Young people who thought they’d missed their chance at a Birthright Israel experience are getting a second kick at the can.
Birthright Israel announced last December that a new program aimed at people aged 27 to 32 will be launched in 2018. Canada Israel Experience (CIE), which organizes Birthright Israel trips from Canada, will see its first trip depart on June 27. Applicants can sign up at israelforfree.com.
Altogether, 40 young adults will be making the flight to Israel, a far cry from the 2,000 who, on average, have visited the Jewish state from Canada through the program each of the last few years.
“The itinerary will be similar to our relatively new, seven-day program for the last two years, with certain adaptations for this age group, including more free time and content that is suitable for young professionals,” said Noam Arbel, program director of CIE, an arm of Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA.
Participants will visit the Golan, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv, along with some young Israelis, who will spend the entire week with the Canadian visitors, Arbel said.
Like the Birthright Israel trip enjoyed by those aged 18 to 26, the new trip is designed to enhance participants’ Jewish identity and “connect with their roots, communities and Israel, precisely at the time they are making important life decisions,” Arbel said.
Similar-aged cohorts from other countries will be visiting Israel at the same time as the Canadian group, he added.
The idea behind the expansion is to continue to appeal to wider segments of the Jewish community, Arbel continued. Over the years, Birthright Israel has expanded its programming to appeal to a variety of niche markets, including LGBTQ participants, whose visit coincides with Israel’s Pride parade, a “recharge body and soul program” aimed at those seeking a spiritual experience, extreme activities for those looking for something a little more physically demanding and a Birthright Plus program, in which participants extend their stay and focus on areas that appeal to them, such as environmental sustainability, he said.
“The objectives and projected benefits of the program are in line with Birthright Israel’s mission to give every Jewish young adult from around the world – especially the unaffiliated – the opportunity to visit Israel on an educational trip,” Arbel said.
As for the older group, Arbel said that, “Young adults of the 21st century tend to postpone important life decisions. And, even more so, postpone acting upon them. Studies have shown that these life decisions include elements such as marriage at a later age and the way in which they raise children – two elements that are constantly being researched on behalf of Birthright Israel, in order to assess impact of the program on Jewish communities.”
“We want to reach out to those who didn’t get a chance to participate in Brithright Israel and who are still interested, or to reach those who may wish they’d have gone earlier and are now considering their Jewish identity,” Arbel stated.
Birthright Israel – which is funded by the government of Israel, private philanthropists and community organizations – enjoyed its most successful year in its 18-year history in 2017, with nearly 48,000 participants from around the world taking part in the program. Since 1999, more than 600,000 young adults from 67 countries have taken advantage of the trip, which is offered free of charge to those aged 18 to 26.