WHILE Jews around the world proclaimed “next year in Jerusalem” at Passover seders last week, despite COVID-19 travel restrictions it was a case of “next week in Jerusalem” for 18 young Australian Jews.
Relief and excitement summed up the mood at Sydney and Melbourne airports on Tuesday evening as the teenagers became the first in 2021 to be able to finally depart for their postponed Israel gap year programs.
Although non-citizens of Israel have been barred from entering the Jewish State for several months, participants on all Masa Israel Journey-affiliated programs of four to 12 months’ duration recently got the green light from the Israeli government to receive special entry permits from April 5.
The very next evening, the 18 recent high school graduates flew from Australia to Ben Gurion Airport to start year-long programs – 15 with Bnei Akiva’s Shnat program, and three on OHRSOM Gap Year.
And they’re finally off!!! ????✈️????????All smiles farewelling our 2021 Shnatties from Perth, Melbourne and Sydney! Nesiah Tova ????@Israel it sure has been a minute ???? take care of them! #Bneistrong #makeusproud
Melburnian Amir Meyerowitz, who is embarking on the Bnei Akiva Limmud program, told The AJN just before his flight, “There is so much to look forward to – especially meeting kids from around the world and spending quality time in Israel.”
Sydneysider and 2020 Moriah College graduate Shuly Grauman, who is doing the nine-month OHRSOM program based mainly in Jerusalem, told The AJN, “I’m so excited now, because I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, and I was originally meant to fly to Israel on February 2.
“So it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride, but the experiences ahead in Israel – particularly the volunteering and internship components – will be worth the wait.”
Zionist Federation of Australia’s (ZFA) Israel programs director Sarit Braver said, “Our office has been buzzing the whole week, with Masa fellows able to fly to Israel again to start their gap, study, volunteer and exclusive career development programs.
“It was great to see this first group depart, and like all Masa fellows, they will be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
“Others to fly to Israel later this month include those going on yeshivah and seminary Jewish learning programs, and some aged 19 to 30 who are commencing internship, study or volunteering programs that were meant to start earlier.
“Netzer will start their Israel trips again this July, and we’re hopeful more programs will start in August.
“So, what was thought to be unfathomable a few months ago, will now be happening!”
Masa is a collaboration between the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and the Israeli government, administered in Australia by the ZFA.
ZFA president Jeremy Leibler told The AJN, “This ‘permission to fly’ demonstrates the value the Israeli government and the wider Jewish global community places on Israel experience programs. We cannot underestimate the significance of our Australian youth flying out to Israel this week on various Masa programs – and receiving their Pfizer vaccination upon arrival – just in time for Yom Ha’atzmaut.”
As the young Australians took off for Tel Aviv, Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority announced on Tuesday that foreigners who are vaccinated or recovered COVID patients, who have first-degree relatives in Israel, will be able to enter the country to visit them, together with their partners and children.
Israeli citizens or permanent residents and their families whose “centre of life” is abroad will also be allowed to come to Israel to visit first-degree relatives.
Foreigners seeking to enter Israel must submit a formal request to the Population and Immigration Authority and receive approval prior to their flight.
They must also show proof of vaccination or recovery and proof of relation to those they are visiting.
Travellers must get tested within 72 hours of coming to Israel.
With some specific exceptions, foreigners have been barred from entering Israel since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Earlier this year Israelis’ entry was also highly restricted, as the government ordered the almost complete closure of Ben Gurion Airport, citing concerns of vaccine-resistant coronavirus variants entering the country.
For more information about Masa Israel Journey, call (03) 9272 5584 or email email@example.com.