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 has dedicated his life to Jewish education, which combines his passion for Zionism and his love for traditional Jewish learning. He believes that true learning should foster an understanding of self and lead to positive action. For close to 30 years, Alan has developed his expertise as a well-respected educator in long-term Israel programs, serving on the faculties of many gap year programs and Israel education organizations. He has also developed a particular specialty as a senior educator for Poland Journeys. Alan made aliyah at the end of the 1980’s and lives on a Moshav with his wife and kids in the most beautiful part of Israel, Emek HaElah (The Elah Valley).

What’s your favorite place in Israel?
Water hikes in the Upper Gallilee (for family vacations)

What’s your favorite Israel education topic?
A.D. Gordon (Father of Labor Zionism)

Michael Unterberg

Michael Unterberg has been an educator for over 20 years. Before joining the Jerusalem U team, he worked as an educator for ICNext, an Israel advocacy training program serving Cleveland’s Jewish community. He developed the program curriculum and inspired high school students and adults to advocate for Israel. Michael was also the Jewish History Department Chair at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland. Michael has a degree in philosophy and received smicha from Yeshiva University.

What’s your favorite Israeli phrase/slang?
“Tsk” with three fingers held up and touching

Matthew Lipman

Matthew Lipman has been working in Israel education for more than 15 years. He has taught Judaic Studies at Jewish Day Schools in North America, written high-tech educational materials for U.S. public schools, the IDF and an online Jewish day school, and has worked in informal Jewish education for many years. In addition to his teaching work at several gap year programs in Israel, he trains 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.

What’s your favorite place in Israel?
The swimming pool in Modi’in

What’s your favorite Israeli snack/food?
Ice Cafe

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.

What’s your favorite place in Israel?
Decks restaurant on the Kinneret

What’s your favorite Israel education topic?
Zionist vs. Pro-Israel – What’s the Difference?

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.

What’s your favorite place in Israel?
I am a kotel guy, ask anyone if I have a fav place they know: kotel at any hour

What’s your favorite Israeli phrase/slang?
Lizrom – to go with the flow

Rena Levin

Rena Levin made aliyah from Teaneck, New Jersey in 2017. She has worked with gap-year students as a madricha 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. This is Rena’s second year working with JU Israel, and she’s excited to meet all of you!

What’s your favorite Israeli snack/food?
Pizza Hut Cheesy Bites

What’s your favorite Israeli phrase/slang?
Instoosh (what Israelis call Instagram)

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