In an era where Jewish heritage, Zionism and idealism are widely perceived as things of the past, Israeli Roots Odyssey takes decisive action to reverse the trend. By investing in the country’s youth, a growing portion of our future generation are reconnecting and bonding to the idealism on which the State was founded. By going through a powerful and emotional educational experience, relating to both the personal and national lives, the participants discover and reconnect to what is in essence, already theirs – their sense of identity with and belonging to the land and State of Israel and the Jewish people.
As the number of participants in the Israeli Roots Odyssey (known in Hebrew as a Masa) continues to increase, and more and more schools, educators, students and army personnel take part in the program, there is a cumulative effect and a profound influence on these future leaders of Israel, an influence which manifests itself during their army service, their later education and careers and influences their families as well.
While some 100,000 Israeli 11th graders and IDF soldiers in command courses have already participated in the program, tens of thousands more would like to but cannot due to a lack of funding. Due to its success, the Mibereshit Foundation recently won a tender from the Ministry of Education to continue and expand the program. The Ministry now desires to expand it well beyond 11th graders, to include 10th and 12th graders as well as to additional sectors of the Israeli population.
Currently only 27% of 11th graders can participate due to funding issues. The Ministry of Education pays for approximately 30% of the costs of the Masa, the student’s family pays 25% and the rest comes from donated funds. The goal of not only increasing the numbers of 11th graders that participate but to expand the program to additional grades and population sectors as desired by the Ministry of Education, is both a tremendous opportunity and huge responsibility.
While there is almost universal agreement as to the importance of similar programs for Diaspora Jewry, such as Birthright and the Jewish Agency’s Masa, the need for enhancing the sense of belonging of Israeli youth is no less important and no less urgent. In fact, the ramifications of a generation of future Israelis who fail to understand why they are here, how their history goes back to way before the founding of the State and how they are connected to their fellow Jews, are very dangerous indeed when this generation is called on to fight for the country.
Is it a dream to have all of our youth have such a life-changing experience? Perhaps, but it is one in which we fervently believe and are already working at. To fully succeed, we need your support.
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