Diaspora youth rock with Israeli band in first event since covid

Thousands of Masa participants joined what seems to be the first international Jewish gathering since the pandemic.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Hatikvah 6 and the Masa participants
Hatikvah 6 and the Masa participants
Arutz Sheva

The 18th year of programming for Masa, an organization founded by the Jewish Agency and the government of Israeli, began on Wednesday, with an event attended by thousands of diaspora youth from many different countries.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva from a Masa concert where a large crowd of Masa participants were rocking out to an Israeli band, Ofer Gutman, CEO of Masa, describes the event – the first international Jewish gathering since the pandemic – and Masa itself as “a journey, and that’s how we see it.”

“People come to Israel for a few months to a year to embrace society, to live like the locals, so they become part of us and who we are,” Gutman says. “They learn more about Israel, connect with their Jewish identity and learn more about themselves while they’re here.”

He adds: “They come here to intern, to volunteer, to teach or to study. During the time that they’re here they’re getting to know Israel. And Israel will always be a part of Israel, even if they decide to stay here or to go back to their community.”

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai says that Masa will have a lifelong impact on the lives of the participants.

“Masa is a journey for the 12,000 participants that come to Israel and have a special Israeli experience that will shape their lives for many years to come,” Shai explains. “They contribute to the country on the one hand but they are being contributed to, as well, by the country. They learn and teach, they exchange views with us.”

He adds: “This is something where we have to try to bring many more American, Russian, Argentinian, French – any nationality – to come and live in Israel for as long as they want. That will be a great contribution to Israel and to themselves.”

Gutman points to the excitement of the crowd of young Jews who are swaying back and forth enjoying the music of the band on stage.

“Especially now. This is the first big event since covid. It’s actually the first international Jewish gathering since covid,” he says. “We are very excited. It’s amazing to see them here. They came from 60 different countries. It’s really unbelievable. And they see they are part of a global Jewish community and their connection is with Israel and with other communities around the world.”