My #MasaIsrael journey began in Kiryat Moira at the Masa offices with an incredible and diverse group of professionals from North America.  We met with Ofer Gutman, Masa CEO and members of his leadership team to learn about the incredible structure of this organization. We then set out to meet with different programs.

Our first stop was at the Shalom Hartman Institute for lunch with students in their Hevruta program. This opportunity brings together Israelis and Jewish high school graduates from around the globe for a year of study and personal growth. Teens live together in apartments, shop and cook for themselves and spend their days in study and travel. They are learning about each other, breaking down stereotypes, learning to express an opinion and learning how to change their minds as well. I was so impressed. After lunch each student clears their own place and goes into the dish room and washes their own dishes. The students were tired of wasting by using disposable so they initiated this process of cleaning up after themselves.  Kol hakavod.

We moved to the World Bnei Akiva headquarters to learn about two of their gap programs, Kivun and Mechina Olamit. This religious Zionist movement hosts two different programs for post-high school gap year.  Both involve teens living with Israeli counterparts and truly experiencing the land. They create opportunities for work, travel, study and volunteering. The teens we met shared how this has changed their lives for the better and they were passionate about the love they have for Bnei Akiva.

After a very full day, our group went to dinner and we experienced outstanding Israeli pizza at La Piedra. After dinner a new friend and I went to a very quiet Ben Yehuda Street for a stroll and some shopping. While it was only 8pm, most shops were closed and very few people were out. Loved the sign ‘discount for brave tourists ‘.  A sign of these different days. Looking forward to Monday in Tel Aviv!

Andrea Cohen, Director of Youth Philanthropy and Community Engagement, was invited to Travel to Israel as a guest of #MasaIsrael to learn about gap year programs for high school graduates. She is part of a 13-person delegation from North America that will be spending five days traveling the country to visit Masa Israel programs.

Masa Israel is an organization that works with the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel and Jewish Federations of North America to provide immersive experiences for Jewish young adults ages 16-35. Masa subsidizes programs, provides security, creates rules, provides evaluation and develops programs to meet needs. Over the past 20 years, more than 200,000 young Jewish adults from around the globe have participated in Masa Israel programs. In fact, this is such a big organization, there is even a special Masa visa for participants.

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