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By Ofer Gutman

Next Year in Jerusalem – MASA


History has a way of repeating itself

While every year during Passover the Jewish people memorialize the ten great plagues that freed us from Pharaoh’s rule, this entire past year has felt like a modern-day Passover plague. Passover is the victory of joy over adversity and we’re achieving liberation, yet again, through the restored optimism and the unlimited opportunity Israel promises.

Israel carries the story of the Jewish people, and today Israel is also a leading travel destination that offers something for everyone as we bravely venture into a post-pandemic future.

Masa Israel Journey, a joint project of The Jewish Agency and Government of Israel, is the leader in long-term, immersive Israel experiences. Annually, the organization brings more than 10,000 young Jewish adults to Israel for gap year, internships, volunteer, service-learning, and study abroad programs. As we look forward to resuming international travel, there will be many ways to take advantage of Israel’s dynamic landscapes. Israel offers an adventure of a lifetime

This small country is a go-to destination for every type of traveler. The country offers historic and religious sites, incredible beaches and nature reserves, delicious food tours and exciting nightlife. There are so many layers of Israel to explore. Not to mention, Israel has warm weather year-round!

With a dizzying array of day trips always available in this tightly packed country, your travel bug will never find itself wanting. From exploring ancient Jerusalem, hiking up Masada, touring the nature reserves of Ein Gedi, wine tasting in the Galilee, to snorkeling in Eilat, the possibilities are boundless.

When you are in Israel, you connect to the past, present, and future. You have a unique opportunity to explore, learn, and grow in the Jewish homeland and broader Middle East. The country brings together people from diverse backgrounds, creating a rich culture of its own. As you travel the land, meeting locals, trying new foods, and encountering new ideas, you broaden your perspectives.

Israel is a top travel destination because there’s a point of connection for everyone.

Israel offers opportunity for professional advancement

Israel is a global capital of innovation. Since its earliest days, the small nation has worked to transform a desert into a blooming oasis. The challenges faced by Israel empower generations of creative-thinkers and problem-solvers.

With limited resources, Israeli society has found ways to not only build a beautiful country but generate solutions that disrupt industries and effect change worldwide.

Today, leading companies have hubs in Israel and the country boasts the most startups per capita in the world. The rich history and diversity of people has created a multi-layered culture that widens perspectives and sparks innovation. Israel is a place that provides the skills and experience that drive the careers of the future, from high-tech to medicine to venture capital to public health ventures and beyond. For Masa Fellows during the pandemic, Israel has offered meaningful opportunities when prospects at home and around the world have been limited.

Take for example, Jayme Fine, 22, from Toronto. Recently, she completed her internship at UpStart HR, which matches rising international talent with top startups in Israel. “I feel lucky to have received this job. It’s not just any position, it’s also one of Zionist significance. I have gained valuable experience and an incredible network after a six-month internship. The best part—l can help my friends from Masa find jobs! I knew it would be almost impossible for me to find a job there [in Toronto], so I chose Israel—both for this and for Zionist reasons,” Fine said. Jason Migdal is another young professional who through

Masa was matched with a position at Sonovia, an Israeli biotech startup that’s developed one of the top anti-pathogen masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a lead scientist he was instrumental in conceiving the technology with his team members from Israel and around the world.

Jayme and Jason are two of the thousands of young Jewish adults who, even amid the pandemic, have chosen to come to Israel with Masa for unmatched internship and career opportunities with companies like IBM, HP, Minute Media, The Floor, Amdocs, Walkme, x.co, Mindspace, PayPal, and Motorola.

Despite the pandemic, respective demand for the Masa Career and Masa Gap year programs in Israel has increased 33% and 40% yearover-year. As people everywhere seek ways to revamp their lives, boost their professional careers, and finally move forward from the pandemic, Israel provides opportunities to accomplish those goals.

Israel is a place of growth

 “I learned about the experience of Jews in Israel and from around the world. I grew my sense of self; I expanded on my identity culturally and spiritually, reclaiming my Jewish roots and connection to a colorful, caring and creative Jewish people,” said Masa alum Anastasia Kharicheva, of Russia.

Israel is a large part of Jewish identity. Experiencing the country firsthand allows people to dive deeper into their relationship with their own Jewish identity and community.

For many high school and college graduates who take a gap year in Israel this journey is a necessary step in their personal growth and maturation. Leaving a familiar environment and entering a new yet nurturing place like Israel, allows for self-reflection, development of new skills and independence, and broadening worldviews. Spending this time away from home, you learn more about yourself, where you want to be, and where you want to go.

“Being able to succeed in a new environment taught me that I can make a life for myself anywhere. And more than that, I learned that no matter where I am, no matter what language I’m speaking, I can make an impact,” said Masa alum Amy Shohet who recently returned to the U.S. after spending several months in Israel.

Israel is family

For many Masa Fellows, Israel comes to feel like home. When traveling to Israel, you enter a hub of community. Wherever you are in the world, there is an undeniable connection between the Jewish people and Israel. The country binds Jews together and once you arrive, you feel deeply connected to a global family of thinkers, doers and changemakers and you find your place within that community.

Over the last year, this connection was underscored by the thousands of Masa Fellows who arrived from dozens of countries to live in Israel for a significant period of 2 to 10 months. While most travel was limited, they served as the main bridge between their international communities and Israel.

 “I can’t put a price on the knowledge and experience I’ve gained through personally working and interacting with Israel’s diverse citizens from different backgrounds, affiliations, practices and passions. Their stories have become a fabric that has embraced me and embraced Jews around the world. Israel truly feels like home. My hope is that when travel restrictions are lifted, Jews from around the world will come to Israel, and experience this country and its people for themselves. The people and their stories and their dedication to one another are so inspiring. My life has been enriched to be here,” said Masa alum Marcela Friedman.

As you immerse yourself in Israeli society, you form relationships that bind our distant family closer together.

With Israel number one in the world in vaccinating its population and the rest of the world making progress as well, Masa is ready to welcome thousands of more Jewish young adults to experience the meaning and joy of Israel, particularly after such a trying year for so many around the globe.

Masa, embodying the innovative spirit of Israel, has modified and optimized its programming for our COVID reality and beyond. Masa’s foundational gap year, educational, career, volunteering, and teaching programs are supplemented by hybridized in-person and online programming, with a wide range of activities, including ulpan courses, educational seminars, exercise classes, excursions, leadership training, communitywide celebrations, and more.

Moreover, Masa continues to bring new options that meet changing needs of the global community. This year, for students and young professionals working or studying remotely from home, Masa created Masa Remote Israel. This unique program allows individuals to discover their inner-digital nomad by continuing their studies and work Masa: Ready to welcome more of the global community back to Israel Traipse from the heart of Tel Aviv. Instead of dragging out the pandemic in the same dreary surroundings, young Jews can enrich their lives in Israel and have access to co-working spaces, mentorship, networking, Hebrew-language courses, and trips throughout the country.

With Passover and the first-year marker of the global pandemic coinciding, the call for “next year in Jerusalem” will have a new and inspired meaning. Masa is the gateway for thousands of young Jews to come to Israel to experience renewal and growth in their lives following the unprecedented trials we have collectively faced over the past year.

For more information about the Masa Israel Journey programs, visit www.masaisrael.org


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