Hannah Heller | Masa Israel

Hannah Heller
participant year: 
After graduating from Wellesley College last June with a double major in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology and Jewish Studies, I knew I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in the arts, but I also knew I needed some work experience to help me define my specific path. 
I enrolled in Masa Israel’s Career Israel, where I would be able to gain professional experience in the arts with a five-month long internship, practice my Hebrew, and live in Tel Aviv, getting the opportunity to experience Israel like an Israeli. Having grown up in a Jewish environment in West Winstor, New Jersey, I’d visited Israel a few times before, but never for this long. 
For my internship I was placed with a start-up organization called Omanoot: Israel Through Art, which seeks to create a multimedia online portal through which individuals can access all aspects of Israeli art, including visual art, music, film, and literature. In my work, I was in direct communication with the artists in order to write their bios and most importantly, interpret their work for the Omanoot audience. 
Early on, I realized that my responsibilities would include more than just interviews and writing, and that I would also be involved in defining the young organization’s mission. In addition to working on pinpointing Omanoot’s audience and deciding the best ways to access it, I took part in discussions in which we asked which artists are truly “Israeli” in an ever-increasing multicultural world. It was incredibly thrilling to be involved in these discussions, and to be challenged to come up with real solutions.
While becoming immersed in the Israeli art scene, I met hard-working and passionate people and became more confident in my spoken and written Hebrew. But far and away the most significant thing I gleaned from my time in Israel was that I realized the power of art and decided that I wanted it to be an integral part of my future. Before interning at Omanoot, I knew that art had intrinsic cultural value, and for that reason alone was interested in helping people access it online. But given Israel’s precarious political situation, the work took on much greater meaning. At Omanoot, I realized that through art, people on both sides of the conflict can come together to discuss their similarities and differences, ultimately creating peaceful solutions. In the past this has been done and through Omanoot, I believe it may happen again. 
Back in the United States, I am currently enrolled in an MA program at Tufts in Museum Education. One day, I hope to work as an educator for a visual arts museum. Thanks to Masa Israel, I not only have a plan, but if anyone asks what I can do with an archaeology degree, I have a pretty good answer!