Masa Israel Journey provides more than just a tourism experience. The group has friends in high places—namely, the Israeli government—and that pairing ensures guests of the organization have the world of Israeli experiences at their fingertips.
“It’s a 50/50 partnership, so 50 percent of the funding comes from the Israeli government and 50 percent comes from the Jewish Agency,” said Aaron Goldberg, director of marketing and communications. “During the [Ariel] Sharon administration, Israel decided it wanted to build on the success of Birthright and make it easier for young Jewish adults to spend a considerable amount of time in Israel.”
Established in 2004, the group offers young adults ages 18 to 30 a chance to not just visit the land of Israel, but immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and tastes. With options for gap year travel, internships and study abroad programs, visitors get a chance to customize the plan that suits their needs best.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to spend five to 10 months in Israel, doing what they’re passionate about,” Goldberg said. “If your passion is to study animals in an Israeli zoo, we want to help you do that.”
The five to ten month range is the time period Masa uses for its travelers, who can then apply for grants or reach out to kibbutzim, depending on their interests. Goldberg said the group has more than 200 programs it helps connect guests with, and those participants are as diverse as the initiatives they get involved in. Masa travelers come from around the world, including the US, South America, South Africa, Europe and Australia.
“Wherever there are Jews in the world, they’re represented by Masa,” Goldberg said, adding that the Masa experience also promotes networking. “It’s a great way to build your career, build your resume and get noticed. My bet is, if you walked into any Jewish organization in America and asked who’s spent at least five months in Israel, half of the people would raise their hands.”
But Goldberg said the benefits of a Masa tour of Israel reach far beyond the immediate experience.
“The best way to advocate for Israel, to experience Israel, to talk about Israel, is from the first person,” Goldberg said. “Our mission is not to tell people what to believe in, but to take the time to get a nuanced understanding of the country.”
.ORG-Connection: Masa Israel Journey offers young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 immersive, life-changing gap year, study abroad, post-college and volunteer experiences in Israel, connecting them to programs that meet their interests, offering scholarships, providing expertise, and supporting them throughout the entire process.