Harvard Student Defers Medical Studies To Learn Krav Maga In Israel

Harvard Student Defers Medical Studies To Learn Krav Maga In Israel

May 12, 2011

Instead of studying for finals right now like most of his friends, Harvard student Gus Mayopoulos is studying self-defense in Israel.
He’s also touring the country and exploring its culture while participating in a 5-month Martial Arts and Fitness Program called Budokan Israel. The Charlotte, North Carolina native has no qualms about deferring his acceptance to Harvard University for one year, believing his decision to take the increasingly popular gap year option between high school and college will help him in making larger decisions later on, like what to study when he finally arrives on campus next fall. 
 
Originally set on enrolling in medical studies at Harvard University, Mayopoulos spent the first half of his gap year living with a family in Costa Rica while working at a medical clinic. Desiring to make the most of his year off before a grueling track of studying kicked in, Gus went the opposite direction for the second half of the year, both in content and geography, when he chose to study martial arts at Budokan Israel in Hod Hasharon, Israel. 
 
The three year-old program is relatively new and currently the only one of its kind in Israel or the world, according to co-founder Danny Hakim. The styles of martial arts taught include traditional ones such as Karate and Judo, along with the more modern Krav Maga, which is featured heavily in the curriculum. The focus is logical since Krav Maga was created and developed in Israel, and is the official fighting system of the Israeli Defense Forces.
 
The idea of learning the style directly from its roots has great appeal for many, and the staff at Budokan has enlisted a former IDF Special Forces soldier to teach the course. The other styles are equally represented with master instructors, as the Karate portion is taught by Hakim, a 2-time World Silver Medalist, while Judo is run by 14-time Israeli National Champion and former Olympic coach Yonah Melnik, both creators and co-directors of Budokan Israel. 
 
When he first started looking for gap year programs, Mayopoulos’s mother encouraged him to think about spending time in Israel, but he wasn’t interested, possibly for this very reason. However, he had a prior interest in Krav Maga, and while searching on a gap year program database he came across Budokan Israel’s website.
 
He was sold on the idea after discovering that the fighting system he had been drawn to was invented in Israel. “In high school there was no time for physical activity. I was always busy doing academic work and school stuff. I saw this as a great chance to explore my physical side,” says Mayopoulos. 
 
Participants range in age from 18-to-26 and come from all over the world, men and women, with martial arts backgrounds of various levels from beginner to black belt.
 
Interestingly enough, it’s the women who tend to be the black belts, like Nicky Green of Australia, a past gap-year participant who was thrilled to discover a way to advance her martial arts training which fit with her desire for more life experience, before continuing her education. “With all the opportunities it offers in terms of martial arts, meeting people and spending time in Israel, I knew this was for me.”
 
With twice-daily trainings, 3-4 times a week, physical fitness is as much a draw for the program as is martial arts itself. Participant Brian Ben-Hain of Miami, Florida says he’s already lost 15 pounds in the first two months and feels stronger both mentally and physically, a sentiment shared by most others in the group.
 
Although the curriculum is centered on martial arts and fitness, the reality that they are training and living in Israel is not lost on anyone. The program includes guided tours across the country, weekly instruction in Hebrew, and a Jewish Heroes course which has hosted a variety of guest lecturers including soldiers from landmark events in Israeli history such as the Raid of Entebbe, Operation Moses and the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor. There is even a week-long volunteer session in the Israeli Army to complete the experience. 
 
The program has had a life-changing impact on some, like Alex Cohen of Chicago, Illinois, who had never even been to Israel before joining, yet has already decided to extend his stay past the initial 5 months he signed up for. “I love it here. I’m playing on staying longer once the program ends and have already started looking for a job.” He wouldn’t be the first to do so as the program regularly has graduates who choose to stay and make a home in Israel, some temporary, some permanent. 
 
Will it have the same effect on Mayopoulos? It’s doubtful. He’s not quite ready to pass up the opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the world, no matter how much he’s enjoying his time in Israel. However, there’s no disputing that the program has had an impact on him in many ways, not least of which is his choice of major. Says Mayopoulos, “This program has given me a chance to think about things and explore what I want to do. What I was so set on before, medicine, now I’m aware there’s more interesting things out there, and I’ve been thinking about the State Department and Foreign Service.”
 
Whatever route he decides to go, it’s clear he’ll be able to choose it with a greater perspective on life than he had one year ago. 

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

Kibbutz Lotan Green Apprenticeship

Peace, Music, Jerusalem: WUJS Program Offers Life Experience and Helps Realize Career Goals

Peace, Music, Jerusalem: WUJS Program Offers Life Experience and Helps Realize Career Goals

May 9, 2011

A Houstonian is spending the next half-year in Israel promoting Israeli-Palestinian coexistence through the medium of music.
Shoshana Gottesman arrived in Jerusalem in early March, as a participant in the WUJS Israel Hadassah program for young adults. For the next five months, she’ll be interning some 30 hours a week with the nonprofit Heartbeat Jerusalem, as part of the WUJS Arts specialty track.
 
