Tips on going to grad school in Israel?
March 27, 2008 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Considering applying to grad school in Israel. Any tips/advice?

I'm planning to start graduate school in the 2009-10 school year for an MA and have been giving real thought to studying in an Engish-language international relations or Middle East studies program in Israel. From what I've seen, graduate school programs are significantly cheaper there, which seems like a big plus to me. Specifically, I'm considering the following four options:

A) The Middle Eastern Studies program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

B) The Diplomacy/International Relations program at the IDC Herzliya

C) The Middle Eastern Studies program at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva

D) The Middle Eastern History program at Tel Aviv University

Does anyone have any specific advice on these schools or grad school studying in Israel in general?

FWIW, I'm a 26 year old American who has been out of college for five years and who does not speak Hebrew or has even been to Israel before.

(asking anonymously because of coworkers who read AskMeFi)
posted by anonymous to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you want to live in a city or a small town? Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva are like night and day. I assume you're Jewish...depending on how observant you are, the cities might make that easier.
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:55 PM on March 27, 2008

I studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for a summer, and then went back to live in Jerusalem for a year after I graduated college.

I loved many things about Jerusalem, but if I had to do it over again, I'd go to Tel Aviv. I'm not particularly observant, which in Israel translates to being secular. In Jerusalem, that meant being in the minority, so I was always worrying if I was being accidentally disrespectful of someone else's beliefs and practices. The city shuts down on Shabbat and holidays in a way that (I think) other cities generally don't. When I visited Tel Aviv, there was a freedom that I hadn't realized I'd been lacking. However, Jerusalem is such a nerve center that you might love being there, particularly if you've never been to Israel before. I haven't spent much time in Beer Sheva and Herzliya, but I honestly can't picture living in either one. Then again, everyone will have their own tastes. Can you afford a trip over there to travel around and visit the different cities, regions, and universities?

You'll be ok if you don't know Hebrew, because a huge number of Israelis speak English. However, it is worth learning the basics, particularly to help you shop and get around. I strongly recommend taking an Ulpan (intensive Hebrew language study) class. I was completely astounded at how much my Hebrew improved in six weeks of half-day study.

I don't know anything about the particular university programs you're considering, but if you want to ask anything about living or studying in Israel, please feel free to email or MeMail me.
posted by bassjump at 3:01 PM on March 27, 2008

I've lived in Herzliya and Jerusalem. Herzliya is a suburb of Tel Aviv, probably 20 minutes away by bus -- which means that if you like that program the best you can easily have (a version of) the TA experience at that school. But by the same token, it's basically a bedroom community; TA is where all the action is for young single folks.

For an up-close-and-personal daily immersion in Middle Eastern issues, though, Jerusalem is really where it's at. I can't speak to the quality of the ME Studies program at Hebrew U, unfortunately, but the city itself, as the epicenter of the ongoing conflict, is endlessly fascinating (and not as dangerous as you might fear).

BeerSheva is in the Negev -- pretty isolated, really. One highlight: there's a Bedouin market there every Thursday. YouTube link.
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:02 PM on March 27, 2008

The problem is that, if you're going to do any serious graduate work in Israel, you're going to have to take coursework in Hebrew. If you're at the Hebrew University (the only institution I can speak to), that means you'll be at the Rothberg International School for at least a year doing English language coursework and trying to get your Hebrew up to snuff. This is, in my opinion, a colossal waste of time. You'll have access to good professors, but the quality of the student body will be quite low. And you'll wind up ghettoized with the other Anglos unless you try very hard to break out of the Rothberg scene.

If you're looking at the HUJI, I suggest that you save up some money, live in Jerusalem for a year, taking the much, much cheaper municipal ulpan at a place like Milah then apply to Hebrew U. If you worked hard, you could test out of the first 3-4 levels of ulpan and begin taking regular University classes and doing advanced Hebrew language work almost immediately. If you were smart about it, you could probably even pay the regular university tuition, which is a fraction of the exorbitant rate charged American students at the Rothberg School.

Seriously, although this plan would keep you in Israel for 3 years rather than 2, you'd probably wind up spending less money & you'd have a much better educational experience. Also, in my experience, many MA students fail the mandatory Hebrew proficiency exam (the "ptor") the first time, so your planned 2 years could wind up taking more time anyway.

Israel is a wonderful, terrible, gorgeous and maddening place to live. I'd trade places with you in a heartbeat. B'hatslekha!
posted by felix betachat at 3:05 PM on March 27, 2008

I studied Ecology in Be'er Sheva ( I did a Masters), and I have to reiterate that hebrew is going to be a problem. For example, I was sort of lucky that most of the course they taught in Ecology was in Hebrew one year and in English the next, so I was able to do some courses. Still it was frustrating not being able to do a course at a time I wanted to. Be'er Sheva is pretty isolated though (actually I studied in the Albert Katz International School for Desert studies, which is even further into the desert). If I was doing it all over again, I would try to do it someplace north, but on the other hand, I quite liked the desert. (the bedouin market gets old very quickly :)

Whatever you decide, do learn Hebrew, atleast to make small talk. Makes a world of difference.
posted by dhruva at 6:19 PM on March 27, 2008

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