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MASHAV: History, Mission & Overview

MASHAV is the Israeli agency for International Development Cooperation and has been working to improve lives and living conditions across the developing world for more than fifty years. MASHAV also brings new and innovative Israeli technologies to countries who could benefit from improvements in agriculture, medicine and other fields.

- A Brief History
- Overview
- Guiding Principles
- MASHAV Activities
- Training Programs & More

A Brief History

The history of scientific research and technology in Israel is an integral part of the story of the Jewish people's return to its homeland. Theodor Herzl envisaged Israel not only as the physical home of the Jewish people, but also as a major spiritual and scientific center.

After achieving independence in 1948, scientific research and technological development were key factors in rebuilding the country to become a modern state. New and innovative technologies were developed to meet the challenges of a growing country with scarce natural resources, skills that Israel was eager to share with the newly independent countries of Africa and Asia.

From the earliest years of statehood, Israel's leaders were moved by a compelling desire to share the knowledge gained from Israel's own development experience. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, believed that "...the principles of mutual assistance and equality should also constitute the basis for international relations between people... [and] must be based on the solidarity of all human beings, derived from fraternity and mutual assistance in every sphere of life - the economic, social and scientific.. "

In 1956, Golda Meir, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, first visited Africa. Deeply moved by the challenges the young nations of Africa faced after achieving independence, she returned convinced that Israel must play a significant role in assisting these nations in their struggle with problems of health, education, malnutrition, low status of women, and the struggle for resources. Golda Meir's personal commitment to international cooperation led to the creation of MASHAV, a special Division for International Cooperation within Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


MASHAV, Israel’s official international development cooperation program, was launched in late 1957 with the aim of sharing with the rest of the developing world the know-how and technologies which provided the basis for Israel’s own rapid development.

MASHAV, the Hebrew acronym for Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, was established as a division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What started as a modest program focused on grassroots-level human capacity building at a time when Israel itself was still very much a developing country, has blossomed into an extensive program of cooperation throughout the developing world with the aim of ensuring social, economic and environmental sustainable development.

Since its establishment, MASHAV has trained close to 270,000 course participants from approximately 132 countries in Israel and abroad and has developed dozens of demonstration projects worldwide.

MASHAV has consistently made its priority the goal of poverty alleviation, provision of food security, empowerment of women and upgrade of basic health and education services. The formalization of these priorities in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has only caused us to redouble our longstanding efforts to put Israeli solutions at the service of developing countries in order to further their implementation.

Guiding Principles

MASHAV activities focus on areas in which Israel has a comparative advantage and accumulated expertise.  MASHAV believes that our greatest possible contribution to developing countries can be made in fields where Israel has relevant expertise accumulated during its own development experience as a young country facing similar challenges. The list of such fields is extensive, including: water resource management and irrigation, desert agriculture and combat of desertification, early childhood education, rural and community development, emergency and disaster medicine, public health, empowerment of women, and many others.

MASHAV’s focus is on human capacity building and training.  Our belief is that training of trainers and other capacity building activities is the best way to achieve maximum impact in development activity. Education and the transfer of skills and capacities lead to empowerment – the surest guarantee of sustainable growth.

 MASHAV operates according to international agreed standards and principles. Among them, aid effectiveness principles including: demand driven programs (as opposed to supply driven programs); country program ownership; alignment to national development programs; more coordination; and others. MASHAV adheres to the accepted international principles as stated, among others, in the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro; the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development; the Monterrey Consensus; the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness; the Accra Agenda for Action; and the Doha Conference on Financing for Development.

MASHAV believes in active consultation with local partners. For development cooperation to work, it is not enough assist developing countries acquire new technologies and methodologies which have had positive effect elsewhere. The solutions that may work in one culture or geographical area can be inappropriate or even harmful in another environment. Thus, we emphasize the importance of developing local solutions in partnership with local organizations, working jointly to create new ideas or adapt ideas to local needs rather than just blindly adopt them.

MASHAV’s approach to development states that every program must be comprehensive, inclusive and carried out in an integrative fashion.

MASHAV, as part of the implementation of aid effectiveness principles and in order to become more effective and result-oriented; has commenced a process of focusing on target countries by implementing and endorsing a more comprehensive and holistic approach to meeting all basic human needs.

MASHAV prefers small-scale activities aimed at “bottom-up”, community-driven development.  MASHAV endeavors to identify relevant micro-project activities that can serve as a catalyst for wider-scale development, targeting the grassroots in many of our activities.

MASHAV seeks cooperative projects with other development organizations.  As part of the efforts towards achieving the MDGs, the international community was called to create more partnerships. MASHAV is making a special effort in this direction and offers partnerships in subjects in which Israel has a comparative advantage to development agencies (governmental and non-governmental), international organizations and development banks. MASHAV’s experience with such joint projects, often on a cost-sharing basis, has been very positive, broadening the impact of the potential contribution and the efficacy of the projects undertaken.

MASHAV believes that development cooperation can and should be used to forge bonds of peaceful cooperation between Israel and its neighbors. Consequently, MASHAV implements bilateral and regional development cooperation programs with our neighbors and endeavors to be even more active throughout the Middle East, regardless of the political climate.

