Blog Archives - Career Israel- Israel Experience Ltd.
 
At the Religion and State seminar held in Jerusalem on November 18, Career Israel participants were met with a series of stimulating and thought-provoking speakers which left everyone pondering questions of Jewish identity and what it means to have a Jewish state. The day was set up in a way that made sure all sides were represented, but also so that no viewpoint on the spectrum of religion and state went unchallenged. Based on the heartfelt and thoughtful discussions that ended the program and continued on into the evening thereafter, it was clear that the seminar was successful both in providing answers and raising new questions in the minds of all who were present.

 

The seminar began with an introduction by Josh Weinberg, a reserve officer in the IDF spokesperson’s unit andeducator and guide for the Reform movement in Israel. This introductory lecture, though intended to be an impartial representation of the issues at hand, already brought up the first stirrings of debate and revealed the complexities behind the question of whether Israel can simultaneously exist as both a Jewish state and as a secular democratic institution.

 

The day progressed with a lecture by Dr. Dov Maimon, a professor of public policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University, and a member of Israel's Haredi, or ultra-orthodox community. Dr. Maimon gave a passionate representation of one far end of the spectrum of the religion-and-state debate; the Haredi perspective that religion, specifically traditional Judaism, should play a central role in the governance of daily life in Israel. Dr. Maimon was met with question after question, both in agreement and dissent, regarding this stance and created quite a stir that left everyone questioning if the existence of such a religious and democratic state was possible.

 

The final speaker of the day, Anat Hoffman, brought the seminar back to the opposite end of the spectrum with an equally engaging and controversial stance. Hoffman is a founding member of Women of the Wall, an activist group which fights for equal religious rights for women, and is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, an organization which promotes Jewish pluralism, tolerance, and equality. Hoffman argued not that religion does not have a place in state affairs, but that it should not influence them in such a way that it causes unequal policy towards any particular group. Her passionate mission was reflected in her repeated entreaty to the audience to "raise hell" and fight for women to be able to practice Judaism freely and publicly at the Western Wall the way men are permitted.

 

After a day of such fervent debate and the raising of such a complex web of questions, it's a wonder that no one's head was spinning upon leaving the seminar. However, no matter the perspectives taken up during the day or what previous conclusions  were dismantled, all participants were engaged and benefitted from an important debate regarding Israel and Jewish identity. After all, this is a central question which affects us all and for many was the reason for coming to Israel in the first place. It is rare that we are presented point-blank with an opportunity to spend the day wrestling with our identities together, and this, if nothing else, was the uniting factor of the day. 

 
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This is the first part of a New Voices series on Sderot. Find the second part of the series here.

The chapel at my Episcopalian boarding school was shaped like a crucifix.

I always tried to find a seat in the back corner so no one would see me when the reverend asked us to bow our heads. Instead, when the prayers mentioned Jesus, I would look at the ceiling and say the she'hecheyanu. It was the only blessing I remembered.

One summer in college, I again found myself looking at the ceiling. This time, instead of being the only Jew in the room, I was the only one going to Sderot.

"It's that place where all the rockets are falling," I would tell my friends about the embattled southern Israeli town near Gaza. The Career Israel internship program had set me up to be a media intern with the Sderot Media Center, which documents rocket attacks on southern Israel. In the program, I would film lives under attack and edit my footage, which the center would then broadcast to the public.

"Are you crazy?" my friends would say. I couldn't help asking myself the same question.

Career Israel had made the decision easy for me by taking care of most of the logistics. When I found myself alone in the back of Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station, though, the weight of my choice hit me. The other terminals were packed with eager travelers, but I was the only one on my way to Sderot.

When I got there, I saw a bomb shelter next to the bus stop, I couldn't help but think back to the alarming films I had witnessed in preparation for the trip—the heart-stopping tzeva adom, or code red, and the physical and psychological damage that went along with it.

I jumped into the shelter, ready for any signal of the approaching attack. After a few minutes of no explosions, I poked my head out to find that my shelter was one of several in a row. I darted for the next—also empty. I was the only one jumping from shelter to shelter.

I had expected to see the Sderot residents with nervous expressions and panic-stricken eyes. I imagined terrorized buildings surrounded by rubble. Instead, I found students lounging on the grass or sipping coffee at picnic tables, elderly woman carrying groceries and children eating ice cream.

One of my first assignments was with the Sderot Treatment Theater Project, an initiative to offer teenage girls a coping strategy through theater therapy. The girls had compiled their experiences in a script that they met daily to rehearse.

The girls at the rehearsal were practically the same age as me, but unlike American teens they weren't practicing for a musical. Instead, their challenge was to reconstruct the trauma of their everyday life in order to achieve some kind of relief from the stress.

When the time came for a reenactment of the tzeva adom, I lost all sense of what I was doing. Shattering screams filled the room. The girls ran in every direction. They buried their faces in one another and huddled—anticipating the danger that approached them. A large crash sounded and one girl lay still on the stage, a symbol of those that were killed during the attack. The girls cried over her lifeless body.

Then the director yelled, "Cut" and the moment was over. Somebody pulled the girl off the ground and they continued on to the next scene. Later, my footage would become a promotional video for the Sderot girls' play, and they would perform "Children of Qassam Avenue" at the Knesset almost a year later.

These girls are alone and I am alone. They will keep struggling to make the rest of the world know what it is to go through life in Sderot—no matter how many times they perform the play, and I will still be unable to explain to my friends why I went to Sderot—no matter how many times I talk about commitment and sacrifice. But what they've learned, what this play has taught them, is that what matters most is that they can explain it to themselves.

