I want to begin by telling you how much I love Israel. Israel is an amazing place to grow, learn, and become a part of a new and different culture. Unfortunately, my decision to go on a Masa program with Top Israel Interns was a big mistake. However, there are many other Masa programs that are great, including the positive reviews I've heard about Career Israel.
I'll start from the beginning. On their website (which is a total fabrication of everything you get in the program), it says that we will be living in Central Tel Aviv. They put us in cheaper area in South Tel Aviv called Florentine. The apartment we walked into smelled and was not properly cleaned. There were stains on the couches, dirt on the floor, and the walls were peeling as well as wires hanging from the ceiling where the lightbulbs should have been. We immediately contacted them telling them they needed to re-clean the apartment. They sent a woman who once again did not a great job. I'm thinking to myself, I spent my entire life savings on this? But I was trying to remain positive.
Trying to keep my head held high, we started Ulpan the next week after we arrived. You spend one month in Ulpan before you start your internship. They stuck us in a room with a very nice, yet unprofessional teacher. They provided us with no workbooks or guidance through out that entire month. It was clear once again they were only trying to save money.
After Ulpan, we would have time to ourselves to study or go to the beach. About two and a half weeks into the program, I am taking a nap in my room and the front door opens. Thinking it was my roommate, I resume closing my eyes. My door opens and immediately slams closed. I say something along the lines of "I'm in here", once again thinking my roommate had to talk to me about something and didn't know I was sleeping. The front door slams shut and I receive a text from my roommate that she is now coming home. I think to myself, then who was that who walked into my apartment with a key? Turns out, Top Israel Interns gave 3 copies of the key out to men, and as a woman, I start to panic and feel unsafe. Unsafe in my own home that I paid good money for. I immediately bring it to the attention of the program, but it takes days for them to respond and make me feel at ease. I am in a new country, and I feel my safety is not the number one priority for these people. My roommate and I send out an email, stating that this cannot happen again and we need their word. Well, you guessed it, it happened two more times, where men came into the apartment using the key unannounced.
We then begin to see some mold in the apartment. This is normal in Tel Aviv, but it is not normal how they handled it. They sent a cleaning lady after days of us saying that it was an issue and she used Clorox and wiped it. The next day, it was back stronger and worse. We were then told we might possibly have to move out. They didn't know where or when, and offered an Airbnb. In a panic, we call the Director, and she basically says, "What are you talking about? We were never going to move you". There is a miscommunication problem throughout the entire program. They speak before even knowing the answer. We have one person telling us one thing, and another person telling us the complete opposite.
Well, if the problems couldn't get worse, keep reading. I am now going to start my internship, which I was lucky enough to find months before the program started. But little did I know, this internship would take me anywhere from 2.5-3 hours there and back on public transit with traffic. They failed to tell me that my placement was this far outside of Tel Aviv, forcing me to quit because I felt uncomfortable traveling that far everyday. It took another month of me searching with the placement director to find something that worked for me and was still in Tel Aviv.
With all the issues, we demanded that we talk to the CEO. He comes to our apartment (about 3.5 weeks before the program is over, despite issues happening within the first month), and tells us that he is suing the apartment company. My roommate and I think to ourselves, you're suing? How can he be suing and seeking damages when we were the ones who had to deal with all of it. This is how greedy this program is. Everything is for them. They are making so much money, and they do not care about the safety, well-being, or growth opportunity for any of the participants.
Even after I land back in the USA, I am still dealing with problems with them, if you can even believe it. Our contract states that we will get our security deposit back in 6-8 weeks. It took 15 weeks and emails from the director who was clearly stalling. I was begging them (since week 1) to show us itemized bills for our electricity/water. We finally get them after week 15 of asking, and we are somehow managed to use the same exact amount of water and electricity every month? It is impossible, it once again proved that TII had some sort of deal with apartment, and would charge us the same amount every month. It is insane that even after coming back and dealing with these issues that they once again proved that they could be stealing our money.
I once again want to reiterate that Israel (especially Tel Aviv) is a great place to spend abroad. Top Israel Interns is just not the way to do it. Do not go on this program. It is not worth it. Look into the many other Masa programs you could really learn and grow from.