Alex Dorf - MITF with Israel Experience

Last year, staring at the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows with Israel Experience website, I didn’t actually think I would do it… leave home for ten whole months — for Israel? I needed to practice Spanish, not Hebrew. But in the middle of the Boston winter, the Mediterranean seemed pretty enticing. So I signed up and started searching for flights. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I love working with kids, and have always adored learning a new language, so why not teach one? And there was the falafel, of course. But the past five months have exceeded any expectations I had, or rather, lack thereof.

Haifa is spectacular!

While my friends and I might groan about the ten-minute hike up to our apartment, I still marvel at the view every time I come home. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Midwest, where the closest thing we have to mountains are farm silos, but the sight of the glittering city next to the sea, and the mountains in the distance, always takes my breath away. When it comes to culture, the city is no less fascinating. Though not perfect, it is the best example of an integrated city in Israel. I live in a Jewish neighborhood, eat pork sandwiches in a Christian neighborhood and work in an Arab school where all the students are Muslim. Some people tell me that it is funny that I came all the way to not work in a Jewish school. To me, though, it’s perfect. I grew up going to a conservative, Jewish school, learned Hebrew, and many of my teachers were Israeli. In fact, when I visited a Jewish school here I was struck by its similarity to my school at home.

Teaching in an Arab School

Teaching in an Arab school has been a completely new experience. I knew maybe four words of Arabic back in August. Since then, my students have patiently, and sometimes not so much, helped me stumble my way through its guttural R’s and the breathy H’s. I am thrilled every time I stutter through a complete sentence. But it’s deeper than simply mastering pronunciations. Growing up in a conservative Jewish community came with a very rigid understanding of the state of Israel and of what it meant to be Jewish. These past few months made me think even more deeply about what it means to be Jewish, how Israel fits into that, and what I want to teach my kids about Judaism. There’s so much more to be learned here than simply how to push your way onto a crowded bus. As with everything, this program is exactly what you make it, but if you open yourself up you may be surprised by what you learn.
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