MASHAV's Activities

MASHAV began its cooperation program on a small scale, involving very few countries. In 1958, the overall number of trainees was 137, mostly from Asia (52%) and Africa (43%). In 1963, only five years later, the number of trainees participating in MASHAV training courses reached 1262, mainly in the fields of agriculture (27%), cooperation and labour studies (14%), and medicine and public health (6%). The majority of trainees came from Africa (54%), followed by Asia and the Mediterranean Basin (24%) and Latin America (13%). That same year, MASHAV experts were dispatched for the first time to host countries to conduct "on-the-spot" training courses; 21 courses were held in 10 countries with 393 participants.

Though many countries had severed diplomatic relations with Israel following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1200 trainees participated in MASHAV courses in Israel and another 1449 were trained in "on-the-spot" courses. In 1994 the number of trainees in Israel was 3214, while 4400 took part in "on-the-spot" courses overseas.

In 2005, MASHAV celebrated the arrival of its 100,000th trainee since its inception in 1958.

In 2010 MASHAV's activities included a wide spectrum of international partnerships and programs for development. A total of 2,459 professionals from 97 countries participated in 114 courses offered in Israel, while 3,979 took part in 76 on-the-spot courses (in host countries) offered in a total of 38 countries. MASHAV experts were dispatched throughout the world on 128 short-term consultancies and humanitarian medical missions to 42 countries, and eight long-term experts were serving on MASHAV demonstration projects around the world in a total of six countries. MASHAV hosted 17 professional delegations, and organized and participated in an impressive number of international conventions.

MASHAV's activities comprise:

    1. Courses in Israel: these include international courses, where trainees from various countries study in classes conducted in a common language; and national courses, devoted to trainees from the same country.
    2. On-the-Spot Courses: conducted at the request of the recipient country by MASHAV experts for local trainees. Training courses concentrate on traditional areas where Israel has acquired experience - agriculture and rural society, education, social development, public health, environmental and natural resource protection, and women in development.
    3. Short-Term Consultancies: a MASHAV expert is sent at the request of the host country to provide rapid, specific advisory services, assistance in program implementation, conduct a survey on a specific topic or back-up for MASHAV experts on long-term projects.
    4. Long-Term Consultancies: MASHAV experts are dispatched at the request of the host country to assist in the design, implementation, management or general assessment of pilot or development projects.
    5. Joint Research Programs: conducted under the auspices of MASHAV, in cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to support trilateral research programs designed to assist the developing world.

Training Programs

MASHAV's training programs cover a wide range of disciplines:

  • Adult Education Agriculture Agricultural Research Community Development Cooperative Development Educational Development Environmental Management Integrated Rural Regional Development Labour and Cooperative Studies Nature Protection Public Health and Medical Programs Science and Technology Women in the Development Process Workshops, tailor-made to meet community needs.
  • Training courses in Israel are conducted in various MASHAV-affiliated institutions throughout the country. Participants are graduate students, professionals, instructors, field workers, technicians as well as senior government personnel. Classes are small, affording individual attention to each student. Courses are designed to present concepts and ideas. No attempt is made to impose a specific model or solution. At the end of each course, participants are required to present a project they have prepared. Follow-up studies indicate that about one-third of these project proposals are eventually carried out in the participant's home country.
  • MASHAV's program is meant to reach a diverse population whose educational background and work experience cover a wide spectrum. This enables them to apply skills learned to the training of others. Teachers, farmers, engineers, community workers, regional planners, physicians and nutritionists are but a small sample of participants in these programs. While levels of formal and informal education and experience vary, MASHAV tries to custom-make its courses to address the concerns of each student.


The largest scope of MASHAV's activity is in the field of agricultural development, focusing on adapting new technologies to eliminate the hunger and poverty affecting millions of people in developing countries. Israel lies at the junction of three continents - Europe, Asia and Africa. Its wide variety of climate zones and topographical areas concentrated in a relatively small geographical space create a scientific and human resources center suitable for research and applied science. Each MASHAV participant in Israel can readily study conditions appropriate to the agronomy of his or her country of origin.

In most of the medical-oriented areas of study, emphasis is placed on ophthalmology, epidemiology and fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A new aspect of the MASHAV program in Israel is the training of nurses and auxilliary staff in operating theatres. The role and importance of community health in the public sphere are emphasized in all training courses.

As part of its "on-the-spot" courses, MASHAV sends medical personnel to train local professionals and assist in the establishment, organization and training required for the implementation and maintenance of modern health services in rural and urban locations. Problems arising from the inadequacy of healthcare in developing countries continue to be of great global concern. MASHAV courses in this field are conducted both in Israel and in "on-the-spot" courses.


MASHAV's outreach to communities and nations lasts well beyond formal training. Through its network of Shalom Clubs, MASHAV provides a forum for trainees to keep in touch and build firm ties of friendship and cooperation. Likewise, participants maintain long-term professional contacts with the MASHAV training centers in which they studied.

Follow-up is also encouraged and maintained through SHALOM, a magazine published in English, Spanish, and French languages for MASHAV alumni, offering information about Israel's cultural, scientific and technological achievements. It also provides an appropriate medium for the communication and exchange of new ideas and supplies a suitable platform for a fruitful interchange of knowledge.

Sources: MASHAV Website