בינה בפייסבוק בינה באינסטגרם צרו קשר עם בינה במייל

MITF From a New Perspective / MITF Tel Aviv+

Growing up in Baltimore I attended Sunday school, high holiday services at my synagogue, and enough bar and bat mitzvahs to fill my closet with sweatshirt giveaways from each one, but I never imagined myself to be 24 years old and writing this blog post from my home in Tel Aviv. I never imagined that I would be an assistant English teacher in an Israeli elementary school where 5th-grade students welcomed me with open arms and plenty of excitement to teach me Hebrew. Even after my first trip to Israel at the age of 17, I never imagined the impact that this country would have on me forever or the opportunities that I would embrace to ultimately find myself here today, as an Olah Chadasha, helping my peers find opportunities to live in Israel as well. 

On my first trip to the Holy Land, I arrived with very little previous knowledge of the country and was simply excited to learn and explore while visiting my sister who chose to study abroad here. After one week of traveling around the land, meeting people from all over and, of course, tasting every bite of food offered to me, I knew that I needed to spend more time in Israel. Fast forward through my sophomore year of college and I am back in Israel for the summer on Birthright! After my Birthright trip was over I stayed in Tel Aviv to be a part of the Onward Israel program, which allowed me two months of living and interning in the start-up nation. By the end of this fulfilling summer, my feelings remained – I needed more time here. 

Fast forward again and I’m entering my senior year at the University of Michigan, preparing to complete my undergraduate degree, and the only part of my future plan that I knew for sure is that it must involve Israel. Any other details are not as important to me. My sister suggested that I check out the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship (MITF) as an entry point. After talking to friends who were in the fellowship and researching online, I was beyond excited by this opportunity. Utilizing my native English skills to live in a small city in Israel and fully immersing myself within the culture all while giving back to the community that welcomed me into their homes and schools truly felt like a dream come true. I wasn’t just interested in the program, I needed to be a part of it. 

Now that my mind was made up it was time to apply for MITF, but the applications hadn’t opened yet, so I waited, sent some emails requesting an application, and waited some more. Finally, in the fall, applications opened and I submitted mine ASAP, scheduling my follow-up interview right away. I still remember the tears and distress that followed when I had wifi issues that cut my Zoom interview short, thinking that my chance was ruined and I wouldn’t be able to live and teach in Israel. Of course, though, the situation was resolved and despite many more obstacles (as the COVID-19 pandemic soon shut the world down at the beginning of 2020), I eventually made it to Israel as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in August 2020!

As with doing anything during the peak of the pandemic, the beginning of my MITF experience was pretty unique. Our MITF coordinators met us at the airport (wearing masks and standing six feet away), to welcome us and send us into our new apartments to quarantine for two weeks with 5 complete strangers who also just arrived for the fellowship! After a successful quarantine period, my program experience was off to a quick start with many lessons along the way. Whether it be mastering Moovit to take the bus in the morning, finding creative ways to keep students engaged on Zoom, or preparing fresh sufganiyot with my MITF cohort to celebrate Hannukah, every day of my 10-month fellowship was filled with a new experience. These valuable takeaways have undoubtedly shaped me into the person that I am today. 

It only took 2 months out of the 10-month-long fellowship for me to understand that 10 months still would not be enough for me, but I needed to really feel and become Israeli. From there, my aliyah process began. 8 months and countless burekas later the school year came to a close, however, the bond that I created with my host teacher and students remains to this day.

Finishing the school year and MITF fellowship strong, I knew the next time that I arrived in Israel it would be on my own and for as long as I would like. I felt as if I graduated from my time as a Masa participant and was ready to begin my adult life in my new home. What I did not know is that I would soon enough find myself involved in MITF again, but this time on the other side of it. When I made aliyah and became an oleh chadasha, I would rave about my experience as a teaching fellow to just about anyone who would listen. When I learned of the opportunity to give back to this program that gave me so much – indispensable lessons, lifelong friendships, and unique trips around Israel – I was eager to get involved again!

The most beautiful element that I find within all of the stories that I could share about MITF is the common ground that brings strangers from all over the world together to share a purpose and provide opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute. I know firsthand the risk that we all took moving to an unfamiliar city with a different language and new faces, but I think that is what also allows the bonds created and rewarding aspects to be so special. I love my role at BINA because it allows me to offer young Jewish adults from all over the world the chance to understand what it feels like to live and exist in Israel in their own unique way. 

Your favorite Tel Aviv Fellows,

Taylor Kleeman, BINA Admissions and Marketing Coordinator

Click here to learn more and apply to MITF

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