One year before going to Israel the idea of studying a Master Degree in Tel Aviv did not cross my mind. My family and friends where really shocked when they knew about my decision. My only connection to the Holly Land was through readings from the Old Testament. I am a Mexican, non Jewish, with an International Business major. I worked in the business field for more than four years. Although being business minded, in a practical sense, I also graduated from International Relations while studying and working abroad, traveling around the world and making friends from different countries. In this context, a Master in Political Sciences taught in the country where the stories of the Bible took place was really appealing to me.
At first glance, it was evident that Israel was the right place to study security and diplomacy. Because its geopolitical situation, the country has been forced to surpass many political and diplomatic challenges and develop expertise in the security field. Furthermore, the Middle East is at the center of the world´s attention. While studying security and diplomacy at Tel Aviv, I did not only learn about these topics, but I also lived them. I witnessed the outbreak of the Arab Spring, felt the Arab- Israeli conflict and meet some Ambassadors to Israel and the Prince of Spain.
The program offered by Tel Aviv University provides a complete theoretical and practical approach. The Security Field trips along the borders of Israel and the Middle East Crisis Simulation were very illustrative to me. On the other hand, classes such as the International System and Introduction to Diplomacy enabled me to deeply understand the IR theories. Moreover the class group was formed by a diverse group of students with different backgrounds from almost every region of the globe; their comments and opinions broadened my perspective of the topics taught at the classroom. In addition, the program schedule is flexible; therefore, I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Embassy of Mexico in Israel.
My days in Israel were full of amazing experiences, exotic moments and surprises. I was particularly touched by attending to some meetings organized by the University called “Hidabrut”. The aim of Hidabrut is to promote dialogue between Israeli and Palestinians. During the meetings I had the chance to hear stories related to the conflict; they both exposed how the conflict has affected their lives and their families. Their stories went beyond what I learned in class about the Middle East history, treaties, borders and international law. This definitely changed my viewpoint of the problem.
Overall I really enjoyed my time in Israel. Tel Aviv is a beautiful city and a great place to live; it embodies the East and the West simultaneously. I fell for the land where the milk and the honey flows. Studying in TAU and living in Israel was one of the best experiences I have ever lived. I was able to acquire solid knowledge of the global geopolitics and diplomacy tools, learn about Israeli security doctrine, understand the roots of the Middle East conflict and gain a vivid perception of it. It also redirected the course of my professional career.
I am currently working in the development of a security project for my state. In the near future I would like to join the Mexican Foreign Ministry and focus in bilateral (The United States-Mexico) and multilateral security agreements; undoubtedly, the Master in Security and Diplomacy at TAU granted me the tools to successfully do it.
Studying the M.A in Security and Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University is not only intellectually stimulating inside the classroom, but also an opportunity to enrich the academic experience by going out to share ideas with peers and the experts in the field, to engage in debates, to question and to learn. For the last six weeks, some of our students from the M.A. in Security and Diplomacy program have been participating in the Ambassadors Club, a joint project of TAU international, StandWithUs, and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to offer high-level international students a training program on leadership and advocacy.
With a multidisciplinary and practical approach as its distinctive hallmark, the program brings experts on security, diplomacy and advocacy to talk in an informal and interactive fashion with the students. Throughout the semester the club uses a two-level approach: on the one hand, offering information regarding the issues and on the other, developing the skills necessary to put that knowledge into practice. Furthermore, this initiative provides an extraordinary networking opportunity.
Among other lecturers, our students have met with Capitan Barak Raz from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Ari Varon who is a Ph.D student at Tel Aviv University and former Deputy Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, and Neil Lazarus, world renowned expert in public speaking and advocacy who has worked, among other institutions, with the UNESCO, Harvard University, the World Bank and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A week ago, in the last session, participants went to Jerusalem, where they also met with Miri Eizen, who besides her twenty years of experience in the intelligence community was the spokesperson for the Israeli Government during the Second Lebanon War, as well as the international media advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Perhaps the most important thing is that in every session students have encountered a plural choir of voices and opinions, for not only the lectures do the talk, but it is also the audience that engages and animates the discussion. And this audience is compounded by participants from different backgrounds and programs from around the University, Israelis as well internationals, Jewish and non-Jewish. And that is what the M.A in Security and Diplomacy is all about: a round and sound academic experience in which our students are encouraged to learn by exchanging ideas, by debating, and by putting knowledge into practice.
