Thursday, January 6, 2011
Taglit-Birthright Israel (also Birthright Israel or Birthright) is a Jewish Israeli registered charity that sponsors free 10-day heritage trips to Israel. Birthright Israel's goals are to diminish the division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world and to strengthen participants' personal Jewish identity and connection to Jewish history and culture. As of spring 2009, over 200,000 individuals (over 22,000 each year), from 52 different countries have participated since the trips began in the winter of 2000, and 70% of trip participants came from the United States, including celebrities such as Jamie Lynn Sigler. From 2007, annual capacity was increased to 37,000 participants a year.
Trips are generally ten days long, and often include a so-called Mega Event, which involves speeches by dignitaries, ambassadors, musical performances, and the coming together of all participants currently in Israel, from all trip organizers. Another feature of the tours is a 5-10 day mifgash (encounter), with Israeli peers, especially soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces who join the touring. The purpose for the mifgash is for the participants and the soldiers to get to know each other and to better understand each other's world view and identity. One component of the mifgash is a discussion session, which aims to explore such topics as, What does it mean to be Jewish in a modern world? How does Jewish life in Israel differ from Jewish life abroad? What do Israeli Jewish young people have in common with their Diaspora peers, and what sets them apart? How does mandatory military service impact Israeli young people's perceptions of service and commitment to their country?, amongst others. This encounter with the soldiers aims to give participants the chance to get to know Israel through the eyes of Israelis approximately the same age. Over 30,000 Israelis (including IDF soldiers) have taken part in the program since 2000.
The itineraries include visits to historical, religious and cultural heritage sites around the country, including in Jerusalem, the Negev, and the Dead Sea. Required sites include the Western Wall. Most trips also include Tel Aviv and the Galilee. The trips are not meant to be an exhaustive tour of Israel but a primer or introduction. The program participants are encouraged to extend their stay in Israel or return again on their own.
Registration for an upcoming trip