfat, this scenic hiking trail will keep you wanting more. It means “Pillar River” because the stream along the trail flows into the Sea of Galilee. It’s only 3 miles and at the end of the journey, many go into the pools!
3. Wadi Kelt
Photo Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Palestine,_Wadi_Qelt,_(Landscape_with_St._George's_Monastery)(10).jpg
One of the most popular destinations for tourists, this canyon trail, is often visited not only for the historic Greek monastery but also believe it or not, the natural pools. The best times to visit are on the weekends when everyone is together, and there is more life and other hikers on the trail.
4. Mount Sodom
Photo Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Sodom_Salt_Cave_031712.JPG/220px-Sodom_Salt_Cave_031712.JPG
Located in the Dead Sea area, this mountain is literally made out of salt. It has some amazing caves and views! You will be impressed at the many rock formations that look like they are out of this world. This 5-mile stretch can take up most of your day as you will be gazing at one of the rarest rock formations in the world.
5. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve
Also located in the Dead Sea area, this famous water hike is by far the most popular hike in Israel. Get away from the heat of the Dead Sea and jump into a waterfall that will blow your mind. After about an hour of hiking, which is fairly easy, you will get to the famous Wadi David waterfall which is breathtaking and refreshing.
6. Nahal Og
Photo credit: http://www.israel21c.org/
This hike walks you through many white chalk canyons that look straight out of a movie. The walk is very easy as most of the way its flat. On the other hand, there is one challenge, the almost vertical descend. Not to worry, there are rungs in place to climb down and very sturdy in case you are wondering about safety. This trail is best started during the mid-day and should end before sunset as you can see the colors of the sky and contrast of the white canyons.
7. Nesher Park
Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Nesher,_Park_Nesher,_Wadi_Katia_079.JPG
Located in Haifa, this is a hidden treasure that many have no idea exists. This park includes two steel bridges that hang above the ground with magnificent panoramic views. You can come here all year round and experience this awesome location!
8. Amram’s Pillars/The Black Canyon
Photo by Brian Blum
This hike is located in the south area of Israel in the Eilat Mountains. This challenging path can be long but definitely worth the trek. You can see amazing rock formations and canyons you filled with black granite rock and limestone.
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Written by Alicia Schneider, Current Masa Israel Teaching Fellow from Canada
After a whirlwind summer of traveling solo through Asia followed almost immediately by the jam-packed schedule of Taglit-Birthright, it was a relief to finally lay my backpack down in a place I could call home for a little while. Rishon Lezion, literally: the first to Zion, is the fourth biggest city in Israel and holds its own against the flash and flare of Tel Aviv. Rishon is home base for the year as I endeavour to teach English to Israeli elementary students, improve my Hebrew, and attempt to find Israel’s single best plate of hummus.
Now that I’m a few weeks into my Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, and I’m knee-deep in Ulpan homework, lesson-planning, and shakshuka-making, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the beginning of this new journey.
Our program opened with a weekend retreat on Kibbutz Almog, where I and over 40 fellows from both Rishon Lezion and Petach Tikvah got to bond over ice-breaker games and time spent by the pool. The one thing that stood out to me immediately in this big group of people who would surely become like family to me over the coming year was that I was the only Canadian in a sea of red, white, and blue. That’s right; I’m basically Robin from How I Met Your Mother. No matter, though, I came here to immerse myself in new cultures, right?
After a couple of days on the kibbutz, we got sorted into our groups of six roommates and dropped off at our apartments in the city. I have never lived with that many roommates before, and being the oldest one among the six of us and the only Canadian in the bunch, I was a bit worried about how we would all get along living together. Luckily, one of my roomies is British, and the other four turned out to be pretty alright for Americans. On our first night in our apartment, we had our own ice-breakers (an intense game of Never Have I Ever featuring Israeli wine), and it was then that I realized that the roomie situation was not something I would need to worry about this year. Since day one, my roomies and I cook dinner together, we do Shabbat together, go to the beach together, we take wacky trips to Ikea together (seriously Ikea here is like an amusement park for Israelis). When we get home, we laugh at the silly things kids in our respective classes said, and we help each other out with Hebrew when it comes to the important things like ordering take-out sushi. It’s only been three weeks, but it already feels like we’re a real mishpacha.
Like Birthright, my schedule with MITF so far has been packed to the brim with activities during these first few weeks. We visited Caesarea and Zichron Ya’akov in the north to sample some wine and learned about the original Israeli pioneers, we had seminars and meetings to learn more about the Israeli school system, a scavenger hunt across Rishon Lezion to get us more acquainted with the city, welcome meetings with the mayor, and seemingly never-ending Hebrew lessons to help us integrate into Israeli society.
