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Monday, May 28, 2007

Birthright (and other programs) replugged : visits to Israel change youth forever

Visit Israel and change your life.

Jewish teens from Diaspora share their experiences after taking part in MASA long-term Israel programs
Yaakov Lappin Published:  05.25.07, 15:37 / Israel Activism

Thousands of Jewish youths from around the world met in Jerusalem last week to celebrate their participation in long-term programs organized by the MASA organization.
A carnival-like atmosphere enveloped the area of the Sultan's Pool center in Jerusalem, as the youths watched a Kaperua show, and joined in with a hand drum and shofar musical group.
Ynetnews spoke to youths to get their take on their experiences.
Ariel Scheer, 19, New Jersey, US
"I chose to do Marva (IDF program), though when I started it, I questioned whether I was doing the right thing - I was bossed around by my commanders. Now I have no regrets and I think it was the best choice I made. After that, I lived in Bat Yam and volunteered for the community. I taught English to fourth graders from a pretty underprivileged area. I've been thrown into Israeli society. This has been amazing year, and I'm really sad to be leaving. I have gained a new appreciation for what Israel represents for the Jewish people."
Ronnie Ollo, 20, Montreal, Canada
 "I took part in a year program to study abroad. I'm a student at Mcgill University, and now I am doing a year at Tel Aviv University. It has been amazing. This has changed my life. If you had asked me what my life priorities were before I did this, I would have given you a very different answer. I'm studying political science and my professor was a former Knesset Member. I've met some well educated people who know what they're talking about. I find it hard to leave or to book my flight home. I've been so amazed by my experience that it has opened my eyes to the possibility of living here. I would never have considered that before."
 "I've been here for a year. I first came on the Taglit Birthright program. I feel like I've done the right thing, that I've come home. I live on a kibbutz where I learn Hebrew at an ulpan, as well as Israeli and Jewish culture and history. I would love to do the army. Although I miss my family back in India, this is where I really want to be."
Joanna: "I took part in a volunteer program. I've enjoyed it, and I'm thinking about making aliya.
 Diego, 22, Uruguay
"I came to work in film in Tel Aviv. I am making aliya next December. I cam here a few months ago, and although there are a few problems here, I'm having a great time."

Josh, Michael and Ze'ev
Josh Avart, 19, Michael Feldman, 19, Maryland and, Ze'ev Marmorstein, 19, California, US
Josh: "We are here on a Young Judea program, where we have helped Ethiopian kids in Bat Yam. I'm really glad I was put in Bat Yam and not in Jerusalem because I feel its more real here, that I'm meeting real Israeli society. Its a side to Israel that I had not seen before.
Michael: "Volunteering has been really rewarding. I'm much more willing to come back, and I feel that I've made a difference.
 Ze'ev: "I worked at Etgarim, teaching disabled kids and adults how to sail. This is a good way to spend time. If you're a Jew, take a few months and go to the Holy Land."

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