Shalom Life | April 17, 2014

New Horizons for Maayan Geller

From Israel to Los Angeles, and Back Again

By: Eran Shmueli-David

Published: April 16th, 2012 in News » World

New Horizons for Maayan Geller

Israel's Fifth Medical Faculty, under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, recently opened its gates in Tzfat and 124 students started their studies. CTC/ Galilee Panhandle P2G, together with the Jewish Federation of Canada-UIA were among the first to support the efforts that began 4 years ago, which led to the opening of the Faculty. Currently the Jewish Federation of Canada-UIA and CTC/ Galilee Panhandle P2G are fundraising to fund the newly renovated Faculty's initial building which already open.

Bar Ilan Medical Faculty in Tzfat is a huge opportunity which has the potential to become a real regional game changer that will better the quality of life of many Israelis living in the north.

The following is the story of Ma'ayan Geller, a first year Medical student, living in moshav Ramot Naftali, which is part of Mevo'ot Hermon regional council – one of the 5 partners participating in the CTC/ Panhandle P2G. I met Ma'ayan about a week after the opening of the academic year, on the Faculty's entrance steps. Ma'ayan worked as a councilor in Hafuch Al Hafush a program run by Elem NGO, which assists youth at risk - occasionally support by Jewish Federation of Canada-UIA. I immediately realized that her personal story will convey why the Faculty is so important to the region.

Ma'ayan was born in Tzfat hospital, grew up in moshav Ramot Naftali and studied at Emek Ha'hula high school majoring in biology, where she met Itai, who is her husband today. At high school she was very active in the regional students' council. Following her high school graduation, she joined the IDF and at the end of her service, she flew with Itai to Los Angeles, where they joined two of Ma'ayan sisters, who are living in the US.

Ma'ayan decided to remain in Los Angeles, but didn't give up on academic studies and graduated UCLA majoring Psychology studies. She admits that the studies were very challenging, but in spite of her good integration and academic success, Ma'ayan and Itai always knew that they want to return to Israel and not give up the dream to remain in the Galilee Panhandle.

Ma'ayan, didn't you want to stay in Los Angeles? You have close family, you are UCLA graduate and you can make good and comfortable life?

Very simply, Ma'ayan explained that she cannot.
She grew up in the North and feels very connected. Her grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe and part of her family perished in the Holocaust. They made their home here, which means a great deal. I have sisters in Los Angeles and they have good lives, but I always saw my life here. My dream was and still is to raise the next generation here in Ramot Naftali. I care about the place and the community. No doubt, that in 2006, during the 2nd Lebanon war, we were torn. In Los Angeles, everything was as usual, and here in Israel, the earth was on fire.

Upon graduation, Ma'ayan and Itai returned to Israel. They got married and had Ziv, a sweet and lively baby girl who is just 7 months old.

All along, Ma'ayan completed the make up courses in Chemistry and Biology to be able to apply to medical school. She heard about the Faculty in Tzfat by accident and decided to try and get in. Economically, Ma'ayan and Itai realized that the optimal way for Ma'ayn to fulfill her dream and become a doctor, will be if she will be accepted into Medical studies at the Tzfat Faculty. Thus she would be able to live in the moshav (ramot Naftali) , at her parents' home, and receive family assistance in raising the baby - thus saving the expenses of rent and day care.

Hand in hand with her return home, Ma'ayan father became ill and for a long time she accompanied his medical treatment. This is a hard time for each family, says Ma'ayan, but there I was exposed to the Health System and the doctors' influence on their patients. Ma'ayan says that she became convinced on the importance and effectiveness the doctor has in the patient's healing process, even a very sick patient. This insight was burned inside her and will accompany her during her professional training. Unfortunately, Ma'ayan father passed away from his illness.

Ma'ayan, what is your dream and where do you see yourself in another 10 years?

I'm already fulfilling a dream by studying medicine in Tzfat and not in the center of Israel, living in the moshav where I grew up and staying connected to my family. My dream is to become the community doctor. When I grew up, there was a doctor in the moshav, who treated all of us: babies, children, adults and elderly. He was a lot more than a doctor, and since he retired there is no doctor here in the community. My dream eventually is to become a community doctor.
Studying in this Medical Faculty is not a compromise for me - I gain to learn at the highest level.

What would have happened if the Tzfat Faculty would not have opened?

It is hard to say exactly, but one thing is for sure, it is highly unlikely that my family and I would have continued to live in the North, simply because I wouldn't have had an academic and job horizon that would allow me to be on the track I am on today. Luckily things worked out and today, things are different: The Faculty's opening was just at the right time for me and I'm finally on the track to fulfill myself.

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