Today, we talk to Rachel, a NYC native who spent 5 months in Israel doing an internship. While expanding her career, Rachel got to learn all about Israeli culture, travel around the country, and gain a new perspective on living life to the fullest. Below, she explains how she got the internship, what life in Israel was like, and how you can do the same.
I learned about this program called MASA, which is an Israeli program geared at getting internationals to come live in Israel for a certain amount of time.
There are all different types of programs MASA offers; teaching English to kids, helping in a hospital, living on a kibbutz (a small community outside the cities) and internship programs where they match you with a company and industry that they have partnerships with.
There are also different durations and locations you can choose from. Basically anything you want to do to get over there, they have a program for! I chose a program called Career Israel, which partners you with companies in all different industries for a 5 month internship duration.
Career Israel sets you up with housing (you can either live in dorms or apartments), provides you with all home necessities and also sets up trips around the country once a month. Speakers come in a few nights a week to talk about life in Israel as well as give Hebrew classes.
Once you commit to the program, you are partnered with an internship coordinator and they do all of the searching and pairing up of companies for you to work at, then you interview with a company and pick a job.
My experience living in Israel could not have been more amazing. I assimilated quickly and picked up enough Hebrew to get around Tel Aviv, however, that isn’t that much since almost everyone speaks fluent English in Tel Aviv!
There are definitely some strong differences you can see between Israeli life and American life that took some time getting used to. This is seen in any country when you move abroad (I have also lived abroad in Prague, Czech Republic for study abroad semester which also took quite the assimilation) and is no different to Tel Aviv.
However, there are some things you should be prepared for if you are living abroad in Tel Aviv, that was either a shock for me or took some getting used to.
Second, Israelis have such a strong zest for life that I have not seen in any other country in the world. This was so apparent when I lived there that every single day I strived to be like Israelis. Despite the past and current political and religious tensions that the Middle East, and specifically Israel, faces, Israelis have a zest for life unlike anyone else.
I have never seen a group of people, in all of the countries I have visited, truly LOVE life and give meaning to “live life to the fullest”. Israelis are adventurous, open-minded and all around happy humans, and these characteristics truly radiate off of them.
I am always my happiest self anytime I go to Israel while being around Israelis, especially for the six months I lived there. Anytime I called my parents while I was living there, they always told me how happy I sounded (and they don’t say that while I live in NYC!).
Israelis also truly embody the idea of a “home” and will literally invite you to come to their house for any holiday even if they don’t know you. They want everyone to feel welcome and at home in Israel and it is an amazing quality.
Third, you have to get used to seeing soldiers and massive guns everywhere. There will be soldiers walking by you all the time and everywhere. They will have guns larger than you wrapped over their body. The first time you see this, it will be a little weird. After a while, you realize how normal it is and how amazing it is. These soldiers, many of whom are younger than 24 years old, are living their life and protecting their country at the same time. It’s an amazing sight and aspect to daily life in Israel that has become second nature to me.
Fourth, Israel’s weekends are Friday and Saturday. This is the only country in the world that has that and it definitely took some time to get used to….especially when all my friends back in the states were partying on Sunday and I was at work! The world runs a little different in Israel. Shabbat, the day of rest, is Friday night to Saturday night. As such, their weekend is actually Friday and Saturday, with the work week starting on Sunday.
Not only are their weekends different, but almost everything is closed on Saturdays, especially in Jerusalem. Take the day to really rest…go to the beach, hang at one of the amazing parks, hike around the desert or mountains. On Friday, I urge you to go to one of the popular Shuks (markets) in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – they are BEYOND hectic and crowded every Friday morning and shut down at 3pm. It is amazing. Make sure you plan what to do in Israel around their weekend days.
Lastly, you’ll learn that the media lies. I can’t stress this enough. No matter your religion, your beliefs, your political views, Israel is for everyone and everything portrayed in the media is not how life is like in Israel.
There is so much history in the holy land that has affected all of our history no matter what your background is. I truly urge you to visit Israel with an open-mind because it is the most remarkable, happiest country I have ever experienced. Do believe the saying “Israel is the safest country in the world.” This is the truth. I feel exponentially safer in Israel than I do in my own city of NYC.
I promise you there is never a bad time to go to Israel and most importantly, live abroad in Israel and there is nowhere I would recommend more.
The author: I’m Rachel Shulman and I am in love with traveling and the planning that goes into it. I am always researching my next destination and lusting over new places. I have lived in 4 cities and traveled to 30+ countries. I created this site to share my detailed and efficient travel guides, itineraries and tips for anywhere around the world. Learn more about Rachel by visiting her site, From East to West.