Matt Keston

Programme Name: Intensive Arabic Semester

Programme Duration: 5 months

Programme Location: Binyamina – South of Haifa – Barkai Kibbutz

Name: Matt Keston

It was by complete chance that whilst studying to be a History teacher, I was convinced by my friend Emily to go on a free 10  day trip to Israel called Birthright.  Growing up as a Jew for me involved little interaction or knowledge with this place people called Israel and so everything I discovered on this 10 day trip was all new to me.  Shocked that I had been opened up to this whole new world of my own people’s history, I decided it would be wrong to become a history teacher without learning everything about it.  Looking for a programme that would teach me both the Israeli and Palestinian narrative, teach coexistence and the languages of both peoples so that I understood the picture clearly, was exactly what my Masa Israel programme at Givat Haviva gave me.

This co-existence institute ran a programme called ‘The Intensive Arabic Semester’ and was located in Binyamina.  9 of us all ranging from the ages of 18-30 and from different countries around the world went on a truly amazing journey, travelling the sights of Israel, Jordan, living on a kibbutz called Barkai where both Jews and Arabs lived together and learned both the Islamic and Jewish History, as well as the history of the region from teachers of different backgrounds and faiths.

Whilst we spent the days learning, there was no end to the fun in the evenings where we would regularly organise socials and trips into Tel Aviv which was only a short train ride away. It’s of course the city that never sleeps and public transport in Israel runs all night!

The Masa Israel Journey I went on has without a doubt given me a well-rounded knowledge of the conflict, with a great understanding of perspectives from all people involved.  It has also helped me realise as I have seen with my own eyes, that co-existence is more than achievable and in many places already occurs.  The trip inspired me to come back to the UK and instead of working as a history teacher, to work for the Union of Jewish students, going back onto campus to help promote coexistence and peace and help explain the Middle East situation.  I then went on to manage Masa Israel for the UK and loved every minute of my three years in the job.

My Masa Israel experience was without a doubt the best life changing decision I have made, filling me with knowledge, hope for the region, wonderful memories and friends from around the world I will keep in my heart forever.

Thanks for reading! 🙂



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