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JEWISH AGENCY emissaries Aviad Sela (far right) and Hagai Dagan (holding the baby) pose for a photograph after a meeting of shlichim in Cape Town last year.(Photo by: JAFI)
Jewish Agency says Masa internship crisis resolved
Sharansky: 2017-2018 program year is now proceeding according to plan.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky informed board members last week that a solution has been reached to a disagreement with the government over Masa’s Israel Experience programs.

“We are very pleased to inform you that all the applicants for Masa Israel Journey will be able to come as originally planned,” Sharansky wrote in a letter sent out before the weekend.

Masa has brought thousands of Diaspora Jews to Israel every year since its founding in 2004 by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency, in a bid to strengthen the connections of Diaspora Jews to Jewish life and the State of Israel. Some 120,000 Diaspora Jews aged 18 to 30 have participated in Masa programs.

Last month, it emerged that due to an alleged conflict of interest between the Jewish Agency and the Israel Experience company, some 340 participants who were registered to come to Israel for internships this year had been told this would no longer be possible.

Makor Rishon reported then that legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office Shlomit Barnea Fargo had asked to stop transferring funds to Masa due to a “conflict of interests.”

An agreement between the government and the Jewish Agency states that Israel Experience, a subsidiary company of the Jewish Agency, will not supply services to more than 20% of the program’s participants as it is ultimately transferring money internally. This meant that the Israel Experience quota was dependent on the recruitment of other Masa service providers, putting the participation of some 740 people into question.

But Jewish Agency spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the 20% limitation has been waived for this year, and the set quota would be reviewed for next year in a way that it could be reasonably calculated.

Some 10% of those 340 participants who had already been called by Israel Experience to notify them of the situation were lost to the program, having made alternative plans while the relevant parties worked to come to an agreement.

Sharansky’s letter to the board on Thursday said: “Upon Government Secretary Tzachi Braverman’s assuming the Masa portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office in early January, we now have a partner who grasps fully the important ramifications of Masa and the extent to which the situation in which we found ourselves was unreasonable and requires an immediate solution. Accountant General Rony Hizkiyahu, too, proved committed to resolving the issue.

“Last week, the Masa Steering Committee convened and declared its support for Masa’s continued growth; and that the Government of Israel remains deeply committed to its partnership with the Jewish Agency in realizing this important national mission,” the letter continued. “In the spirit of that determination, it was further decided that all of the Masa participants whose arrival was called into question will be able to come as planned. Israel Experience has been advised accordingly, and the 2017-2018 program year is now proceeding according to plan.”
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