April 9, 2024
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EL AL Brings Volunteers and Hugs to Israel

(Courtesy of El AL) When the devastating news of October 7 reached the US, the response was immediate. But it wasn’t just reserve soldiers and ex-patriot Israelis boarding EL AL’s planes. For thousands of Diaspora Jews, prayers and donations were simply not enough–they had to come to Israel in person to show their love and solidarity.

“When the war in Israel started, I tried to help from afar, but at some point, I felt like I needed to be closer,” said Eidan Jacob, a Masa Israel Journey volunteer from New York. “I wanted the soldiers of the IDF to know that the Jewish communities love and support them, and want them to be safe and victorious.”

Jacob is one of thousands of Israel supporters who have come to Israel to volunteer. Starting with a mission by Taglit – Birthright Israel alumni in late October and continuing with “Operation Hug” and Masa Israel fellowships, EL AL has partnered with a variety of organizations to bring helping hands to the Jewish state.

Birthright Israel was the first to initiate a remarkable effort, recruiting alumni aged 20-40 as volunteers for agricultural and logistical support. In collaboration with the Shalom Corps platform at Mosaic United, over 1,000 volunteers have already arrived in Israel to assist in the war effort, with 1,000 more joining by April. EL AL, as a strategic partner of Birthright, supports the volunteer program by subsidizing ticket costs, contributing to this international mission.

Volunteers engage in various tasks, from working in the fields of Israeli farmers affected by the war to assisting in donation centers, sorting, packing and distributing supplies for evacuated residents and military units. This initiative not only provides practical support but also fosters a connection between young volunteers and the Israeli community. Evenings are dedicated to interactions with Israeli peers and hearing first hand stories from the war, allowing volunteers to share these experiences upon returning home.

“EL AL continues to maintain the only airlift to Israel from many countries,” said Shlomi Zafrany, VP of commercial and industrial affairs at EL AL. “We will continue to transport essential cargo, fly the families of hostages, and bring volunteers from all over the world to Israel, and we will continue to contribute to national needs as they arise.”

Like Birthright, Masa Israel Journey is committed to bringing young Jewish adults to have transformative experiences in Israel. Founded by the Jewish Agency and government of Israel in 2004, Masa boasts more than 200,000 alumni worldwide and attracts approximately 12,000 fellows each year. When war began, Masa was inundated with inquiries from young Jewish adults eager to come to Israel to volunteer.

Masa CEO Ofer Gutman said, “Ever since October 7, we at Masa, like all Israelis and Jews around the world, have been looking for opportunities to help Israel in the fight for its existence. … That is why we decided to create this program that is tailor-made for them and for Israel.” EL AL partnered with Masa to subsidize and coordinate flights for the new initiative “Masa Volunteers.”

Masa Volunteers is a six-week program that includes volunteering, leadership and advocacy training. Fellows participate in cooking for soldiers, packaging food, assisting evacuees and teaching displaced children. They engage in agricultural work in the south, contribute in education and logistics, and provide aid at centers around the Dead Sea or in Eilat.

Beyond their hands-on efforts, fellows participate in leadership seminars and have the opportunity to meet with local leaders, including city officials and activists, including advocacy training with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As essential as volunteers are, sometimes a hug from a mother or father is needed even more. In a show of support for young men and women who have made aliyah on their own and are serving in the IDF, and their parents, EL AL, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish National Fund-USA and Friends of the IDF (FIDF) joined forces last fall to launch Operation Hug. So far this initiative has provided roundtrip airline tickets to 950 parents of lone soldiers from 46 different countries.

EL AL is honored to be part of this initiative, alleviating some of the stress and worry faced by lone soldiers and their families, while demonstrating solidarity with the national effort.

Zafrany reinforces EL AL’s unwavering commitment as the flag carrier of Israel, actively facilitating Operation Hug arrivals amidst the ongoing conflict. As a vital part of this mission, “EL AL proudly collaborates with Nefesh B’Nefesh, facilitating the journey of lone soldiers’ families to Israel—an impactful initiative fostering morale and national resilience.”

As part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh initiative, the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, the Ministry of Health and the Jewish Agency, nearly 200 Jewish doctors from North America have also come to volunteer their expertise and have interspersed themselves in the various medical institutions, in order to help the Israeli health system during the war.

The State of Israel is incredibly grateful to Jews around the world for their love and support. But nothing demonstrates a true commitment to the Jewish state like those who choose to become citizens at this extraordinary time. Since the beginning of the war, 164 families have made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh’s program. Thanks to EL AL, 926 new olim boarded one-way flights to land in their new home.

To learn more about the Taglit – Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey volunteer missions, or Operation Hug, visit:

https://www.birthrightisrael.com/volunteer-in-israel

Volunteer in Israel 6 Weeks

https://www.masaisrael.org/volunteer-israel/

 

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