I’ll admit it, I was hesitant – but I decided to do it! Five months in Israel seemed like a long time, and I had never had any martial arts experience. But this was more than a martial arts program. It promised to be a mind, body and soul experience. I told myself not to have any pre-conceived ideas and just as well that I went with an open mind. It was my first visit to Israel, and once there, I discovered a country that is more diverse and contrasting then I could have ever imagined.
The program itself was my base and together with the other participants (who were from all over the world), we built a family environment. I was worried about feeling lonely, but those fears quickly melted away. We ate together, lived together, trained together and the girls even shared clothes with one another! The trainers were amazing. Apart from being among the best in their field, they were there for us, often going beyond the call of duty to make sure we were comfortable in all ways.
Every other week we would go on group trips. We visited Masada, Tzfat, Jerusalem, Yad Vashem and many other places. Our trips would also include history lessons, and there’s nothing like learning on location rather than from a text book. Our madricha (group counsellor) was amazing, and I still keep in touch with her. She would regularly organise group activities for us, in which we were asked our opinions about important issues and were encouraged to voice our thoughts.
What does Zionism mean to you? What does it mean to be a Jew? What actions should be taken to achieve peace in the Middle East?
My personal highlight was spending a week at a military base. I was way out of my comfort zone, I complained about the food and the beds, but it was well worth it! I got a chance to speak with the soldiers and get a glimpse of what it’s like to give two or three years of your life, in service to your country.
The Budokan program truly lives up to its promise; an experience for the mind, body and soul. You will feel stronger (certainly be fitter!), more educated on Israeli history, Jewish roots and the Hebrew language! At times it is challenging, the training is intense and the teachers don’t excuse laziness (you really do have to be sick to be exempt from group activity!). But if you are the kind of person who likes to be challenged, enjoys adventure and is looking for a truly unique experience in Israel, then this is probably a great program for you!
I would like to thank Masa and the ZFA for their continued efforts to help young people like myself, and the amazing work they do with programs like Budokan.
If you would like to learn more about this amazing Masa program, then get in touch with us!
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