Benjamin Lee

Multilingual Communications Professional

Alumnus of IGF Session 14, 2017-2018

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During my year on IGF, I decided that I would make Aliyah at the earliest opportunity after the end of the program. I had also come to the decision that the next major step in building my life and career in Israel would be an 18-month period of voluntary service in the IDF. I made Aliyah, enrolled in Ulpan for 5 months, and drafted into the IDF in February 2019. After sustained efforts and a stroke of good fortune, I eventually landed myself a position in the International Media Branch of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

From my first day in the unit, I was determined to make the most of the incredible opportunity I had to serve in the body responsible for communicating the messages of the IDF to the world. In my role in the International Social Media Office, I was responsible for the English language content and operational strategy of the IDF’s social media operations. The work was challenging, meaningful and enjoyable, and I ended up extending my service by a further three months until I was released in November 2020. Before my release, I was chosen by my commanders as one of the outstanding soldiers for the year 5780.

My internship and educational experience during the IGF program had a very strong influence on my decision to draft to the military, the subsequent contribution I made to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and my long-term career goals. The experience of representing Israel to the world while working as a government fellow at the Israel MFA was a tremendous honor, but also a big responsibility. From a practical point of view, the work I did in the Israel MFA in digital diplomacy and media communications meant that I arrived at the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit with skills that I could directly apply to my new role. The exposure to such a broad array of subject matters, influential leaders and sites across Israel as part of the IGF educational program also gave me a significant edge in my work. Issues that we had learnt about from the experts and discussed together around the table at the Begin Center were now subject matters I had to research further and present to the world on behalf of the IDF.

The contacts and friends I made on the program, at the Begin Center and at the Israel MFA proved to be a crucial network for me after my Aliyah and during my IDF service. The connections I built with diplomats at the MFA, especially my mentor, proved to be an invaluable source of help and information during the draft process to the IDF and continue to be a point of reference for me as a new oleh building a career in Israel.

I decided that I wanted to make Aliyah at the age of 16, after spending a month touring Israel with my youth movement, Bnei Akiva. Six years later, my determination to move to Israel remained, but I was a little less naive about the world at the age of 22 than I had been at 16. I wanted to better understand how I could build a life and career in Israel before I fully committed myself to Aliyah. IGF was the ideal program for me to explore this.

My overwhelmingly positive experience of living, working and studying in Jerusalem during my year on IGF confirmed that Aliyah was the right direction for me and would be the best way to put my Zionist ideology and values into action. I was particularly inspired by the other educated young professionals from around the world with a similar passion for Israel and Jewish life participating in IGF and, likewise, the speakers on the seminar days who had started out like us and had “made it” as olim in their respective fields in Israel.  The fact that I was not alone in seeing my future in Israel spurred me on to make this commitment.To this day, I am still in close contact with the other fellows based here in Israel and abroad, as well as the staff from IGF.

The Israel Government Fellows program is one of a kind. No other program brings such a diverse range of high-achieving young Jewish graduates and professionals from across the world to work and study in Israel on a voluntary basis for a whole year. The investment made in these future leaders by the Begin Center and the government ministries and NGOs where fellows are placed not only pays off during the year of the program, but also yields significant long-term returns. IGF doesn’t just talk about meaningful Israel-Diaspora engagement (as so many other programs and organizations do), but it actually puts this objective into action and has an exceptional track record to show for its efforts.

I look back on my year as an Israel Government Fellow with enormous gratitude and satisfaction. This was the year during which I found my feet and direction in my professional and personal life. It was the year that gave me the confidence to believe in myself and aim high in Israel. It was the year when I realised Zionist ideology doesn’t have to be something to ruminate on from afar, but could be my everyday reality.