Whether you love to teach, know or want to explore a thing or two about Judaism or just want an excuse to live in Israel, spending ten months as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow is the perfect amount of time to soak up everything the Holy Land has to offer.
Even though this year the high holidays are unusually late, nine times out of 10 September will be a month filled with opportunities to acquaint yourself with this new country at your fingertips. Since there’s no school during the holidays and the weather is still in summer mode, as an MITF-er you’ll be free to make the most of these days. Relax on the beach with an iced café, take a trip somewhere new, find a host family or randomly meet some amazing Israelis that’ll undoubtedly invite you to their family table for Rosh Hashanah dinners, or journey to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur.
Spending October in Israel means you can substitute the candy corn and Pumpkin Spice Lattes with fresh Israeli-grown dates and pomegranates…indicating that Sukkot is here and the fall harvest is in full swing. Every street you walk down is full of bamboo sukkahs that completely dominate any ordinary balcony or porch. Chances are, you’ll be eating in one of these at a local cafe at some point during October. But, remember, as a teacher in Israel, it’s also vacation time and the perfect chance to sneak in a hike at the Golan Heights or chill at the wineries up North.
If you’re American or Canadian, then November is the month to let the world know it…I’m talking about Thanksgiving! Israeli’s don’t have any equivalent, although most would argue that a Thanksgiving-sized feast is a typical Shabbat. This is your chance to flaunt the “foreign” card and educate your students about American history, aka pilgrims, Native Americans, the value of turkeys, and of course, about being grateful. Throw some culture into your school, host a Thanksgiving play, watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, get creative and give these kids a Thanksgiving they’ll never forget!
Diets don’t exist when it’s December in Israel, usually around the Hanukkah season. Your motto this month is, if it’s fried you eat it. Israeli stores are overflowing with סופגניות (sufganiyot) or in English, donuts. You’ll be able to choose from the original Jelly donut to crazy combos like Oreo crème and Pistachio crumble. And these babies will exceed beyond your wildest dreams… the miracle of the oil is amazing.
Now that it’s finally cold in Israel, something you didn’t believe could be true, it’s time to pull out your jacket. Whether you rock a pea coat, leather jacket, or Northface, make sure to keep it close by so you don’t freeze! Oh, and I almost forget, January welcomes the holiday of Tu’Bishvat which means the teacher’s lounge will be full of nuts and dried fruit, the perfect way to help you shed off those post-Hanukkah pounds!
Yes, in Israel it’s still cold. However, I recommend warming up with Shabbat. February is your 6-month mark in Israel and if you haven’t spent endless Friday nights with friends or your host family eating yourself into a food coma… WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Yes, you can celebrate Shabbat in your home country, but there is nowhere else in the world that does Shabbat like Israel. If you like to eat, Shabbat is for you. If you like to sleep, Shabbat is for you. If you like to do nothing or do anything, Shabbat is for you.
If you thought you’d be missing out on Halloween for the year by moving to Israel for ten months, just wait until you get to Purim. Three weeks before the holiday even starts, students come to school dressed in costume and classes will flip topsy-turvey. You’ll be smiling from ear to ear eating delicious Hamantashen, enjoying the three-day vacation you’ll get to spend Purim party hopping. It’s guaranteed to be a holiday you’ll never forget… you’ll even keep your costume for the next ten years to prove it.
And just as Hamantashen leave the store shelves, boxes of matzah take their place. Passover is the theme for April as schools are off for two whole weeks in celebration of the holiday. Whether you choose to stay in the Holy Land and enjoy the warming weather while eating authentic matzah, or take full advantage of having two weeks off and go on a crazy European adventure, the month of April is promising as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow.
At this point, Israel is part of who you are. And what better way to express this passion and love than Yom Hatzmaut…Israel’s version of the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day all pooled into one giant national pride holiday. Israeli flag swag will pop-up, and streets will bleed blue and white. You’ll be invited to more barbecues (which do not mean hotdogs and hamburgers) than you can count. You’ll be drowning in a sea of people who love Israel just as much as you do and want the world to know it. Celebrate the Independence of this beloved country like never before!
The heat is back on, school years are ending and the goodbyes are commencing. You well up with emotion every time you see your students because you’re still in shock that it’s almost over. This is the month to go mad with everything you haven’t had a chance to do in Israel yet. Make the most of this month eating all of your favorite foods and saying meaningful goodbyes to friends and new family, promising each other it won’t be long until you meet again.
Becoming a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow will change you. The ten magical months will be filled with love, heartache and passion, but they’ll be worth every second. Take it from me, live each of the ten months to its fullest.
Written by Allison Paisner, MITF Alumna