Taglit-Birthright 10th Anniversary: Over a quarter million Jews have visited Israel

Photo: Roni Efrat, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

Birthright has announced that there has been a substantial increase in participants, compared to last year. About 17,000 Birthright alumni are now living in Israel.

Date: 16/05/2010, 8:12 PM     Author: Jonatan Urich

This week, Taglit-Birthright Israel celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Since the beginning of the year, 10,300 participants visited Israel and the number is expected to reach 31,000 participants by the end of the year. It has been announced that there has been a significant increase of participants this year compared with the summer session in 2009, which only had 10,500 participants. Since its foundation in 2000, over a quarter of a million Jewish youth from more than fifty countries have participated in the Birthright program. About 17,000 Birthright alumni are now living in Israel.

In the framework of the project young Jewish adults come to Israel on an educational tour of ten days – for free. During the visit they meet with residents, political leaders, communal leaders and high-tech entrepreneurs. In addition, IDF (Zahal) soldiers accompany the trips and interact with the Diaspora Jews. To date, 40,000 soldiers have taken part in Taglit-Birthright tours.

“We are celebrating 10 years of the Birthright project, and even though we have succeeded in including over 250,000 young Jews in this initiative, to date, the situation of Judaism in the Diaspora is not so good,” Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, said. “Most young Jews have still not visited [Israel], and this is a problem we are striving to correct.”

“We set a goal for ourselves that within the next 7-10 years, half of Jewish youth living in the Diaspora will visit Israel through our program. They will become alumni who will represent the foremost strategic asset of the State of Israel. The number of participants in the summer season of our 10th year is testimony to our ability to achieve our goals. We are increasing fund-raising around the world in order to meet the great demand and to enable short-listed participants to come to Israel and be exposed to the true reality of Israel, and then take it back home with them,” Mark said.

According to a study recently published in the U.S., the Taglit-Birthright experience has a long-term impact on the Diaspora Jews and succeeded in reinforcing Jewish identity, strengthening ties to Israel, and increasing pro-Israel activism on college campuses across the U.S. It is acknowledged that Taglit is the most effective way to fight against worrying trend of distancing among young Jews from their Jewish communities and Israel.

“Taglit-birthright Israel serves as the main bridge between Jewish youth and the State of Israel and it is Taglit-birthright Israel’s goal to deepen the relationship between Israeli society and the Jewish world,” Ada Spitzer, marketing VP for Taglit-Birthright, said. “The quarter of a million Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni and their home communities play a strategic role ensuring a strong connection between Israel and world Jewry.”