“I’ve found that I have two loves: One is music, and the other is conflict resolution. The question is, how do I combine the two?” said Gottesman, a violist who graduated from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music this past December.
 
Gottesman will try her hand at combining her two loves at Heartbeat Jerusalem.
 
Founded in 2007, the nonprofit brings together an international community of musicians, educators and students who use music to build mutual understanding and transform conflict. Heartbeat Jerusalem programs seek to empower Israelis and Palestinians by creating opportunities for young musicians from opposing sides to work together and foster peaceful coexistence.
 
“I’m interested in using music as a tool for social activism between Jews, Muslims and Christians,” said Gottesman. “Through music, trust can be created, I believe, and from there, you can have conversations.”
 

Tara Stiel

Tara Stiel

Miami Regional Representative

Jessica Bernstein Danino

Jessica Bernstein Danino

Director of Operations, North America

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Dance Journey

Dance Journey

Program: 

Meaningful Discovery

<div class="masa-blog-title">Meaningful Discovery</div>

By Carla  Farson, Pardes Year Student 2010–2011
 
In the spring of 2010 I received a Masa grant to study in the Year Program at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. By the grace of Masa, I was given the opportunity to begin my formal Jewish education and experience a year of life in Eretz Yisrael.
 

“I saw it on American TV”!

<div class="masa-blog-title">“I saw it on American TV”!</div>

 
We have been working for about five weeks now in our respective hotels and so I thought I would dedicate this post to how I view Israelis so far solely based on my experiences at work.
 
I work in the dining room and basically I am at the bottom of the hierarchy. I work split shifts (8am-1pm and then 6pm-10pm, which I hate I might add).
 

Fortune 500 Multinationals Head to Israel to Recruit American Interns and Help Israeli Companies Design Internships

Fortune 500 Multinationals Head to Israel to Recruit American Interns and Help Israeli Companies Design Internships

May 3, 2011

Ernst & Young, Citigroup, Deloitte, and Cisco travel to Israel with Masa Israel Journey to meet Masa interns and network with Israeli companies.
Senior leaders from global companies, including Ernst & Young, Citigroup, Deloitte, and Wells Fargo will travel to Israel with Masa Israel Journey during the first week of May to visit Israeli businesses and meet American interns gaining career experience in Israel. In the continuing economic recession, 7,200 college graduates have headed to Israel for professional internships–an increase of almost 50% since 2007–and American companies are now taking notice.
 
Masa Israel collaborated with New York University’s Career Center and Rochester Institute of Technology’s Office of Career Services to develop the Employer Thought Leadership Summit in Israel and enable international business leaders to visit Israeli companies with American interns, share best practices for international internships, and discuss Israeli/North American business relations with Israeli government officials. Participating companies include Ernst & Young, Citigroup, Deloitte, Wells Fargo Securities, Cisco Systems, Urban Outfitters, Inc, Maximus Consulting, Teach for America, Constellation Energy, Prudential, the Southwestern Company, Enterprise Holdings, and Whirlpool Corporation.
 
“Ernst & Young takes a long term view with respect to talent management, firmly believing that today’s students will be tomorrow’s business leaders,” said Ernst & Young’s Americas Director of Campus Recruiting, Dan Black. “Attracting and hiring top candidates through internships, and providing them diverse opportunities that will help them realize their potential, has long been a critical component of our recruitment strategy in the US and beyond. The Employer Thought Leadership Summit in Israel will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss best practices and strategy with delegates from an array of industries, as well as Masa participants who truly exemplify a global mind set.”
 
For many, the internship experience in Israel has resulted in job offers back in the US from investment banks, business consulting firms, architecture firms, etc. New York-native Michelle Laufer was employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers after interning at Israel Securities Authority, and Jesse Zryb was hired by Pink Inc, an event design firm, after completing an architecture internship in Tel Aviv.
 
“Israel’s robust and diverse economy is a great place for college graduates to gain initial work experience,” said Avi Rubel, Masa Israel’s North American Director. “In addition, the ‘Start-Up’ culture, which is pervasive in Israel teaches our interns about innovation — one of the most important skills for any young employee. We’re excited to collaborate with US companies on increasing internships in Israel and growing the US-Israel business relationship.”
 
This year, Masa Israel, which offers 180 five-to-12-month career development, volunteering and academic opportunities, has almost 10,000 participants. Interns are unpaid, work 15-20 hours a week, receive mentorship, learn Hebrew, and tour Israel.
 
The weeklong Employer Thought Leadership Summit in Israel will take place from April 29, 2011-May 5, 2011. It will include visits to Israeli companies, and meetings with Israeli business owners and Natan Sharansky.
 
To speak with American or Israeli companies that are participating in the summit, or young adults in your area who are taking part in Masa Israel internships, please contact Masa Israel’s Director of Public Relations, Rachel Trager at (917) 371-5569 or racheltr@masaisrael.org.

Videos

Hear participants talk about their daily life, take a virtual tour of your favorite program, and watch your semester of year in Israel unfold in front of you

WUJS Israel

Program: