Masa Israel Journey

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the annual gathering of Masa in Israel (November 13 2013)

Masa Israel Journey (or Masa Israel, Hebrew: מסע‎ "journey") is an umbrella organization of long-term gap year, study abroad, and post-graduate programs in Israel for Jewish young adults. Programs range from 5–12 months and Jewish participants ages 18–30 can receive grants from the organization to subsidize the cost of programs. Since its founding in 2003, over 20,000 individuals have participated in Masa Israel affiliated programs, with over 9,300 participants from over 50 countries in the 2009-2010 year.[1] The organizations eventual goal is to bring 20,000 young adults annually on semester- and year-long programs in Israel.[2]

History[edit]

Conceived by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Masa Israel was officially established in 2004 as a joint project of the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Masa Israel is governed by a 16-member steering committee, with eight representatives of the Government of Israel and eight representatives of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The steering committee is co-chaired by the Government of Israel Cabinet Secretary and the Director General of the Education Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel.[3] Yisrael Maimon, Cabinet Secretary in the Prime Minister’s office and Alan Hoffmann, Director-General of the Jewish Agency Department for Jewish Zionist Education, were appointed as co-chairs of the Project Steering Committee. In November 2003, the Coordinating Committee approved the project and instructed the Jewish Agency to present a detailed program. In January 2004, the project was presented in detail to both the Prime Minister and Sallai Meridor at a special meeting in the Prime Minister’s office and was approved for implementation.

During the 2004-2005 school year, $10 million was invested in the program,[4] with 45 long term Israel programs participating.[5] As of late 2009, the budget expanded to $40 million[6] and the number of programs affiliated with the project has grown to over 2000. The bulk of the budget goes to providing grants and financial aid to participants of affiliated programs.

Masa Israel is not officially connected to Taglit-Birthright Israel, though the organizations did consider merging in 2006 in order to increase participation.[7] Birthright Israel founders have also criticized the way in which Masa Israel was launched as a duplication of efforts and as creating unnecessary bureaucracy.[8]

In 2009, Masa Israel and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life began working together expand reach on North American university campuses.[9]

Program Organizers[edit]

Independent organizations apply to be recognized by Masa Israel. Programs must include an educational curriculum, Hebrew instruction, and trips around Israel.[10] Organizers include academic institutions like the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Jewish youth movements including Young Judaea and Habonim Dror, yeshiva and seminary programs, and tour providers like The Israel Experience Ltd., Israel Way - Oranim Project and IsraelExperts.

Funding[edit]

Half of Masa Israel's funding comes from the Government of Israel and the other half comes from the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is supported by the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-UIA.[11] Participants on Masa Israel programs who identify as Jewish can receive grants and scholarships toward the cost of their program, with the amount depending on their age, the length of their program and their country of origin.

References[edit]

  1. ^ MASA Program Reaches 9,300 Participants
  2. ^ Israel Hoping Long-Term Stays by Diaspora Youth Will Pay Dividends
  3. ^ MASA Governance
  4. ^ Israel invests in long-term stays
  5. ^ Program approaches critical MASA
  6. ^ Masa urges Israelis: Get your Diaspora relatives to come here
  7. ^ Birthright, MASA mull merger to boost participation
  8. ^ Birthright slams Masa for wasteful duplication of efforts
  9. ^ Hillel, MASA Team to Promote Israel Opportunities
  10. ^ The organizations bylaws state that programs must include elements of "Acquisition of knowledge in Judaism, acquisition of knowledge in Zionist history and the State of Israel, learning about the land of Israel, Hebrew instruction, exposure to Israeli culture and art, and volunteering in Israeli society."
  11. ^ MASA gets multi-year commitment from Israeli PM