Masa - the journey home

160 young people from the former Soviet Union arrive in Israel for 'Masa' trip around the country to strengthen their Jewish identity.

Tags: Masa
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Trip participants
Trip participants
Masa organization

Every year thousands of young Jews from 60 countries around the world arrive in Israel to study, teach and participate in various programs led by the Masa organization, founded by the Jewish Agency and Israeli government.

Participants spend 2-10 months in the country, during which they contribute to Israeli society and economy, gain useful experience in the personal and professional spheres, and strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to Israeli heritage and culture.

This past weekend, 160 Masa participants from the FSU in collaboration with the Genesis Philanthropy Group, embarked on their Israel experience.

As part of the trip, they participated in workshops, strengthening their connection to Israel and Judaism, and heard lectures on Zionism and the Jewish People's connection to their homeland. The trip also included stops in the North of the country, along with visits to landmarks significant to Jewish and Zionist identity, including Tel Aviv and Zichron Yaacov, which symbolize the modern state and different waves of Aliyah.

In addition, they visited Jerusalem, where they toured the City of David, Davidson Center and the Western Wall. Everywhere they went, they were exposed to historical accounts of events with a deep meaning to Israeli society and Jewish People to this day. The trip concluded with a Shabbat experience in the spirit of traditional Judaism in Shefayim, in accordance with Ministry of Health instructions.

Philip and Stasti Zarifo (25) who married about three years ago, took part in the trip. Philip specializes in programming, while Stasti is a music therapist. They said they wanted to take part in the experience to examine their closeness to the Land of Israel and their Jewish identity, and examine the option of settling down in the Jewish State. The couple said: "We didn't grow up in homes with Jewish tradition, but were always aware of our identity. We grew up in a reality where Judaism was relegated to stories of the past but lacking in belonging, emotion, and real-life experience.”

Philip added: "This trip taught me what it's like to be a part of a community. I experienced things I never knew existed. Judaism has a sense of closeness, community, family. It's an amazing feeling...Suddenly I had the realization I was part of a greater whole."

Masa Director General Ofer Gutman concluded: "We are delighted that despite the challenging period and the existing restrictions, we have succeeded in making the participants maintain safety guidelines, get a feel of the Land, learn about it, and strengthen their Jewish identity - that’s what they came here for. In the end, 95% of seminar attendees immigrate to Israel and choose to continue their lives here."