The prime minster commented that, “You know that you’re here because something very special is happening here, because you are the Jewish leaders of tomorrow, and we appreciate the fact that you are giving yourself a wonderful opportunity not just to help, but to learn.”
Since 2004, more than 100,000 people from all over the world have taken part in Masa programs, ranging from volunteering to studying and interning at companies and institutions throughout Israel.
At the core of Masa’s success has been its ability to reach out to the Jewish Diaspora. Its 12,000 participants taking part in programs this year alone come from France, South Africa, the US, Latin America, and CIS nations.
One is Yevgeniya Ivanova, 23, from Odessa, Ukraine, who is taking part in a 10-month Masa program organized by the group Real Life Israel.
She is spending five months learning Hebrew in an ulpan in Jerusalem and five months interning in Tel Aviv. She reports that Masa allows her “to gain work experience and find out about my heritage, as well as gaining life experience that I’ll only get here.”
Alon Gamzu, CEO of the Tel Aviv-based tech start-up Roundforest, praised Masa interns’ impact on his company’s development, noting how “Masa has played a big part in our journey. Being based in Israel can be a challenge in our industry. Masa interns from the US help us to better understand and engage with our target users.”
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky told the gathering: “You should remember every moment of our life here.
You should remember how you enjoyed this great atmosphere.
You should remember how you enjoyed life in this proud, democratic, Jewish state.” He looked to the crowd and told them, “You are our ambassadors.”
Masa CEO Liran Avisar commended the tenacity of the current tranche of Masa participants, noting that “these days it makes it even more special to have this event in the heart of Jerusalem. We don’t have participants who’ve left since what happened security-wise, and it feels good that so many registered and so many are coming.”
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.