Some 5,000 to 6,000 American students participate in Israel gap year programs, Avi Rubel, North American Director of MASA, estimates, which is 1,000 more than last year, and he expects the number to climb. In previous years, Rubel explained, Orthodox yeshiva students were the dominant majority among participants. However, the trend is changing, with the largest number yet of non-Orthodox kids enrolling this year, he said.
MASA, Hebrew for journey, started funding students who qualified on a need-basis in 2004-05, subsidizing more than 100 approved five- to 10-month Israel programs that assist 18- to 30-year-olds in building a solid connection to Israel. This year, MASA is helping to send 7,000 young adults worldwide to Israel, with hopes of sending 20,000 a year by decade's end.