Two sizable groups of Masa fellows, nearly 100 strong, recently arrived in Israel for extended stays, choosing to embark on their programs despite the challenging circumstances.

Masa Israel Journey fellows arrive in Israel in November 2023 | Photo: Masa Israel Journey

Undeterred by the outbreak of war, young Jewish adults have continued to arrive in Israel from diverse corners of the globe as part of  Masa Israel Journey.

Determined to show that even amidst the ongoing conflict their spirit remained unbroken, two sizable groups of Masa fellows, nearly 100 strong, recently arrived in Israel for extended stays, choosing to embark on their programs despite the challenging circumstances.

One group, arriving from the United States, is set to study at Bar-Ilan University. Their program, which focuses on Zionist values, includes extensive trips throughout Israel and a strong focus on volunteering. Specifically, they will be contributing their time to first responder organizations and hospitals, as well as local elderly care homes.

Masa’s programs cater to a wide array of interests, ranging from interning at major hi-tech companies to teaching English to children in Israel’s marginalized communities. In these challenging times, Masa fellows have adjusted their activities, channeling their energy into volunteer work for Israeli society. Activities include assisting children from war zones, supporting agriculture, cooking for soldiers, and teaching English to evacuees’ children via virtual platforms like Zoom.

Izzy Bernstein, a Masa fellow from Baltimore (Credit: Masa Israel Journey)

Ofer Gutman, CEO of Masa Israel Journey, reflects on this collective commitment, stating, « In these times, all citizens of Israel see the commitment of Diaspora Jewry to the State of Israel as we do. World Jewry also understands the importance of a strong Israel, and they are here in their masses, and continue to come. The volunteering and dedication of Masa fellows warm the heart and once again prove that we are one people, in practice and not just in theory. We are proud of our work strengthening the connection between Israel and the Diaspora as well as Israeli society. We will continue to work, especially and particularly at this time, to strengthen this connection. Am Yisrael Chai! »

The organization actively engages its vast network of fellows in online hasbara (Israel advocacy) initiatives on social media. Leveraging their firsthand experiences, Masa alumni worldwide share authentic stories about Israel, acting as genuine ambassadors for the country on the global stage.

Izzy Bernstein, a Masa fellow from Baltimore, Maryland, captures the essence of their determination, saying, « I came to Israel precisely now because I know that if I don’t come now, then I won’t get to have this kind of experience, which is once in a lifetime, and I intend to make use of every moment. I want to tell the People of Israel – don’t be afraid! We are united more than ever, and we will make it through this. Am Yisrael Chai! »

Another group, comprising 25 young men and women from France, has enrolled in a quasi-premilitary academy for an intensive eight-month program. Sidney Levy, one of the fellows who landed in Israel, emphasizes their purpose, stating, « I wanted to come to this program because I think it’s important to support the State of Israel and its citizens. It is Israel that protects us, since forever, and especially now. It’s important that all Jewish communities in the world show their support for Israel and the IDF. »

The sentiments of these young individuals, as echoed in their quotes, reinforce their shared conviction: their presence in Israel, their volunteering efforts, and their unwavering support for the State of Israel and its citizens demonstrate their unyielding commitment. In the face of adversity, they stand united, embodying the timeless phrase: « Am Yisrael Chai! » (« The people of Israel live on).

Sidney Levy, a Masa fellow who arrived in Israel (Photo: Masa Israel Journey)

Every year, thousands of passionate individuals participate in long-term programming organized by Masa Israel Journey, the largest and leading organization facilitating connections between young Jewish individuals and Israel. Despite the outbreak of war, a vast majority of Masa fellows have chosen to remain in Israel, standing in solidarity with the nation and its people.

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