MASA Israel Journey

MASA Israel Journey

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Masa Israel 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. The organizations eventual goal is to bring 20,000 young adults annually on semester- and year-long programs in Israel.


Conceived by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

, Masa Israel was officially established in 2004 as a joint project of the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel
Jewish Agency for Israel
The Jewish Agency for Israel , also known as the Sochnut or JAFI, served as the organization in charge of immigration and absorption of Jews from the Diaspora into the state of Israel.-History:...

. 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. 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, with 45 long term Israel programs participating. As of late 2009, the budget expanded to $40 million and the number of programs affiliated with the project has grown to over 180. 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
Birthright Israel
Taglit-Birthright Israel is a Jewish Israeli registered charity that sponsors free 10-day heritage trips to Israel. Birthright Israel's goals are to diminish the division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and...

, though the organizations did consider merging in 2006 in order to increase participation. Birthright Israel founders have also criticized the way in which Masa Israel was launched as a duplication of efforts and as creating unnecessary bureaucracy.

In 2009, Masa Israel and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, working with thousands of college students globally...

 began working together expand reach on North American university campuses.

Program Organizers

Independent organizations apply to be recognized by Masa Israel. Programs must include an educational curriculum, Hebrew instruction, and trips around Israel. Organizers include academic institutions like the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

 and Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev   is a university in Beersheba, Israel, established in 1969. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has a current enrollment of 17,400 students, and is one of Israel's fastest growing universities....

, Jewish youth movements including Young Judaea
Young Judaea
Young Judaea is a peer-led Zionist youth movement that runs programs throughout the United States for Jewish youth in grades 2-12. In Hebrew, Young Judaea is called Yehudah Hatzair or is sometimes referred to as Hashachar, which means the dawn....

 and Habonim Dror
Habonim Dror
Habonim Dror is a Jewish Labour Zionist youth movement formed by the merger in 1982 of the Habonim and Dror youth movements. Habonim Dror's sister movement in Israel is Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, the Working and Studying Youth.-Ideology:...

, yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

 and seminary programs, and tour providers like Oranim Education Initiatives and IsraelExperts [volunteership.­israelexperts.­com].


Half of Masa Israel's funding comes from the Government of Israel and the other half comes from the Jewish Agency for Israel through the Jewish Federations of North America. It is also supported by Keren Hayesod-UIA
Keren Hayesod
Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal is the central fundraising organization for Israel, with operations in 45 countries. The work of Keren Hayesod is carried out in accordance with the Keren Hayesod Law, 5716-1956, passed by the Knesset in January 1956...

. 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.