In the last 18 months, the pandemic hurled the Israeli education system into a crisis. With the new Israeli school year just months in, there is no shortage of work to be done to catch children up.
Recognizing setbacks and English teacher shortages in Israel’s education system, the Education Ministry supports programs that improve educational resources together with the Jewish Agency. Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) exemplifies this initiative.
Through communicative lessons and conversational exercises, many Israeli children gain confidence in their English abilities and build connections that strengthen their connection to Jews from abroad. One of the greatest benefits of having young Fellows from abroad join Israeli classrooms is the positive experience they bring to learning. Unlike traditional teaching and test giving, Fellows are encouraged to create lesson plans and activities that students can relate to and find joy in. Now, 160 Fellows are in Israel, embarking on their 10-month adventure as they work to build bridges with Israeli youth.
MITF is one of Masa’s most successful programs with a variety of opportunities. Many Fellows come holding teaching certificates from their English-speaking home countries, and many have already taught abroad elsewhere. MITF even offers unique tracks like combining STEM and English for Fellows who are graduates of STEM university programs. Given that educational obstacles hit disadvantaged schools the hardest, Fellows often teach in Israel’s socioeconomic periphery, providing a lifeline to children who may have otherwise never had a chance to learn English with native speakers. From major cities to youth villages, Fellows are joining their new communities with open hearts.
As a mother living in Israel, I can attest to how essential such skills are to future career prospects. I also know how challenging learning English can be. I was once a student in Israel and can recall how difficult it was to master the foreign language. Some Israeli families are fortunate enough to be able to invest in English tutoring, but most cannot afford the expense. By offering their expertise in English, Fellows are providing a vital service that will support Israel’s workforce, economy, and the future generations, all while leveling the playing field, so that all children can excel.
Our Fellows also get real-world experience in classroom management, creative problem-solving and interpersonal communications—all skills that can be applied to a range of professions. Many of our 1,700 MITF alumni have gone on to excel in fields like law, medicine, education, and business. Two of them even decided to market the delicious hummus and tahina they grew to love in Israel!
Above all, our Fellows and alumni testify that teaching in Israel has led them to feel a developing affiliation with their heritage and homeland. Their service builds a bridge between the Israeli and global Jewish communities, proving that the Jewish nation can do amazing things when we come together.
As the director of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, I've been privileged to a front row seat to many magical moments of learning, connecting, growth and incredible impact.
Over the past decade, our Fellows have taught essential English skills to 300,000 Israeli students in 19 cities. But the story behind the numbers is far more compelling. I've witnessed children in Beit She’an eagerly practicing their English as they chat with their MITF Fellows at a local celebration of Mimouna; Sheery, a sixth grader in Bat Yam, finally feeling confident to share her thoughts in English during a class discussion; and Nitzan, a middle-school student from a Northern Israeli town, who discovered American Jewish culture, enriching his own life in the process.
I recall the Fellows who have met best friends and partners during their stay in Israel and those so inspired by their MITF experience they decided to make community service their life’s mission.
These moments serve to inspire me through the difficult times in which we live. As we heal from a global pandemic, rocket attacks on our borders and civil unrest, it is heartening to know that compassion and connection flows between Israel and global Jewish communities. This year is full of opportunity, and I am proud that Masa Israel Teaching Fellows are leading the way.
Yael Sahar Rubinstein is the Director of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows and lives in Israel.