World’s largest educational tourism organization restarting 10-day programs in Israel for vaccinated U.S. participants.
(Courtesy of Birthright Israel) Birthright Israel, the largest educational tourism organization in the world, announced that the first trips to Israel following a COVID-19 pause will resume in May 2021. The last trip prior to the COVID shutdown concluded on March 13, 2020.
Birthright Israel will resume providing the gift of educational trips to Israel for eligible individuals aged 18-32 from the United States who are vaccinated or recovered. Dozens of trips are expected in May and June, and more than 400 tour groups are planned for July, August and October. The decision to allow entry for tour groups was made by the Israeli government in the wake of a successful nationwide vaccination campaign that has already reached more than 85% of eligible Israelis.
“Two values we’ve always prioritized are our impeccable safety record and our commitment to innovation in ways that meet the needs of our participants and the demands of our changing world,” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark. “With the input of Israel’s Health Ministry, we’re confident that we’ve developed the best plan to safely and efficiently resume our trips, which play such a critical part in strengthening the Jewish identity of hundreds of thousands of young people around the world. The last year has been hard, but we never lost hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Now, the wait is over and it is time to come back to Israel on Birthright Israel.”
“When the first Birthright Israel groups took off in December of 1999, we could never have imagined all of the incredible milestones we would hit in just 20 years,” said Charles Bronfman, co-founder of Birthright Israel. “The pandemic has been heartbreaking for all of us. Needless to say, the pause in our program was so sad, but I’m thrilled to know that our participants will soon be back in Israel. The magic continues.”
In order to attend a Birthright Israel trip, all fully vaccinated or recovered participants will be required to provide a negative PCR test before boarding a flight to Israel, and take an antibody test upon their arrival at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport. Additional regulations, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and/or adherence to social distancing policies, will be based on government guidelines. Additionally, Birthright Israel will work to secure the proper testing required by the CDC for reentry into the United States. Each tour group this season will be made up of approximately 20 participants, compared to the pre-pandemic number of 40.
Despite almost all trips being canceled for more than a year, research performed by Leonard Saxe, PhD, who serves as director of Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, found this past fall that enthusiasm for Birthright Israel remained high. The survey, which polled individuals who had signed up to attend a future Birthright Israel trip, found about half of respondents reported that going on Birthright Israel was “very much a priority” once it was safe to do. The survey also found that attending a Birthright Israel trip was a higher priority than participating in domestic travel or general international travel.
“To each and every donor who has supported us over the past year and over the past 20 years, we extend our deepest and most heartfelt gratitude,” said Thomas Stern, chairman of the board of the Birthright Israel Foundation. “The health and strength of our organization is the result of their generosity as well as the tireless work of our dedicated staff.”
“We open the next chapter of Birthright Israel’s story ready to continue carrying out the mission that our founders laid before us—to give every young Jewish adult around the world the opportunity to visit Israel on an educational trip,” said Izzy Tapoohi, president and CEO of Birthright Israel Foundation.
The return of Birthright Israel programming marks the end of the only cancellations in the organization’s 20-year history. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Birthright Israel had provided trips for more than 750,000 young Jewish adults from 68 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization hosted 45,777 participants. That number was topped only by the 48,000 participants it brought in 2018. Over the course of its two-decade existence, Birthright Israel trips have also contributed an estimated $1.825 billion to the Israeli economy.
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For more information, visit our COVID-19 response page: https://www.birthrightisrael.com/faq.