Israel leads the path to the post-pandemic future

Given the progress made on the vaccine front, there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future through Israel.

A STUDENT receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Amal High School in Beersheba last week. (photo credit: FLASH90)
A STUDENT receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Amal High School in Beersheba last week.
(photo credit: FLASH90)
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began roughly one year ago, there is a renewed sense of shared hope. The arrival and administration of the vaccine worldwide have many of us envisioning a future where we can experience the world to its fullest in person and not exclusively through a computer screen.
One country leading the global effort to get us to that point is Israel, the nation where I grew up and that I am proud to call home. In recent weeks, there’s been cause for celebration here as Israel has quickly become the world’s leader in per capita vaccination rates; more than half of adult Israelis have received one dose, and more than a third have received a second. Israel has also made plans to transfer additional vaccines to various countries around the world.
Given the progress made on this front, there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future through Israel.
First, Israel’s management of the COVID-19 crisis is a motivating sign and indicates that a return to normalcy is imminent. Most adult Israelis are now vaccinated. Eligibility has also been extended to some teenagers, migrants and even foreigners, like those participating in programs such as Masa Israel Journey.
Earlier this month, I was thrilled to accompany Masa fellows as they received their first dose of the vaccine, an effort organized with the Israeli government and supported by The Jewish Agency for Israel. Now vaccinated, these young people can continue making contributions more safely to Israel and the global community wherever they work, volunteer or study.
Key metrics also demonstrate that among young people there’s a growing interest in coming to Israel. A recent survey of 1,000 young Jews from North America by Marketing Research Professionals indicated that 70% are more interested in long-term programs in Israel because of how it has handled the pandemic. As a result, we expect to see more young Jews coming to Israel over the next several months and throughout the next year.
Israel’s prospects for the future aren’t the only reason I am hopeful.
I am also optimistic because of the growing impact that specific programs in Israel have on those who decide to come here. Throughout the pandemic, colleges remained closed for in-person classes, the job market tightened, and many activities went remote. Consequently, young people from all over have sought alternative pathways to experience the world. Many of them landed in Israel and have come to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities here when their options were otherwise limited.
Masa Israel Journey – the largest immersive, long-term Israel experience provider for adults ages 18-30 – has played an integral role in facilitating this trend. Since September, we have seen more than 7,500 new Masa fellows arrive in Israel, with thousands more expected through the summer. Overall, participation increased 10% year over year, while the number of North Americans coming to Israel on a gap year has seen a 60% boost. Moreover, registrations for Masa career programs, which match college students and university graduates with top internships, jumped 33% year over year, with North American participation in these programs surging 85%.
These upward trending metrics cannot distract from the fact that the battle against COVID-19 isn’t over. There is no doubt that we still have work to do to move the country and eventually the entire world beyond the crisis, with even more people vaccinated so we can return to life as we once knew it.
However, I am hopeful that in Israel, the brighter future everyone has been waiting for is closer than ever to becoming a reality. Israel – a leader in the global response to and fight against COVID-19p – promises to open new doors and become a top destination for young people searching for meaning and personal growth.
Personally, I can’t wait to welcome them.
The writer is the acting CEO of Masa Israel Journey.