And now I know that it doesn't matter whether I can answer others when they ask me why I went to Sderot, or why I insisted on saying a Jewish prayer in a Christian school. Watching these girls leave the rehearsal, I understood that what mattered was that I knew the answer, even if I was the only one.

Sarah Hindman is a senior at the University of Southern California studying film. She interned through Masa Israel Journey at the Sderot Media Center.

 
My Background/Career Israel

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Business with degrees in Marketing and Risk Management & Insurance, I wasn’t sure what my next step in life would be. Having participated the previous year on the study abroad program, Semester at Sea, and visiting 14 different countries while circumnavigating the globe on a ship, I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to spend more time abroad. However, I wasn’t looking to teach English or do volunteer work. It was very important to me to partake in something worthwhile; something where I can gain useful experience and apply some of the concepts I studied in college.

 

Growing up in a conservative Jewish family which has always been involved in Pro-Israel organizations, I became involved with AIPAC, America’s leading Pro-Israel lobby, when I was high school and remain actively involved today. Continuing, I was involved with, and during my senior year became the president of, a Pro-Israel group on my campus. Thus, coupling my desire to work abroad with my love for Israel seemed like the perfect combination.

 

This led me to my campus’s Hillel, where I began to look at different options for post-graduates in Israel. Here, I learned about Career Israel, a professional internship program in which university graduates from all over the world come to Israel to work in either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in their field of expertise.  Career Israel is under the umbrella of MASA (The Jewish Agency), an organization that brings recent graduates to Israel, offering them grants and scholarships to participants on its programs. Before coming to Israel, participants work with a placement coordinator to find a suitable and interesting internship. The current Career Israel program has 120 participants, primarily from the United States, with others also from the UK, Australia, and parts of Europe and Latin/South America. In addition to the internship component of the program, we partook a month of ulpan classes, have heard from a wide variety of speakers, and have and will continue to travel around Israel, all as part of a unique group dynamic.

 

WHY MATIMOP?

Before arriving in Israel, my work with my placement coordinator and Career Israel director Elana Kaminka yielded a variety of interesting companies and organizations in and around Tel Aviv. After learning about each of them, MATIMOP, the Israeli Industry Center for R&D, captured my interest.  Furthermore, after a coincidental meeting with MATIMOP’s David Miron Wapner on my campus, MATIMOP became my leading choice. But why? While its day-to-day activities may not appear to directly relate to my studies, MATIMOP’s purpose is what really captivated me.  In its most fundamental sense, MATIMOP has two goals. One is to assist in the development of new R&D projects and the other is to promote and market Israel and its companies to the rest of the world. Having gained a tremendous interest in Israel’s many technological miracles after reading the critically acclaimed Start-Up Nation, MATIMOP was the ideal place for me during my six months in Israel. 

 

EXPERIENCE SO FAR

In my time at MATIMOP, I have been involved with a myriad of tasks and given a variety of responsibilities. It has been a pleasure to be working with Avi Luvton and Merav Tapiero in MATIMOP’s Asian and South American department. To get a feel for how the organization functions and the types of projects and companies it works with, I began by compiling a booklet of “Success Stories,” examining about 15 approved partnerships between Israeli and Asian/Latin American companies.  I’ve also assisted in providing an analysis of and recommendations for Israel’s involvement in the water technology driven India Group. Moreover, I had the chance to study and break down a couple Seventh Framework Programme proposals, pertaining to new environmental R&D ventures. The next project that I will have the opportunity to assist with will be the development of a new CRM based IT System for MATIMOP.

 

This past week, on October 26th and 27th, I was fortunate enough to attend two dinners of the first of four Eureka (a European organization that promotes R&D globally) conferences in Israel this year.  Being the only full non-European member of Eureka and the chairman of the commission put MATIMOP and Israel in a very unique position.  During the conference, I immediately understood some of MATIMOP’s goals for the chairmanship. Despite the many meetings and sessions that were held during the day, MATIMOP understood the uniqueness of having such a high-caliber delegation here and seized the opportunity to really show off and market Israel to them from a non-technological perspective.  When briefly speaking with a delegate from Spain and learning that this was his first time here, I asked him what he thought of Israel.  Not to say that he had a prior negative view of Israel by any means, he was most certainly impressed and in some cases blown away by what he had seen in just a few days, all as a result of MATIMOP strategically using Israel’s annual chairman position.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Having been in Israel for just over two months now, I am comfortably settled in and no longer feel like a tourist in a foreign city.  I have a group of new and old friends, a new daily routine, and generally a new Israeli lifestyle.  I am tremendously enjoying my time at MATIMOP and am confident that my responsibilities will only increase and my assignments will only become more interesting.  All of this begs the question: What next?  Despite booking a round trip flight to return in February, I came to Israel more than willing, if not eager, to extend my stay.  So when I’m asked questions about staying longer and even Aliyah, I by no means dismiss them.  If I have a worthwhile opportunity, whether it is to continue at MATIMOP or pursue something completely different, I am enthusiastic to remain in Israel. I’ve studied and cared about Israel my entire life, but this time I’m not touring with my family and I’m not here on a high school pilgrimage trip. Now, for the first time, I am enjoying living here and contributing at MATIMOP.

 

For more information about Career Israel and MASA…

www.careerisrael.com

www.masaisrael.org