Young couples find love in Israel on the Masa program – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on August 12, 2020

Each year, thousands of young adults from countries across the globe come to Israel through programs like Masa, founded by the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel. Coming to teach, study and take part in a variety of programs for two to 10 months, many come hoping to get closer to the Jewish state. Some come to soak in culture and see the world, while others seek personal and professional growth. Many leave with experiences and memories to last a lifetime and for some lucky people, this isn't just memories and souvenirs, but many find love during these trips.Mark and Lauren Gilbert are one such couple. The two came from different places and background Lauren from a small town in Colorado from a family with Jewish and Christian parents, and Mark from California with an active background in Jewish youth groups. They joined Masa's Aardvark Israel program eight years ago at the age of 18.During their time in Israel, the two lived in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, volunteered, interned and learned about Zionism and the Jewish state. But most importantly, they found each other.Eight years later, the couple are married, and live together with their nine-month-old baby in Colorado.This program changed my life, Lauren said in a statement. I built my family thanks to my life in Israel. After the program, we went together to university and then continued to travel the world. Our experience in Israel made me leave my comfort zone and challenged my way of thinking and everything I knew beforehand, and Im very happy with the place that Im at today. My experience in Israel gave me the opportunity to grow, learn and develop, and [Lauren] is the person that stood by me along the journey and decisions of my personal and professional life, Mark added.Another couple, David and Kylie Klein, had a similar experience. Meeting during their Masa trip in 2011, the two met in the program's Faceook group. Before their program was over, Kylie bought tickets to meet David in California after spending just 10 days at home. They've been together ever since, living in San Francisco with their two-year-old son.And this trend is continuing. Mathias and Andrea Albos, both originally from Argentina, met only two years ago, falling in love on the first day of their Masa program while working together at an Eilat hotel. The couple married last year in their home country, and have even decided to make aliyah.Masa, and other similar heritage trip programs such as Taglit Birthright, are important pillars of Israel and the Zionist mission. They serve a major role both ideologically and economically, with the programs bringing in 80,000 Jewish teenagers and young adults every year, as well asan annual revenue of approximately $300 million.Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many such trips were canceled when travel restrictions were put in place in March. However, thousands of Masa fellows chose to remain in Israel when the borders were closed, and others were allowed into the country in June.Masa is adapting, however, having even started a new program for young professionals titled Masa Remote Israel to allow them to move to Tel Aviv for four months while continuing their current jobs at home, as well as participating in special social and educational programs scheduled to accommodate their jobs.As the program, and society in general, continue to adapt, more love stories from Masa's participants are sure to follow.Zachary Keyser and Marcy Oster/JTA contributed to this report.

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Young couples find love in Israel on the Masa program - The Jerusalem Post

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