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Val Jensen, MAMES 2012-13


"In my first week on the job I conducted market research on the ZBV, a mobile x-ray van disguised as a utility van that scans for explosives in cars. After presenting, I received a flurry of praises. My supervisor said that I really helped, and I credit my time at Tel Aviv University for that."
Val Jensen joined the MAMES program in 2012 after completing a BA in Psychology at University of Redlands, CA and an MA in Government at the IDC, Herzliya. At TAU, Val focused his studies on Yemen, with a final thesis entitled Yemen: The Forbidden Kingdom (1926-1948) - A study into the foreign policy, friendship treaties and opposition of Imam Yahyā under the supervision of Prof. Yoav Alon.

Since completing the course of study in Israel, Val won a prestigious internship with the US Department of State. Val now works in the US Bureau for Diplomatic Security, as a coordinator in the Kabul Embassy Security Force.

Tania de Ildefonso Ocampos, MAMES 2012-13

"During my master’s degree at TAU, I acquired the required professional skills to become a trainee in the European Parliament. Among these skills are Hebrew language and deep knowledge of the history and current state of affairs of the MENA region. I particularly enjoyed having both Israeli and Palestinian professors as well as a wide variety of courses to choose from."

After training as journalist at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Tania's interests turned to Middle East policy making and analysis, terrorism and counterterrorism. Tania focused on Islamist movements in Spain in her thesis. She was recently awarded a position in the European Parliament's Directorate-General for External Policies, Euromed/Middle East.

Ben Decker, MAMES 2012-13

"Tel Aviv University served as a major catalyst for many of my professional ventures in the Middle East. With the resources and support of my professors, alongside a professionally active alumni network, I was able to take on a number of independent and team projects which helped shape the way I think about the region today."
Ben Decker is a geopolitical risk analyst and journalist based in New York City. Currently a journalist at Storyful, Ben has been featured on BBC, al-Jazeera, and i24; while also contributing articles to Vice News, al-Monitor, RUDAW, and EA Worldview. In addition to working for multiple private security firms, Ben founded his own NGO which installed solar-powered lights in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan as a means of deterring the threat of gender-based violence against the camp's female residents. Prior to completing his MA at Tel Aviv University, Ben developed leadership and cybersecurity online training programs for Iranian civil society leaders in Washington DC at a US State Department-funded NGO in Washington. Ben graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from Emory University, where he also minored in Arabic and Hebrew.

John Cappello, MAMES 2013-14


"The MAMES program has allowed me to continue my in-depth study of the region, providing me a strong foundation on which I will continue to build.  It has helped prepare me for the work I would like to do in regional affairs."

After graduating the United States Air Force Academy with a BA in Political Science, John Cappello began a military career first as a pilot and then as an International Political-Military Officer in several locations across Eastern Europe.  Following his placement with the US Embassy to Israel, John sought to expand his knowledge of the geopolitics of the Middle East by enrolling in the International MA in Middle Eastern Studies. 

He is currently working for the Missile Defense Agency in Tel Aviv while completing his thesis, tentatively entitled United States Foreign Policy Development in the Middle East: Egypt 1981-Present: Ideals vs Values under the supervision of Prof. Uzi Rabi and Dr. Benedetta Berti (INSS).

Abby Bergren, MAMES 2013-14

"Years later, I am still grateful for my time in the MAMES program. The curricula, in no small part thanks to the high caliber of instructors, gave me the academic background necessary to engage at a high level with other professionals in this field. I also conducted fieldwork across Israel and in Jordan, an opportunity that was only possible through my connections at TAU. I truly believe that if you want to understand the Middle East, especially as it exists today, you must also understand Israel–her people, her culture, and her role in the region. The MAMES program at TAU was a great springboard for engaging with other bright professionals on Israel and the wider Middle East."

Abby Bergren entered the International M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies program in Fall 2013, after earning a B.A. in political science, with a focus in public policy, from the George Washington University. Coming directly from Washington, D.C., Abby sought to deepen her understanding of the international relations of the Middle East and Israel. Her capstone thesis, Border Insights: The Political and Regulatory History of Israel’s Land Border Crossings, was prepared under the supervision of Professor Shimon Shamir and Dr. Brandon Friedman. 
Currently, Abby is the Communications Coordinator for the Israel Institute, where she spearheads several communications initiatives to advance the mission of the Institute and encourage deeper engagement on modern Israel over multiple sectors. 

Eric Wilson, MAMES 2013-14

“Israel has become an adept global leader for developing advanced technologies and techniques within the areas of security, defense and counter-terror. As someone whose focus has been in these areas, choosing to study in Israel at Tel Aviv was an easy choice. In a big way, the MAMES program allowed me to concentrate my studies on historical and current security issues within the Middle East all while pulling from the expertise of the program’s professors many of whom have experienced firsthand and routinely publish on the conflicts surrounding Israel and the greater region.”
Upon graduating from Marquette University with a B.A. in Political Science, Eric served as a military officer for several years which included a combat deployment to Afghanistan in support of the US Army Special Operations Command. In Fall 2013, Eric joined the M.A in Middle Eastern Studies program at TAU where he sought to broaden his knowledge of militant Islamic groups operating in the Levant and the wars and strategies Israel has waged to combat such forces. Today, Eric works in Washington DC for the US Defense Department specializing in the Middle East and Africa.
Natan Pakman, MAMES 2014-15

"The MAMES program and the year I spent in Israel were invaluable to my personal and professional development. The combination of quality professors, extracurricular opportunities, and the ability to experience the complex issues of the Middle East up close, has provided me with a thorough knowledge base essential to being successful in my current role."

After completing a BA in Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts and working in media production for several years, Natan enrolled in the MAMES program in 2014. He is currently working as an Assistant Regional Director at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest.
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