Jewish Agency Israel Fellow Spotlight: Shaked Bustnay



November 30, 2022

In reflecting on my journeys recently, I realized that my wanderlust comes from my grandfather. A Yemenite sailor, he came to Israel as part of Operation Magic Carpet and set my family on a new path. He loved to travel the world, but he loved my grandmother, their family, and Israel even more. He shared that love of Israel with his children, and they shared it with theirs. It’s that love that inspires me in my work as a Jewish Agency Israel Fellow.

I grew up in Yokne’am, Israel and went to school in the kibbutz school system just like my father. That education was a big part of forming my identity in a different way than if I had attended the regular Yokne’am school system. It taught me the importance of balancing community and independence. My first encounter with leadership and working with younger students was when I participated in the Tzofim (Scouts) in high school and worked as a camp counselor. 

I enjoyed the Tzofim experience so much that I volunteered to participate in Taglit (Birthright Israel) when I was serving in the army. Meeting students from America who were my age but who lived such different lives from what I was used to was an incredibly powerful and moving experience. I decided to live in Canada for a year after my army service to see more of the world and to build my own independence. It was hard to live so far from my family and friends, but it was worth it to form relationships and learn the life lessons that I did during that year. 

When I returned to Israel and decided to study International Relations at Hebrew University, I also decided to participate in a fellowship that would give me opportunities to travel outside of Israel and speak about my love for Israel and its people. As part of that fellowship, I visited a university campus in London that has a strong anti-Israel movement. It was one of the most impactful and difficult experiences of my life, but it left me with a strong sense of my purpose — to travel and be a positive voice for Israel in the world. 

Being an Israel Fellow at University of California, Berkeley gives me the opportunity to connect with students and be that positive voice for Israel in a way that constantly inspires me. I’ve also had the opportunity to offer Mizrahi Heritage programming to help students connect with their own stories, traditions, and culture. Working with Berkeley students, helping them create safe spaces for each other to learn and grow, has given me an appreciation for how connected Jewish people are all over the world and how our similarities outweigh our distances.