I learned more in my five months in Israel than I did in all four years of college.
My parents don’t enjoy hearing this (sorry Mom and Dad!). Of course, college was incredibly valuable in many ways. But you learn by experiencing, and I have never experienced more than I did through Masa Israel.
Masa Israel is one of those beautiful organizations whose sole purpose is to give: to give money, to give awareness, and to give the beauty of connecting with your heritage and a story that goes back thousands of years. They want to invest in you, and they go above and beyond to do so.
One of the most important things I was given was a deeper understanding of Israel. My Masa Israel program, Career Israel, did an especially impressive job of exposing us to all different aspects of Israeli society. We heard from politicians on the left and on the right, Palestinian school children, Ethiopian community leaders, religious scholars, leading army figures, and African asylum seekers, just to name a few.
I was continually amazed by the vast array of opinions and knowledge, and my program’s willingness to show us Israel’s strengths and weaknesses.
Masa Israel also gave me several other opportunities, one of which was my internship with Innovation: Africa. Innovation: Africa brings Israeli solar technology to African villages, using the principle of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, as its guiding force. My colleagues at Innovation: Africa were generous in their willingness to teach and guide me, they also entrusted me with a huge deal of responsibility.
I worked on several research projects, as well as the organization’s social media and donor outreach. I also attended several conferences, where I learned how Israel’s incredible start-up industry and culture of innovation was applied to the humanitarian sector. These included the Israeli-California Water Partnership , IsraAID’s seminar on Haiti’s post-earthquake development, and a competition involving inventions geared towards improving the quality of life in Africa. The uniqueness of these experiences and the skills I learned, helped me land my current job.
Through their Global Leadership Institute, Masa Israel gave me exposure to Diaspora Jewry and the ability to tap into the incredible potential of our upcoming generation. My first experience with GLI was the Global Leadership Summit, a week-long conference where we explored the concept of adaptive leadership. The quality of speakers and seminars was unbelievable, and I gained incredible knowledge and insight.
Masa Israel was very intentional about having participants from every different background, and I walked away with friends from Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, England, and France, just to name a few. Masa gave us the opportunity to turn our thoughts into action at the GLI Shabbaton, where we reunited with friends and discussed our role in tackling the challenges that face global Jewry.
A few moments from Julie’s year in Israel!
These experiences allowed me to learn, discuss, and connect with many special people. I think back on them often, and I also find myself talking about Israel frequently. Sometimes it’s about one of these experiences, but usually, it turns into me urging someone to go, to just do it, and not to worry because Masa Israel will help you make it happen.
Most people politely nod their heads at my insistence. They can tell the enormity of the impact it has had on me, but can’t quite understand the magic of it.
As much as I want to be able to explain, I can’t. So thank you Masa Israel, for allowing me this experience that was so incredible it became unexplainable. And to whoever is reading this, don’t just nod your head. Go, just do it, and experience the unexplainable magic for yourself.
Julie Katz is a Career Israel 2015 – 2016 Alumna who currently resides in Marietta, GA.