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Canadian Eliana Horvath is incredibly optimistic about her future thanks to the Masa fellowship program

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The Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship (MITF) program gave Vancouver native Eliana Horvath the opportunity to volunteer in Israel to teach, as well as prepare food hampers and coronavirus testing kits for the community. (Photo: Supplied)

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I didn’t come to Israel to escape COVID-19. I came because I was yearning to do something meaningful. Living and teaching in Israel with Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) seemed like the perfect way to serve the Jewish community during this challenging year.

I was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, and attended the University of British Columbia. I discovered MITF in 2018 after finishing my degree (a B.A. in Sociology).

MITF is a program of Masa, an organization founded by the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel. It sends young adults from around the world to live in Israel for ten months while teaching English. The program sounded appealing, but I decided to gain professional experience before taking a long-term trip to Israel.

Last year, though, the pieces all fell into place. I was thirsting for a change in scenery, feeling Israel’s pull, and itching to make a difference. I knew the trip would stretch me beyond my comfort zone, but with a pandemic going on, how comfortable was anyone anyway?

Coming from a “green” country, I quarantined separately from the Americans, but was allowed to socialize with people from other green countries. In doing so, I made some of my best and most unexpected friends. Masa arranged for us to have everything we needed on arrival, and during our quarantine, our program director checked in every day and kept our apartments stocked.

The pandemic obviously altered the contours of my Israel experience, but I do not feel like I missed out. During our three lockdowns, my apartment-mates and I made the best of the situation, knowing the entire country was doing the same. We honed our previously rudimentary cooking skills by preparing elaborate recipes. We spent quality time walking, exercising, and going to the beach. We amassed a huge board game collection. Between lockdowns, we volunteered for Magen David Adom, where we packed a record-breaking 5000 coronavirus test kits in five hours for people going out in the field.

Another way we got through the lockdowns was by reminding ourselves that the situation was temporary. We knew that if we could just hold on until vaccines were approved, Israel would be at the forefront of vaccinating its population, and we would soon be able to experience all the country had to offer. And indeed, Israel has consistently led the world in coronavirus vaccines administered per capita.

I felt a little guilty receiving a vaccine when my 109-year-old great-grandfather in Canada is still waiting, but I am grateful to Masa for going out of its way to get us the vaccine immediately so that we could safely return to classroom teaching.

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I loved the teaching part of my program. The community I was in struggles with English, and by teaching these children the lingua franca of the working world, I felt I was equipping them for success.

Helping them learn during a pandemic made the experience even more fulfilling. However, teaching on Zoom, I knew many of my students were not learning as well as they could be.

My efforts did meet with some success: the interactive program my co-teacher and I created for an advanced group of fourth through sixth graders was so successful that other Fellows subsequently imitated it. Nonetheless, I was glad when I could return to the classroom full-time, even though Israel’s capsule system, which divided classes into small groups, meant there were many children I would sadly never reach.

Now that I am vaccinated, I am looking forward to experiencing Passover in Israel. I’m planning to rent a place with my friends from different cities and places and spend the Seder with a host family Masa finds. I am also excited to visit my relatives, whom I have not been able to see since I arrived.

As the country returns to normal, I can’t wait to travel its length and breadth, experience its nightlife, hike through its desert and the mountains, and sample its cuisine. I have a feeling this Yom Ha’atzmaut will be a celebration to remember.

Eliana Horvath gives the thumbs-up as she gets her Covid vaccine ‘jab’ in Israel. (Photo: Supplied)

Coming to Israel with Masa was not an escape, but it was a journey—one of self-discovery and personal growth—that ultimately taught me independence.

While I did not have the same Israel experience other Fellows had in previous years, my time here has transformed me for the better. I helped children learn and succeed during a difficult time, forged a connection with my Jewish heritage, and gained a broader perspective about my future options.

This past year has emphasized that the future is unpredictable; whatever the coming months bring, these months in Israel have given me tools to thrive and succeed, and that makes me pretty optimistic about the future.

Eliana Horvath, born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, is a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow currently living in Bat Yam. 

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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