My name is William Giammona, and I am currently a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya, Israel.
Before this year, I had never visited Israel, and knew very little about the country. I was fortunate enough to hear about Birthright through a friend, and we both signed up to go on a San Diego community-based Birthright trip through the Jewish Federation, for 22-26 year olds this past summer.
Touring Israel for those 10 days, getting to see Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tzfat, the Dead Sea, Masada, and Jerusalem, and getting to meet and become friends with the Israeli soldiers who traveled along with us, helped me to get a much better appreciation for Israel, my own personal Jewish identity, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
When the trip ended and I came back to San Diego, I knew I wanted to learn more about the state of Israel and possibly make Aliyah. In early July, I received an email about the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) program and I made the decision to join.
MITF has been one of the most rewarding and culturally enriching programs of my life. I work in an elementary school called Yeshurun religious school along with another MITF volunteer teaching grades 3-6. When we work with the students, we take a supporting role with regard to the school’s main English teachers, and pull out 3-4 students at a time. We do anything from going over homework to playing educational games with the students in order to help them learn and make English more exciting and appealing to them.
We spend 25 hours a week working with the children, as well participating in a weekly Masa event and spending several hours a week volunteering in our local community. The weekly Masa event is typically a blend of outdoor activities, including hiking in the Golan Heights or near the Sea of Galilee, as well as a culturally enriching experience, such as touring a village of the Circassian minority community in Israel. The volunteering can range from working with Holocaust survivors to playing basketball with disadvantaged youth. In addition, we have Ulpan twice a week, which lasts between two and three months.
For those looking to learn more about Israeli culture, and make a difference in the lives of young Israeli students, MITF is an excellent opportunity to do so.