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Experiencing Israel: Our first week in MASHAV

December 04, 2018
We, higher education teachers from five different countries of the world: India, Colombia, Uganda, Vietnam and Uzbekistan, received a similar e-mail in the third week of October 2018 that read: We are pleased to greet you as a participant in the International Seminar on: “New Pedagogies in Higher Education”, which will take place on November 25th  till December 13th 2018, at MASHAV Educational Training Center (METC) in Jerusalem. We all felt joy and excitement for getting this golden opportunity to academically refresh ourselves by visiting and experiencing a wonderful country: Israel. We all made different travel plans but had one common goal, to reach Jerusalem on 25th November. After reaching Ben Gurion Airport of Tel Aviv at different times and informing Passport Control Officer that this was our first visit to Israel, we reached the Ramat-Rachel Resort, our new home for the next three weeks. We went to our beds with jet lag and several questions in mind like what this course will offer to us, how enriching our academic experiences will be, what characterizes Israeli society and culture, how Israel became such a developed and technologically advanced nation irrespective of several adversities, and so on. The pages started unfolding from the first day of the Seminar i.e. November 26, 2018.

Coming from different countries with different backgrounds, we have brought to MASHAV a variety of cultures and experiences. Initial hesitation and strangeness were soon replaced by warmness and closeness. In the first session, the fascinating way of quick dating challenged our memories to remember names of all participants and get some basic background information from each other. With a lot of opportunities for us to talk, to work together in the classes, sharing accommodation (two persons per room), in professional visits, in dining time or in social activities, we began to see each other as an indivisible member of a big family named MASHAV.

The thing we have found amazing about Israel is the social aspects of it. There are so many sharp contrasts and similarities in the life styles of Israeli people.  Ariel Cegla exposed us to lots of facts about the social life of Jerusalem and Israel as well. From the lecture given by him we discovered that this awesome country keeps the balance between different religions, cultures and interests. We have learnt lots of terms which we do not face too often in our typical routine. Especially the fact that the color of the head cloth of Judaism: the Kippah can indicate the religious status of people. Data he shared about population employment was very important to know because it can be a good model for many of our countries that have lower employment rates. The Israeli economy is based on tourism, innovations, and military industries. The policy connected with compulsory military service for both men and women is very important as well because it is a good strategy to inspire the young generation in patriotism and discipline. 

Education in Israel may be a great model for our countries because planning and committing funds for the educational budget takes place six years in advance, which contributes to the high quality of Education. Even though the higher education system in Israel is fully funded by the state budget, freedom of thought and independence from politics is maintained. The Council for Higher Education which oversees higher education is independent from the Ministry of Education, while still being the sixth largest budget receiving agency in Israel. It guarantees the Council’s adherence to its long-term higher education development strategy, no matter how volatile national economic performance may be. With such a high priority being given to higher education in the government policy, it is no doubt that the country is home to some of the leading universities in the world.

While in many other nations like ours, state universities are mainly concerned with teaching and then doing research, in Israel most universities are mainly focused on producing new knowledge through research aimed at empowering society to bring development. In a similar vein, the government and technological educational institutions work together to provide open-free programs for all citizens to acquire knowledge access education as result. The average enrolment age of a university student in Israel is about 24 years after military service and is more mature and focused than students in our countries who enroll at about 18 years old. This is perhaps one of the secrets which have led this country to become such a great nation in a short time of history. We believe that this model may be worthy of imitation by our countries in order to reach a more competent and significant level of educational innovation and social development.

Within the space of just one week, we have been inspired, challenged, and encouraged to go beyond what we thought was satisfactory. Socially, we have been challenged by the way of life of the people of Israel, surviving through a long history of hardship and persecution to emerge as world leaders in every area especially in the area of innovations. We owe this unique learning experience to the generosity of a people who believe and invest in international development and intercultural collaboration. Socially, we have been pushed out of our comfort zones by working, living, and learning with people from other countries, other cultures, other languages, other religions, brought together by our desire to see higher education grow in our countries. Academically, we have learnt so much concerning what we can do to begin to change and grow the area of teaching and learning in higher education in our countries. For us, a lot of what we have heard and seen is new material and even though we are challenged by limitations in resources and resistance to change in our systems, we are encouraged and inspired that the change that needs to occur will begin with us.  Now, we are very proud of our multi-cultural and multi-faceted family, from which we can network ourselves from all over the world.

Submitted by Group 1:
1. Mamura Burkhanova
2. Alexander Cordoba Mosquera 
3. Vu Cuong
4. Gooreka Okahaabwa
5. Pradeep Kumar Misra