Daniel Ben Zeev is one of many second-year students at Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann Faculty of Law, but the path that led him there is a less-travelled one. Ben Zeev grew up in in an ultra-Orthodox family in the city of Bnei Brak, home to several of Israel’s largest and strictest religious communities. He received a traditional religious education, attending all-boy elementary and middle schools, followed by eight years in a system of yeshivas, where he was trained in religious studies with no education in secular subjects.
When he married at the age of 22, Ben Zeev had no specific plans for a future career. His wife Yael, however, was already a student at TAU’s Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine. “About a year into our marriage, I decided that I, too, wanted an education that would enable me to have a job and give back to society,” he said.
Ben Zeev was interested in studying law, a field popular among many religious students because of its similarities to Talmudic studies. TAU was a natural choice for him because he could share the commute with Yael, but he didn’t know where to start. “The entire system of secular education was foreign to me,” he explained, smiling shyly.
Ben Zeev called TAU to inquire about admissions, and that’s when he was referred to Trailblazers: the Program for Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox into Tel Aviv University. Traiblazers accompanies the students “from application to graduation”, providing academic and social support, including tutoring, career and psychological counselling, social events and more.
“With the help of the Program and its dedicated director Galia Givoly, I was able to successfully navigate the enrolment process and prepare for law studies at TAU,” Ben Zeev said.
Traiblazers also helped Ben Zeev obtain a scholarship. “Both my wife and I receive scholarships from TAU,” explained Ben Zeev. “Our degrees require a lot of time investment and leave few options for holding down a job. I currently work three times a week, but without a scholarship I’d need to work double that amount, which would be a disaster for my studies. My wife, in her 6th year of dental school, does not have time to work at all,” he said. “Without the support of our scholarships, we wouldn’t be able to complete our studies.”
As this article went to print, Daniel and Yael Ben Zeev were expecting their first child. At this exciting time in their lives, they are thankful to the Trailblazers program and scholarships at TAU for enabling their success in academia. “I want to become a lawyer and give back to society, which will be possible with the help of these wonderful programs,” Ben Zeev concluded.
By Sveta Raskin