Today’s post is the eleventh in a series of profiles and reflections written by alumni and current students in the Security and Diplomacy program. This week’s guest blogger is our student, Furkan Aksoy from Turkey.
Presumably, it was the last summer while working on a paper for one of my summer courses. As usual, I was so distracted, while jumping from one topic to another on Wikipedia, I ended up with one of those lists about “world’s top universities”. For some reason, until then, I had not noticed that a large number of notable universities exist in the Middle East. In fact, there were many other appealing paid programs on Middle East at top US schools such as Harvard.
However, I thought why I should study a region thousands of miles away from it rather than experiencing it on the spot. Suddenly, the idea of studying in the Middle East had fascinated me so much that I found myself googleing the top universities in the Middle East on any subject related to IR and political science. In every single list I got, there was Tel Aviv University (TAU) in the top 3 of it. Then, on the TAU website, the M.A. in Security and Dip lomacy attracted me. Of course, even the name of the program was fancy enough to get excited and immediately fly all the way from US to Israel, but it was a good idea to check the courses and professors in the program. Not to discriminate, let me avoid mentioning the names; however, I had noticed that works of many professors in the program were reviewed and mentioned as exalted in Foreign Affairs Magazine. Then, I stopped questioning the quality of the program which took me only about ten minutes. Although, my application was submitted long time after the deadline, our program director, Shira helped a lot to sign me in to the program. As Shira says, “Furkan is always in the last minute…”
All the coincidences and randomness aside, let me mention a little bit about myself. I was born in Tatvan, a small town in Eastern Turkey, to a family that are of Kurdish descent. Throughout my childhood, I have lived in sever al cities, respectively Bitlis, Istanbul and Ankara. My experience in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, played a significant role on the emergence of my interest to the political issues. As my dad got more and more involved in politics, as a congressman in the ruling AKP government, so did my enthusiasm. However, Middle East has always been my primary interest area. Although I am originally from Turkey, my acquaintance with Middle East got started in Los Angeles, while studying at UCLA in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. Since then, as everyone studying on this region, I noticed that Israel takes part at the heart of almost every issue in the region.
Therefore, in order to be able to fully understand the regional issues, for me, it was essential to listen to Israeli approach towards them –which is the actual reason for my presence in Israel today. Even residing in Israel can be sufficient to be able to observe the implications o f the regional issues to the daily life, studying here on this region makes me feel an amazing academic joy which is hard to translate into words. For instance, in the very days of missile attacks from Gaza, we have a security field trip with an Israeli well-known retired general in the Gaza border, examining the Iron Dome –the anti ballistic missile system- and Qassam missiles. Or we listen to a former member of Knesset about the debates took place behind the closed doors on issues like Gaza flotilla incident. Also, we hear the memories of ambassadors from various countries in our forums and witness the challenges of being a diplomat with strong professional character. All these are only a few examples that underline the depth of the program.
On top of all that, the class schedule is so perfectly set that there is a plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Even in weekdays, from the morning to noon, almost half of daytime and the entire weekends are bestowed to students as a treasure. Personally, I prefer spending my free time at Hebrew Ulpan and interning for the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University. Having done internships at several think tanks before, I enjoy the richness of TAU in this sense. Besides Moshe Dayan Center, there are several other institutions to intern for such as Institute of Nation Security Studies and the ones that we get emails from via our director of program. Whether taking the curricular and extracurricular aspects into account, the experience that I am having here in our program has nothing to regret in the future, in fact, many things to long for…
Today’s post is the tenth in a series of profiles and reflections written by alumni and current students in the Security and Diplomacy program. This week’s guest blogger is our student Thomas Saether from Norway.
Studies in Tel Aviv were not the obvious choice for a recently graduated economist with away too high student loan. Although the warm Mediterranean climate – with its persuasiveness on a Norwegian with a natural liking for everything above freezing temperature – was certainly part of the explanation, it was the opportunity to combine the field of Middle East politics with security studies that was the decisive factor in my decision. After struggling through five years of economics studies without having the slightest interest in the subject, one might say that I was finally in the right place.
The experience so far has not made me regret. Prof. Asher Susser´s guidance through the Arab-Israeli conflict, Prof. Azar Gat´s introduction to the development of modern strategy, and Dr. Uriel Abulof´s presentation of the international system have all improved my understanding of Israel, the Middle East, and international politics. Furthermore, the security field trips to Israel´s border offered what most other academic programs´ don´t: first-hand experience that removes the gap between theory and practice. The intercultural mix of students also makes the program an interesting experience (there really should be a bunch of anthropologists sitting behind a double-mirrored window, watching us in class while taking notes).
