Despite Coronavirus:
Sharp rise in demand for programs in Israel by young Global Jewry

Masa opens 16th year at Israel’s largest online international event for young global Jewry; PM: 'Every Jew can make his or her home here.'

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Masa candle lighting
Masa candle lighting

Masa Israel Journey, founded by The Jewish Agency and government of Israel, launched its 16th programming year tonight, at an online opening event from dozens of countries around the world, including North America, Europe, the Former Soviet Union, South Africa, Australia, Panama, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and more.

Every year, thousands of young Jews arrive to Israel from more than 60 countries around the world to learn, teach, volunteer and intern as part of Masa’s unique and diverse programs. Masa Fellows arrive in Israel for a significant period, between two to ten months, during which they contribute to Israeli society and local economy, gain personal and professional experience, and strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to Israeli heritage, culture and society.

For 16 years, Masa has served as the leader in long-term experiences in Israel for young Jews from all over the world. The organization brings about 12,000 fellows each year. More than 160,000 Fellows, ages 18-35, have participated in Masa programs over the years. Among them, 30% have chosen to make Aliyah. This year, despite the coronavirus crisis, there has been a significant increase in demand for Masa programs, including a 36% rise in internship programs and a 40% rise in gap year programs. There are currently 7,500 Masa Fellows in Israel and thousands more expected to arrive later in the coming months.

Every year, Masa organizes a large international opening event with public leaders and celebrity artists. This year, due to coronavirus restrictions, the event took place online. The event consisted of virtual meetings between thousands of Masa Fellows, online workshops, a candle lighting ceremony and more.

Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, welcomed the new arrivals: “Every year, Masa brings young Jews from across the globe to Israel. In doing so, Masa give thousands the chance to connect with the reality of Israeli society, to strengthen their Jewish identity, and to deepen their relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. Israel is a young country, where young people are making a real difference. From e-commerce to hybrid cuisine, from startup companies to development work abroad, from self-driving vehicles to green energy, young Israelis are changing this country and changing this world for the better. Israel is the cradle of the Jewish past. Israel is where the Jewish future is being forged. And if you want to be a part of that future, if you want to have an impact upon that future, Israel is the place to be. Welcome home.”

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, said: “This has been a challenging year for all of us, and while I hope that on this Festival of Lights we’ll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I want to salute and applaud each and every one of the Masa fellows, for choosing to come to Israel during this difficult period, to connect and contribute to Israeli society. This is a true expression of the value of Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh, all of Israel is responsible for one another, and I deeply appreciate it.”

Masa Acting CEO, Ofer Gutman, said: “I am happy that despite the coronavirus pandemic, we are opening Masa’s 16th programming year. The thousands of Fellows, who have arrived in Israel this year, are a testament to the deep commitment of young Jews from around the world to Israel and their desire to make an impact and connect to their roots. I believe that this event, designed to connect the different ends of the Jewish global community, provides an unforgettable, exciting, and powerful experience. I am proud of our activities and that we continue to be the primary organization to bring the global Jewish community to Israel during this challenging period.”

The event featured a performance by Static and Ben-El who met with Masa Fellows in a closed concert before the main broadcast. “We are very happy and excited to take part in the event organized by Masa, which connects the Jewish community from all corners together. For us, it is very special to perform on one stage in front of thousands of people in Israel and all over the world at the same time. Welcome to the thousands who came to Israel and to all those who saw us around the world. Yalla, we are waiting for you in Israel!”

Masa Israel Journey group