Marla Davis | Masa Israel

Marla Davis
participant year: 
What I experienced in Jerusalem will always stand as some of the most incredible memories of my life. I spent days mastering Hebrew in Ulpan in addition to taking courses ranging from Ethiopian Jewish history to peace transition and reconciliation. While all of my classes at Hebrew University deepened my passion for Jewish knowledge, one highlight of my experience was my class with Professor Maya Kahanoff. She brought leaders from peace organizations into our classroom to discuss the work they were doing to help reconcile the Palestinian Israeli conflict. Being able to discuss the conflict in a safe educational environment with a close group of peers gave me an opportunity to use critical thinking skills and expand my perspective. Without a doubt, Professor Kahanoff’s class helped me grow into a more thoughtful, open-minded person.
Another amazing opportunity in Jerusalem is the student group Advocates for Asylum. The group of Hebrew University students provides English language classes and translates the Sudanese refugee’s testimonies into English. These men and woman, who had been through so much hardship in life, were the most grateful and friendly people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Spending two evenings a week with the refugees and my fellow teachers became some of the most rewarding enjoyable times I had overseas.
Although I could write forever about all the amazing experiences I encountered while living in Jerusalem, the journey wouldn’t be complete without the amazing friends I spent time with in and around the city. During our five months, we prepared potluck Shabbat dinners, hiked both up north and in the Negev, danced, swam, laughed, and ran to catch the last Egged bus. There is something to be said for finding friends that feel like family when you are so far away from home. They helped me grow into the best version of myself, and to this day I hold the time we spent together as some of the happiest, richest moments of my life.
I found that when I came home from Jerusalem, I was a more confident and mature than before I left. Living in Jerusalem was challenging, exciting, and most of all rewarding. I came home with a deep sense of appreciation for all the people who work so hard to bring peace to the region and also for the wonderful people from multiple organizations that work to keep Jews connected to their homeland.