Israel is not a typical destination for Norwegians looking to study abroad. Nor is the field of security the typical interest of students from a country with a self-image as the “peace-maker” of the world. Nonetheless, national security is an intrinsic part of a state´s affair, and so I hope to obtain a job within this field in the Norwegian government after finishing my studies at Tel Aviv University. But, as all prospective strategists, I also have a plan B. I enjoy writing, so journalism is not an unthinkable career for me (which might be more in line with the chic lifestyle I have successfully acquired while living in downtown Tel Aviv, with all its restaurants, cafées, bars, clubs, and beaches). In any case, I believe that the analytical and practical framework provided by the program is a valuable asset in the pursuit of a career, and I would highly recommend it to students who are interested in pursuing a degree in security.
Today’s post is the ninth in a series of profiles and reflections written by alumni and current students in the Security and Diplomacy program. This week’s guest blogger is our student, Robert Friebe from Germeny.
The first time I got in touch with Israel was in 2009 when I joined a political travel group from a German party. Israel was so fascinating and as soon as I came back to Germany I swallowed up all the books I could get about the Middle East Conflict. With the academic concentration on this region in the aftermath of the trip, it became clear quite quickly that I want to pursue my further educational career in Israel. The day I found the International MA in Security & Diplomacy program on Google most certainly has changed my life. It is just the perfect combination of what I have been looking for after my broad undergraduate degree in Political Science and Law from the University of Erfurt. I think it does not need further explanations why it makes sense to study Security & Diplomacy in one of the most conflictual regions in world history. But contrary to what is often hawked around home media, Israel is such a vibrant and dynamic place to live in. Especially when talking about Tel Aviv, I cannot think of any other city that is so liberal, light-hearted and most importantly so safe. With the TAU and the city of Tel Aviv I found my current feel-good spot on our planet. The international environment in Tel Aviv makes it so easy to find friends from all continents.
The Security Field Trips which are a mandatory part of the curriculum give you right from the beginning of the program a sense for the security concerns of Israel. As a normal tourist you see all the lonely-planet-guide places like Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Trips to the Golan Heights or to the the border with Gaza are an unique experience which are foreseen in any travel guide book. Only the MA in Security & Diplomacy gave me the opportunity to explore this places and be bombarded not by Hamas, but by the exciting stories from generals and other experts. Combined with the many diverse classes about the history of the Middle East conflict or modern diplomacy, you feel already after a couple of months that you might be ready to negotiate a new Israeli-Palestinian peace. The two-weekly Ambassador Forum with diplomats from all around the world gives a firsthand insight into what it means in a positive and negative way to be a diplomat. Apart from this very practical input, our excellent teachers provide us with a brilliant theoretical foundation. They received their degrees from renowned universities from all over the globe and are very helpful and open to discussions and academic arguments.
After all the classes, simulations and submission of regular papers in September 2012, I will stay in Tel Aviv to write my master thesis. So far, I do not know what the topic or who the supervisor will be. But this is something I really appreciate here. Contrary to Germany I am given the necessary amount of time for a fruitful development of a research topic and design. As a thesis candidate I am taking currently an extra class in Research Methods which will help me on my way to a good thesis.
Although Hebrew and Arabic classes are not a mandatory part of the curriculum, they fit perfectly into the schedule. Improving my language skills will help me to pursue my lifelong dream to become once a diplomat in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And who knows: Perhaps I’ll come back in many, many years to TAU and participate again in the Ambassador Forum – on the other side of the table as Germany’s Ambassador to Israel.
Read more about my life and studies in Israel on my blog (in German): http://absolutrobs.tumblr.com
You can also contact me directly via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and works as an Intelligence Analyst, specializing in Iraqi and Kuwaiti security affairs
I can honestly say that given my background and interests, my Master degree at Tel-Aviv University in Security and Diplomacy studies was a perfect fit. Since I was a young, growing up in Pittsburgh, I knew I wanted to have something to do with military, security, or intelligence fields – you know something cool like that. Pursuing this further, upon graduating from high school, I matriculated at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and was enrolled as a cadet there from 2005 to 2008. During that time I received first-hand experience in international security and military relations, as I enrolled in a military exchange program between VMI and the German government. In the end, I spent some seven months at a German military university in Hamburg with four cadets from West Point and another from VMI, and it was there I realized I would like my career to be involved with geopolitical security studies.
