Thousands of young Diaspora Jews have signed up for the volunteer, internship, and academic study programs offered Masa, a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency founded in 2003 to strengthen the Jewish identity of young Jews around the world and deepen their connection with Israel.
Despite the war in Gaza, July 2014 saw a 5 percent increase in the number of people registering for Masa compared to July 2013.
"The security situation strengthens [their] sense of belonging," explained Masa General-Director Liran Avisar Ben-Horin.
"They're facing anti-Semitism in their home countries and want to come to Israel to volunteer and feel that they're doing their part in times like these. Our participants who are currently in Israel are showing amazing fortitude," Ben-Horin added.
The number of French Jews seeking to volunteer with Masa rose 6 percent. The number of British Masa applicants rose 5 percent, and the number of applicants from North America (4,623) was up by more than 500 compared to 2013.
Since the founding of Masa, some 86,000 young Diaspora Jews have come to Israel to take part in its programs. There are around 250 Masa programs, in the framework of which young Diaspora Jews ages 18 to 30 spend five months to a year in Israel. Masa participants' volunteer work involves education, helping at-risk youth, immigrant absorption and strengthening communities in Israel's periphery. Thousands of Masa participants have also worked in the technology sector, startup companies and government ministries.
According to the program, some 20 percent of Masa graduates eventually decide to immigrate to Israel.