Education Minister Bennett kicks off MASA English teaching program's 7th year

The welcome event featured Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Naftali Bennett

“People who are a looking for an easy time are not in this room. People who are interested in growing and making a difference in Israeli Society are sitting today in this room,” MASA Israel CEO Liran Avisar Ben-Horin told some 250 English teaching fellows on Sunday.

MASA Israel has been providing young diaspora Jews a chance to experience Israel over an extended period of time through learning, teaching and internship programs for the past 13 years.

Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship, or MITF has been around since 2011 and Sunday marked the official start of the seventh year of the program.

MITF is a joint program between Israel's Ministry of Education and Masa Israel that aims to recruit top university graduates from English-speaking countries to spend one school year (10 months) in Israel, working in elementary and middle schools, together with their English language staff, and immerse themselves in the local community  and Israeli society.

Unlike previous years, this program will reach further into the periphery schools and teachers will have a chance to not only experience another side of Israel, but the pupils will get a head start in their English education, something that the Education Ministry is very much anticipating this 5777/78 school year.

Cities including Rahat, Dimona, Mitzpe Rimon and Beersheba will now have these fellows in their schools.

In addition, Ashdod, Bat Yam, Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion, Petach Tikva, Netanya, Beit Shean, Rehovot and Haifa are also going to host the Fellows.

The MITF welcome event took place at the C Hotel in Neve Ilan with words of praise and encouragement from members of MASA, Israel's school system, MITF alumni and even Naftali Bennett.

The event was to orient the newest group of fellows with the program with the Israeli education system, the challenges they will face and to show them how thankful the people of Israel are for them being here.

Anne Lashinsky, from Atlanta Georgia arrived last week and will be a teaching fellow in Netanya, although very excited for this year, she did express some reservations about the language barrier. “I hope to learn Hebrew so I can connect with the kids on a personal level and then also help them get excited about another culture and learn English, hopefully for a better future,” she told the Jerusalem Post.

Benjamin Bergman lives and teaches in Philadelphia, he will be teaching in Ashdod but hasn’t been told where he is placed yet, explains that he “applied to this program a few years ago and wasn’t accepted because of lack of teaching experience, but I got accepted this time because i earned a degree in teaching. I am most excited to learn how to teach English and helping kids learn as much as possible.”

While most of the teachers have yet to start their teaching responsibilities, the Talma fellows are involved in a pilot program that is being sponsored through Masa. unlike the rest of the fellows who will start their school year tomorrow, this group of 15 fellows have been teaching since September first. In fact, they have all taught in Israel before in a summer program Talma offers over the past three years.

“You learn to use the chaos to your advantage” T’hilah Ben Dan from Brooklyn tells the Jerusalem Post about adjusting to the Israeli school system. She spent last summer teaching English in a school in Jerusalem, now, she will spend this school year teaching English to third through sixth graders in a religious school in Dimona.

A certified teacher in early education, Ben Dan understands the responsibility that she has in the upcoming year: “It’s challenging in that the English levels are really low, but the good thing is that i have the support of this school and i think the kids really want to learn and i think over the course of the year, they are going to make amazing progress. I really really want these kids to progress, I’m really excited to take this kids far because i know they can go far.”

At the end of the event, Naftali Bennett came to speak on behalf of his two ministries: Education and Diaspora affairs.

“We made a decision here that kids in Israel have to speak English, because (in a heavy Israeli accent) ‘in Israel our English it's not so good many time’.

Following some laughs from the group, he explained the importance of this program and the role these fellows will have, especially in the periphery: “We have a huge disparity in Israel between folks who were born in rough neighborhoods and folks who were born in less well off neighborhoods.”

The reality, the unacceptable reality, is that, right now if you are born in northern Tel Aviv or in Herzliya, you have a much better chance in life to succeed, just because you were born there,'' added Bennett.

Using an example of two twin babies where one lives in a periphery town and the other in Tel Aviv, he says: “they have different chances in life and that's unacceptable, and one of the reasons, is English. There is less of an opportunity to learn good English in these areas, and we really need you. Understand that every kid you touch, you’re going to have a profound effect on their future”. Bennett told the group on Sunday.

“It’s not just about teaching English, it's about giving these kids a fair opportunity, a fair chance to succeed, a fair deal which they don’t have”.

“That Beduin girl and that Jewish boy will not have the opportunity i had, so this is amazing what you are doing.”