With that being considered, after my time with VMI, I decided to narrow my focus to the Middle East following a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalemin 2008-2009. Mind you this was all during my B.A… It’s complicated I know, but after graduation in 2010, I somewhat immediately headed back to Israelto begin my Master’s studies at Tel-Aviv University.
Before entering TAU, I knew my career choice and knew how I wanted to get there. For me, choosing Israel to study security as well as diplomacy studies was an easy decision. Instead of getting 100% academics at other universities around the world regarding security and diplomatic studies, here – most if not all of your professors have had pretty extensive impacts on the aforementioned fields in Israel. Needless to say, their stories are fascinating. Above all, other schools might have the same fields of study; however, they lack the direct experience in it.
While at TAU I chose to specify my studies in the security field, more so than the diplomatic one. That was a personal choice based upon my overall interests and future career path. In addition to the fun Tel-Aviv offers, including my great roommates – who should come back to Israel by the way – I did find enough time to find a quality internship with a world renowned strategic think-thank, just minutes from TAU.
After a demanding year at TAU, I entered the work-force here in Israel. Soon after, I found myself working with a private geopolitical risk-consulting firm here in Tel-Aviv as an Intelligence Analyst. Truly, the skills I learned in my Masters have all been completely relevant and beneficial to my career, as much of the skills I employ during everyday work, I learned directly from the program. I’m only half a year out of the degree, but I already know that my time in the Security and Diplomacy Masters, the things I’ve learned, and the people I’ve met there, have enabled me to find a career choice that I am truly passionate in and love doing…which in the end is the most important thing!
For more information about the program: email@example.com
Today’s post is the seventh in a series of profiles and reflections written by alumni and current students in the Security and Diplomacy program. This week’s guest blogger is our student Matej Drotar from Slovakia.
As a guy who has always been interested in studying abroad, learning foreign languages and acquiring a better understanding of the realm of world politics, I applied for an MA program at Tel Aviv University. Since my previous academic background was in IR I thought that studying security and diplomacy in Israel would be a natural continuation of what I have studied before and would definitely enable me to get a closer look at what is regarded as a must to know for anyone who is interested in the world politics – the Arab-Israeli conflict and difficulties that the Middle East has to encounter on a daily basis. I studied political science and IR at universities in Slovakia and in France which gave me a lot of useful experiences and provided me with the ability to compare. That is also why I can tell that Israel is so far a wonderful stop in my academic odyssey.
But it was not only my constant interest in IR, politics and world affairs that made me come and study in Israel. There were also some other factors that influenced my decision. One of them was undoubtedly the fact that I am coming from a country where the Jewish population used to be one of the most flourishing in Europe at one point of time. Slovakia is obviously no more what it used to be in that regard but I reckon that the remnants of the Jewish spirit is somehow still present in cities like Bratislava, Košice or even my hometown Bardejov. I thought that via my stay in Israel, I will be apt to fulfill my personal mission which is to explain correctly what the Jewish issue is really about and that it has always been a significant part of my country’s culture.
I would also like to say that every course I am taking in my program perfectly meet my requirements for a good academic subject. What is more, our professors are world respected scholars such as Prof. Martin van Creveld and Prof. Azar Gat. Each and every reading list that they have recommended us so far has consisted of literature that is really worth spending time on. That is my personal experience so far. For better illustration I would like to mention one course to provide you with an example. The course that I really liked, among others, was called The International System and the main content of the course were IR theories, an absolutely necessary and up-to-date field of interest in current IR. I had already studied the subject before coming to Israel at different places and within different Masters programs and I permit myself to say that the one taught by Dr. Uriel Abulof at Tel Aviv University I liked the most. Since we are entering the second semester right now I am looking forward to learning new and interesting subjects, be it core subjects or seminars. I am already sure that they will be a big asset to my better understanding of some vital issues of world politics and ongoing problems in Middle East.
As soon as I finish the program I would like to go back to Slovakia and work for our government service and I hope that my Israeli experience and upgraded academic background by studying here would help me make that possible. Since I know how selective and demanding jobs in government and diplomacy are, I am doing my best here so I can get as much as I can (mastering English is another example) and use it successfully in my future career. I have a strong belief that studying in the MA in Security and Diplomacy at Tel Aviv would definitely be a big advantage for me and that is also why I recommend it for prospective students as much as I can.Israel is writing a wonderful story and being a part of it is truly is a unique experience.