The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA)in partnership with UIA-Keren Hayesod has officially launched the second year of a two-year pilot program – Israel Go. This provides financial support for young adults participating in gap year programs in 2022 and 2023.
Officially launched last year, Israel Go is a partnership with UIA-Keren Hayesod and private philanthropists. The program ensures that participation in a gap year program is more accessible to everyone across the Australian Jewish community.
This year, eligible applicants participating in a program between 4-6 months will receive a grant up to $3,000, for those joining a program between 6-10 months will receive up to $4,500, and for programs over 10 months they can receive up to $6,500. It is important to note that Israel Go support is additional to any other funding support that participants receive, including the means-tested Masa Israel Journey subsidy of up to USD $6,500.
As in 2022, Israel Go grants are provided by the ZFA to eligible applicants on an opt-in basis.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “when we launched Israel Go last year, it was a complete game-changer for the Israel Programs landscape. With the financial challenges that the pandemic created, it was important for us to lead with a solution. We know from our data that participation in Israel Programs increases the connection to and relationship with Israel, and we want to continue to be able to nurture this, despite all of the challenges, particularly in the last two years of the pandemic.”
The proof is in the numbers. Since 2021, the number of gap year participants have increased significantly, almost 300%.
UIA President Esther Frenkiel said, “UIA Australia is exceptionally proud to be a key partner in Israel Go. The results since its inception have been nothing short of remarkable and we are so grateful to the ZFA for their leadership through this ground breaking concept. The idea has proven its value and as the primary funding bridge between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora UIA Australia is committed to ensuring Israel GO has the resources to ensure no young adult is denied this exceptional experience for financial reasons.”
When the pilot launched in 2021, the ZFA spoke to several families to sound out what the grant would mean to them. One such family was the Berkovits family, who at the time had twin daughters in Year 12 in Melbourne, and spoke to the ZFA about how thrilled they were at the prospect of giving everyone the opportunity to experience a gap year in Israel. Their daughters are currently in Israel having gone on MTA with Bnei Akiva. Of the Israel Go grant, their mother Shoshana said, “Last year we were fortunate to be the first year to be offered and receive the Israel GO grant for my twins to go on a gap year with Bnei Akiva to Israel. The impact of receiving the grant has assisted in easing the financial strain that would have otherwise been really difficult to send both our girls. They are now halfway through the year and having the most incredible experience of living, learning and touring Israel.”
Melissa Katz’s daughter Sage has been in Israel on Israel By Choice (IBC). Melissa said, “Israel Go’s funding motivated the decision to do a gap year programme and is a wonderful community initiative that will ensure more kids are able to take up the opportunity of experiencing one of the Masa gap year programmes.”
Meanwhile, Karen Bouhadana was impressed with the range and variety of Israel Programs that are on offer, and the Israel Go grant ensured her decision to send her daughter Tahni was an even easier one. She said, “When considering gap year options for our daughter Tahni for 2022, knowing we had the Israel Go grant to assist us made a big difference. Tahni wanted a less structured experience then the traditional youth movement programs, when we explored options offered by MASA, we were surprised to see there are so many ways to experience Israel. Tahni decided on an internship program, she lived in an apartment in Tel Aviv and worked in a ceramic studio for 5 months. It was a very independent and non-structured journey which gave Tahni both the security and freedom to fully immerse herself in Israeli life. She has had the most incredible experience, the only problem is she doesn’t want to come back. To her, Israel is home.”
Tahni’s experience, both in selecting a program and finding that fit for her, and in realising how much she has enjoyed the experience of living in Israel, highlights the importance of Israel Go. More importantly, it gets to the essence of what Masa Israel Programs are all about.
Israel Go officially launched this week. To find out more, contact ZFA Israel Programs Assistant Mai Gutman: firstname.lastname@example.org