Jewish Journal

Masa Desert Sports Challenge Program - Take the Challenge

by Jeremy Fine

June 26, 2012 | 11:04 am

Recently TGR caught word of the Masa Desert Sports Challenge and we had to learn more. So we went to the source. Karen Kellerman coordinates the program and she is terrific. The program is cool and interesting, and most importantly a great way to experience Israel. We sat down with Karen and here is what she had to say.

Interview with Karen Kellerman


1) Please tell the TGR universe a little about yourself?

My name is Karen Kellerman. Originally from the USA, I have lived and worked at Nitzana Educational Community in Nitzana, Israel for the last seven years. Our community is a thriving hub of a variety of people from different parts of the world attending varying educational studies. I am the coordinator for the Masa Desert Sports Challenge program.

2) What is the Masa Desert Sports Challenge program?

It is a 5 month Masa program that includes challenging sports activities of rappelling, diving, swimming, biking, hiking, navigation, running and jeeping. Our participants also study Hebrew, travel throughout Israel , learn about physiology, ecology, cooking and volunteer - all with amazing Israeli guides.

The program cost $8,225, which includes everything except airfare and your personal travel on free weekends, which is optional. We give a grant of $2,500 and Masa offers a grant of approximately $3,000, depending on individual situations, to help on tuition cost.

Our next session is August 5 - December 30, 2012 and we still have spaces available, so if you are 18-26 years old (exceptions made for up to 30 years old) and want to have a truly life changing experience, come and join us.

3) How does one sign up? Just go to our website at:

and scroll down to the bottom of the page, click on “Sign Up” or click on “Nitzana Grant.”



4) What are some of the unique parts to this program?

I think being able to experience so many new things and meet new people within such a short period of time is really unique. In our program, one week you can be rappelling off the cliffs of the Negev Mountains and the next week, scuba diving in the Red Sea. Just by living in our community you will meet Israelis (12,000 students every year attend short term seminars), Jewish youth from the former Soviet Union who are making aliyah, volunteers that come from France, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and Israel. You will also meet young people from Eritrea and Sudan. You will train with young Israelis preparing for the army on a pre-army program. On Fridays and Sundays you will see students from Thailand and Vietnam who are studying agriculture. The environment of our community, along with the different activities and trips planned in the program makes for a very interesting 5 months.

5) How does this program engage athletes with Israel?

Participants are able to live and travel in Israel for 5 months. They study Hebrew and learn many day to day ways of the Israeli culture. Evening activities include studies of Judaism and Israeli history. Every other weekend is free for participants to travel and explore Israel on their own. Our community is very Zionistic (and pluralistic at the same time!!) and is located next to the Sinai desert where so much of our history started, prior to coming into the Promised Land. For many of our participants, a heart connection is made between them and the Land itself. There is no doubt that the seeds planted today through this program will bring an abundant harvest of strong Jewish identity and relationships in the future.

6) Anything else you would like to share with TGR?

Yes, there are two things that I would like to share. Sometimes people are frightened at the idea of our sports activities and feel as if they will not qualify physically. You should know that you are trained step by step in each sporting activity. You have special teachers for each sport and every day you will be engaged in some type of training or practice. You are never asked to do anything that you feel uncomfortable with or that would be unsafe. On the contrary, this program helps to build self confidence, muscles and endurance. I remember one beautiful young lady after running her first 10 K, she said to me, “Now I know that I can do anything.” Learn, practice and train. There are minimum requirements before joining the program in running, biking and swimming which are stated on our website. The program is a great way to lose weight and to establish good habits of exercising every day.

Our community is located in the beautiful desert. Watch the movies below to find out about the program:

Check out our Facebook for more pictures:



To find out about our region

Thank you Karen for sharing your amazing program with us. Sounds like a great opportunity for anyone looking to explore Israel.

You can find more about the program also by going to TheGreatRabbino.com and click on their link.

And Let us Say…Amen.
- Jeremy Fine

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Rabbi Jeremy Fine is the Assistant Rabbi at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul MN. He was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary where he also received a Masters in Jewish...

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