Explore Zionism and Israel.

Uncover their complexities.

Develop your own narrative.


Why are you on a gap year in Israel? Sure, you probably have a few answers, but do you really know?

You could have chosen to go straight to college, to work on an organic farm, or to teach English to refugees. Instead you chose to spend a year living, learning, and growing in your people’s homeland. So, why are you here?

In your JU Israel course you will explore Zionism and Israel through history, culture, politics, current events and more. You will have the opportunity to examine multiple narratives, ask tough questions, engage in real conversations with your teachers and your fellow students. No matter where you’re headed next year, you’ll come out on the other side with a more developed understanding of your personal Zionist narrative and the ability to share that with others.

Meet the JU Israel Team

Michael Unterberg

Matthew Lipman

Benji Davis

Bini Maryles

Rena Levin

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Alan Goldman

Alan Goldman is an educator and podcaster living in Israel. As the Director of JU Israel, a division of Jerusalem U, he oversees an Israel education project geared towards gap year students in Israel. JU Israel reaches hundreds of students a year with its Israel education courses and innovative digital content. For over thirty years, Alan has developed a specialty in teaching text and history, both formally and informally, combining classroom studies with inspiring field trips. In the past, Alan has served as the Director of High School Programs at Ramah Israel, Senior Educator at Young Judaea Year Course, and Mashgiach Ruchani (Spiritual Adviser) at Tochnit Shalem. A sought-after educator, Alan continues to teach in multiple gap year programs, lead educational heritage tours to Poland, and consult for numerous Israel education organizations. Alan continues to serve on the faculty of numerous educational institutions, including Midreshet/Yeshiva Torah v’Avodah, JRoots, Ramah Israel, Heritage Seminars, and Young Judaea Year Course. In addition,  Alan co-hosts the JU Israel Teachers Lounge podcast, which takes listeners behind the headlines to learn about Israeli politics, news and culture. As a life-long learner, Alan has a B.A. in Sociology and Judaic Studies, M.A. in Modern Jewish History, and Rabbinic Ordination. He lives in Nechusha, a Moshav in the Ellah Valley, with his wife and two kids.

Michael Unterberg

Michael Unterberg has been an educator for over 20 years. He was a founding member of the Torat Tzion Kollel movement in Cleveland, Ohio, where he taught adults and teenagers. He became the Jewish History Department Chair and Educational Technology coordinator at Fuchs Mizrachi School. Michael was the lead educator for Write on For Israel, an Israel education program for the broader Jewish community in Cleveland. He was also a creative consultant for the the Cleveland Playhouse. Mike worked for three years as an IT Consultant for an Israeli tech startup until they were purchased by an international corporation. Michael helped develop the JU Israel curriculum to the standards of the Understanding by Design framework. He has taught it, and other courses, as a faculty member at Young Judea, Netiv Aryeh, Midreshet HaRova, Midreshet Moriah, Emunah ve’Omanut, Midreshet Torah ve’Avodah, Torat Shraga, MMY, Midreshet Amit, Shaalvim for Women, and Orayta. Mike also spearheaded JU Israel’s online and social media presence. He is a sought-after lecturer on Israel and Zionism to Birthright groups and various visiting Israel Missions. He is the creator and host of JU Israel’s podcast, The Teachers Lounge. His hobbies include painting in acrylic, amateur film-making, and learning to play bass guitar. Michael studied philosophy in and received smicha (Rabbinic Ordination) from Yeshiva University. Michael and his wife Dara have five children, two grandchildren and a mini-Schnauzer. They live in Efrat.

Matthew Lipman

Matthew Lipman has been working in Israel education for over 15 years and is currently an Israel Educator for JU Israel. He has taught Judaic Studies at Jewish Day Schools in North America and led many innovative programs at those schools. He has written high-tech educational materials for U.S. public schools and the IDF and directed the multimedia development of an online Jewish day school. In addition to his teaching work at several gap year programs in Israel, he has trained Day School leaders in North America to create meaningful Israel education programs. Matthew has a B.A. in Politics and History from the University of Liverpool and holds a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University. He lives with his family in Modi’in.

Benji Davis

Benji Davis made Aliyah in 2009 to Israel from Los Angeles, CA after earning his BA in Middle East Studies and History at the George Washington University. Upon enlisting into the IDF, he created his own sub-sector in the IDF draft office to assist the enlistment and placement of Lone Soldiers. He likes to call his service a “start-up army experience.” Additionally during his army service, he founded the Tel Aviv Moishe House and the Tel Aviv Egal Minyan. Upon completing his army service, Benji began working as an Israel Educator to visiting groups to Israel focusing on the topic of the geopolitics of Israel & the Middle East. He joined Jerusalem U in 2015 as an Israel Educator teaching the Israel course in numerous gap years. Benji currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife Rachel and holds an MA in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University.

Bini Maryles

Bini Maryles has worked in the field of Jewish education for more than fifteen years. In the early stages of his career, Bini focused on teaching Judaic studies, but shifted gears in 2007 and began lecturing on topics related to the Middle East conflict. After attending a training course led by The David Project, Bini went on to adapt their curriculum for adult audiences and began to lecture throughout the United States in synagogues and community centers until 2014, when he moved to Israel. Bini has Rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University and a Master’s Degree in secondary education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.

Rena Levin

Rena Levin made Aliyah from Teaneck, New Jersey in 2017. She has worked with gap-year students as a madricha (counselor/adviser) at Midreshet AMIT. She was a “Rosh Bus” for Mach Hach Ba’aretz, Bnei Akiva’s Israel summer program for American high school students. She also worked with Mayanot Birthright, both in the Jerusalem office and in the field as a rakezet, working closely with the Birthright participants. She holds a BA in Media & Communications from Queens College, and minored in Business & the Liberal Arts. This is Rena’s second year working with JU Israel, and she’s excited to meet all of the current gap year students!

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