During our second week, we began observing classes at our assigned schools. This year, I will be teaching at David Remez elementary school where there are over 500 students. My first few days in school I spent observing the teachers during their English lessons. At my school, students learn English from grades 3 to 6, so I get to work with kids of different ages and levels. My co-fellow and I take out smaller groups of 3 to 10 students from class and work with them on a more individualized level. We go over class material, read short sentences in English, and play vocabulary-based games with them in class (never underestimate Hangman). After our first couple of days in school, my co-teacher and I became local celebrities. The students shout our names in the halls and enthusiastically wave, they bombard us with questions about Canada and the US and ask us how are day is in broken English. Nicole and I were even fortunate enough to receive marriage proposals from a handsome fourth-grade student. I have learned that there is a children’s TV show in Israel in which the main character’s name is ‘Alicia,’ so now I also have my own personal theme song every time I walk into a classroom. Safe to say that it’s hard not to smile when walking through my school.
Before starting school, we kept hearing from teachers and previous MITF members that the Israeli classroom is nothing like we’re used to back home, and I now that I’ve lived it I understand what they mean. The best way I could possibly describe an Israeli classroom is ‘organized chaos.’ The kids are loud, they speak out of turn, they talk back, and they scream so loudly during recesses that at the end of each day my ears ring as if I’ve just walked out of an AC/DC concert. However, they’re also full of personality, bold, completely honest, and their faces light up at the prospect of learning English and leaving their classrooms with the Canuck and Yank celebs.
I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks in school as I get to know the kids and their learning styles better. I’m also excited to spend the holidays in Israel with the family who I haven’t seen in a long time. It has only been three weeks since I started MITF, I have learned more than thought, I’m exhausted in the best way possible, and I absolutely cannot wait for all the amazing experiences that are still to come over this next year.
Alicia Schneider is from Montreal, Canada and currently lives in Rishon Lezion, Israel, where she is a participant in the 2016-2017 Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. She earned her degree in English Literature & Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal. Her passions include travel, reading, Nutella, and cats. She hates writing about herself in the third person.
Originally published on September 21, 2016 on AliciasTravelBlog.Wordpress.Com
By Ally Cohen, Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Ashdod
We spent our third day of the program touring the two cities we are stationed in: Ashdod and Ramle (also know as Ramla). We started with a tour of Ramle. We had an adorable tour guide named Kostas who is an Arab Christian. He told us all about the history of Ramle. As we walked out of the museum, a woman asked which of the fellows were stationed in Ramle. She is one of the neighbors and always “adopts” one or two fellows, having them over for dinner and celebrating holidays with them. This kind of interaction has not been uncommon. Everywhere we go people have been so nice to us, especially when they find out we are the teaching fellows. People want us to be here and go out of their way to make us feel at home. Almost everyone we meet has offered us their phone number and told us to call them if we need anything.
On our tour of Ramla we visited the museum, my favorite thing there was a wall that had pictures of every fallen soldier from the city dating back to the 1940’s. The families of the soldiers had all made them scrapbooks, filled with family photos and mementos. It was moving to see that these were real people who died defending their country, that they were more than just a name and a statistic.
As a bit of a history nerd being in Israel is an incredible experience. So much has happened here, and the evidence of that is everywhere you go. Walking through the shuk in Ramle we saw an old mailbox from the British Mandate period.
We also visited a 700-year-old tower. We all made it to the top, and after climbing all the stairs, we were feeling the burn. Kostas told us a story about how the neighboring city of Lot once tried to steal the tower; they obviously did not succeed.
We also went on a rowboat ride underground in the Pool of Arches…
The boats were pretty large for the small space, so we kept bumping into things. Eventually my boat decided to embrace this and try to start attacking people, unfortunately for us we had a lot of trouble navigating and were unable to catch anyone. However, we did get some good snapchats, so all was not lost.
After we had eaten lunch an Israeli tour group on a scavenger hunt asked us to dance the hora with them, they were a bit surprised that we knew what that was. It was a reminder of how cool it is that people from all over the world reside in Israel, and we all share many cultural things; it’s a lot like reuniting with your long lost cousins.
By the time we made it back to Ashdod we were all exhausted from the combination of Jet lag and running around all day in the hot sun. I feel very bad for our next tour guide because we were not the best group for him. It was like he was giving a tour to the walking dead. We did a large part of the tour from the bus because Ashdod is a lot larger than Ramle, the fifth largest city in Israel to be exact. Luckily I will have a lot more time to explore Ashdod in the upcoming months. Tomorrow I will attempt to open an Israeli bank account, so stay tuned.
Originally published on AllyTakesIsrael.Wordpress.com.