A delegation of 13 representatives from leading universities and study abroad programs in the United States arrived in Israel for a weeklong visit, geared toward developing new study abroad collaborations with Israeli institutions.Masa Israel Journey, a partnership between the Jewish Agency and the government, organized the visit along with the Foreign Ministry.While in Israel, the delegation, comprised of deans and study abroad directors, will visit the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the University of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University, and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, meeting with top administrators and international student coordinators.Allyson Freedman contributed to this report.“Our goal in organizing this delegation is to significantly expand the number of students spending a semester or a year at Israel’s leading academic institutions.This initiative will strengthen the students’ connections to Israel while bolstering Israeli academia and the Israeli economy,” said Liran Avisar Ben Horin, Masa’s chief executive officer.The delegation includes representatives from Brandeis University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Princeton University, Stanford University, Tulane University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and Yale University, as well as the director of education abroad programs for the Institute for International Education (IIE).“We organized this group to create new avenues for study abroad,” J. Scott Van Der Meid, assistant dean of academic services and director of study abroad at Brandeis University and co- leader of the delegation, told The Jerusalem Post.“Israel has so many possibilities for students unseen in other countries. It is such a vibrant country; however, many of these opportunities have flown under the radar. By bringing this delegation to Israel and highlighting all the different opportunities, universities can see the myriad of options here and decide what program works best for their prospective schools,” he said. In addition to visiting higher learning institutions, the officials will also tour several hi-tech and innovation hubs and will visit Masa programs including a social justice volunteering and internship program in Tel Aviv, an Arabic program at the Givat Haviva center for Arab-Jewish coexistence, and internship programs at the Peres Center for Peace, the Foreign Ministry and Hadassah Medical Center.“Technology is a huge motivation behind studying abroad in Israel. They are the ‘Start-up Nation.’ I believe that there is a value to studying in such a technologically advanced society. They are constantly thinking outside of the box.After spending just two days here, I can see there is a wealth of knowledge our students can take from a semester or year here,” said Craig Rinker, director of Overseas Studies at Georgetown University.The trip will conclude with a summit aimed at developing ideas for new study abroad programs in Israel in partnership with Israeli institutions.“America’s top universities are looking to strengthen their connections to Israel beyond anything that has existed until now, and this remarkable initiative by Masa Israel Journey will translate that desire into new programs and new opportunities,” stated Nathan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency.According to the IIE’s 2013 Open Doors data, 283,332 US students studied abroad during the 2011-2012 academic year. Of those who went abroad, 3,189 chose to study in Israel, placing the country 18th in IIE’s ranking of top study abroad destinations.“We at the Jewish Agency have made bringing young people to Israel a cornerstone of our activities, and we look forward to welcoming ever more American students to experience everything that Israel has to offer,” added Sharansky. Masa, which recently celebrated its 10th year and its 86,000th participant, provides 5-10 month experiences ranging from academic studies and professional internships to Jewish study programs and athletic training institutes.According to an agency press release, a record 11,000 young people participated in more than 200 Masa programs this year.