Diaspora interns flourishing in Israel despite coronavirus crisis

Along with yeshiva and university and other educational programs, the Israel Experience branch of the Jewish Agency recently brought 20 young people from around the Jewish world to Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin is seen visiting the Jewish Agency-run Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin is seen visiting the Jewish Agency-run Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
Along with yeshiva, university and other educational programs, The Israel Experience, which is the educational branch of the Jewish Agency, recently brought 20 young people from around the Jewish world to Israel to participate in its Aviv-up internship program, a joint project with Masa Israel, funded by Onward and is set about to bring, beginning this week, about 3000 new participants from all over the world to educational programs.
Two of those who came for the program are Tom Hayoun from France and Shana Partouche from Canada, who have spent the last six weeks working in Israel, gaining experience, skills, and a flavor for the country.
Hayoun, 24, was working in Paris in a full time job, but had for a long time thought about moving to Israel.
Earlier this year he decided the time was now, so quit his job, and signed up for the internship program where he found a position with a sustainable eco company which finds uses for discarded wooden transport palettes.
Hayoun and the others on the program arrive on July 1 and entered quarantine for the mandatory 14-day period, after which they were able to take up their positions.
He is now working in the company’s digital marketing department, developing its business strategy, formulating partnerships and thinking about new ways to take the company forward.
“I wanted to come to Israel for a long time, learn Hebrew, discover the culture, the language and the people, and the internship has really helped me do that,” said Hayoun.
He is now intent on making aliyah (immigrate to Israel), although will not do so immediately and will return to France for a short period before coming back next year.
Partouche, 21, from Montreal although originally from Paris, is currently studying for her bachelors degree in psychology at McGill University, and was supposed to be participating in an internship program in Canada. But when it got canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, she was left at loose ends with nothing to do for the summer.
When she stumbled across an advertisement for the Masa Internship Program however she quickly decided that it could be a great replacement for her canceled plans, and by July 1 she was already in Israel, working in a Zoology laboratory at Tel Aviv University.
“The internship is really good experience to put on my résumé, people always are interested in anything happening in Israel, and doing an internship shows you are open-minded and curious about the world,” she said.
Both Partouche and Hayoun lamented, however, that the coronavirus crisis has limited their opportunities to have the full experience of living in the Jewish state, since many activities have been severely restricted due to the public health crisis.
Social activities and large events have been seriously curtailed, something which disappointed Hayoun and Partouche since when they signed up for the program, COVID-19 cases in Israel were very low.
Nevertheless, both said that the current circumstances only made them more eager to return at a different time and get the full experience.