By Shoshana Frank, Tel Aviv University Graduate Student

 

It was the beginning of a new year, 2013, and I felt I was at a crossroads in my life.  I had been out of college for one and a half years and my chosen career path had come to a screeching halt when the FAA froze hiring air traffic controllers just before my graduation.  Despite having a successful personal and commercial banking career and being very active on a volunteer basis in my hometown, I felt something was missing.  I decided a Birthright trip might help me clear my mind and focus on my next steps.  Arriving in Israel in late June something immediately fell into place; much to my surprise I suddenly felt like a missing piece had been found.  Never did I expect the Birthright experience to have such an impact on me; but when I stood in front of the Western Wall, the tears just rolled down my cheeks.  As a secular Jew, I was surprised, but I suddenly felt like I was home.

 

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Shoshana at the Western Wall during her Taglit-Birthright Israel experience, July 2013

Returning to the States I knew I had a need to get to know Israel on a deeper level – to get to know its people, its culture, its history and its current affairs.  Turning to Masa Israel I discovered the means by which I could accomplish that goal plus achieve other personal goals – attaining a post graduate degree and exploring a potential career path that would have a global impact and allow me to do what I like best – developing relationships, problem solving and serving others in a civic-minded manner.

By October 2014 I had moved to Israel with two duffel bags and a back pack to live for a year while attending Tel Aviv University’s International Graduate School. Although the butterflies were beating furiously when I walked to a bus stop on my own for the very first time, I made it to my destination and on time.  Now I don’t hesitate to travel all over on public transportation – both buses and trains.  In my first two months I learned that logistics involved with everyday life were very different in Israel than what I was accustomed to in the United States.  What I thought were simple straight forward activities were much more complex and time consuming than expected.

 

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Tel Aviv University’s International School MA in Conflict, Resolution and Mediation, Class of 2015

(Shoshana’s in the center, wearing a blue baseball cap)

Thanks to both friends and TAU sponsored field trips, in my first few months I’ve already had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Negev Desert, spend time and have dinner with a Bedouin tribe, meet the Qadi (Judge) in Jaffa’s oldest Mosque, hike through the Makhtesh Ramon (crater) and try some of Israel’s renown grapes made into wine.  I’ve also explored Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and other towns like Ra’anana and Netanya, and saw the Lebanon border. In the midst of intensive studies on Political Approaches, History of the Middle East, Cultural Studies and Negotiation Techniques, while learning Hebrew, I’m enjoying my new found friendships from England, Canada, China, South Korea, Israel, Germany, and Colombia. We’ve shared international Shabbat dinners, a surprise birthday party in a Hookah lounge, and in November celebrated the Thanksgiving traditions of the USA. 

Broadening my experience, I joined Tel Aviv University’s Model United Nations club that meets every Sunday evening.  Simulations have helped me focus on significant international issues and better understand the diversity of thought and opinions as represented by countries throughout the world. Attending their conferences and staying actively involved is helping me further develop my leadership and collaboration skills.

 

Now, a year and a half from that beginning wander down an unexplored road, I finished my first semester at Tel Aviv University in the International School for Conflict Resolution and Mediation.  Thanks to Masa Israel’s connections and grant, I have begun exploring new opportunities, discovering more about Israel and those who live here, and making friends with people from throughout the world.

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