Taglit-Birthright Israel trip – at last

August 17, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Two and a half years have passed since the last time a group from Australia went on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic halted trips in 2020, but thankfully the Zionist Federation of Australia was recently able to send 56 participants and 4 staff members on a 10-day trip of a lifetime to Israel. These buses were run in partnership with AUJS. This marked the beginning of a very busy year for Taglit-Birthright Israel trips from Australia, with plans underway to send over 300 young adults by the start of 2023.

Taglit-Birthright Israel is a gift from the Jewish world to its young generation, an opportunity to visit Israel on an educational trip, with a group of young Jews from all around Australia. Every trip includes flights, accommodation, two meals per day, admissions, transportation, tours and so much more.

The trip is made possible thanks to the support of the State of Israel, worldwide Jewish communities and individual donors. The ZFA acknowledges the generous support of our Principal Supporter,  Gandel Foundation, who has supported Birthright for 10 years. We also acknowledge the  Alter Family Foundation for their generous support.

The Jewish Educational Journey included Tzfat, Tel Aviv, Kotel, Yad Vashem, Masada, kayaking in the Jordan River, the Be’er Sheva Anzac Memorial Center, a cruise on the Kineret, a Bedouin experience, and much more. It was a jam-packed adventure which is the perfect way to experience Israel for the very first time!

Birthright Israel seeks to ensure a vibrant future for the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and connection with Israel via a trip to Israel for the majority of Jewish young adults from around the world.

One of the most meaningful components of the educational journey was the Mifgash, the encounter between overseas participants and young Israelis- primarily IDF soldiers or officers – who joined each group. The deep bonds formed were among the highlights of the participant’s experience and often last years.

Interestingly, 27.5% of the participants of the recent group had never celebrated Shabbat before, making the Shabbat spent in Jerusalem a special and meaningful experience. Seventy-one percent of participants did not attend a Jewish high school. However, the most remarkable ceremony for the group was when 40% of young participants had Bar/Bat Mitzvah during their visit to Jerusalem. An experience such as that could not be replicated in any other situation or in any other place!

The feedback from the participants goes a very long way in understanding just what an impact this 10-day trip has had on their lives. William, aged 25 from Victoria said, “It [the trip] meant the start of re-engaging with my family’s Jewish background and discovery of my Jewish identity for the first time. I feel significantly more connected and informed and am now proud to identify as a Jew.”

Meanwhile, Stacy, aged 24 from NSW added, “The history and explanations were so valuable and enabled me to enrich my experience. The Israelis helped me get an authentic experience and understand what it was like to grow up in Israel… Having not travelled to Israel before, the experience gave me a wholistic understanding of why this country is loved by so many people”.

Jodi and Troy, aged 26 and 24, are siblings from New Zealand. Of the experience Jodi said, “I realise there is no right or wrong way to be Jewish. Even though I’m very secular, there are still so many ways to connect to my Jewish identity. It’s been amazing being part of a Jewish community for the first time and hearing everyone’s perspectives.”

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip is a life-changing program, and the proof is in the responses from our participants, all of whom have returned with a much deeper connection to Israel and an eagerness to engage with the Jewish community in a more meaningful way. We are, as always, grateful to our Australian donors for continuing to support and understand the importance of these trips.”

Taglit-Birthright Director in Austalia Sebastian Inwentarz said, ““The past two and a half years have been very challenging for young people and now more than ever they have an urgent need for meaningful experiences that are not only personalised but also provide a sense of belonging and real-life connections. That is why the Participant is the Heart of Birthright Israel. Their needs and interests are the starting point of our educational work, and throughout the trip we aim to engage them in meaningful dialogues as they connect with other young Jewish people from all around Australia who become their friends.

Throughout the trip, each participant becomes the captain of their own Jewish Journey and we motivate the group as a whole to engage with Jewish concepts, values and rituals, as well as associations with the Australian Jewish communities and with Israel.”

Perhaps Ronnie, aged 26 from NSW but it best when he simply said, “This trip helped me reconnect with my Jewish heritage which was missing in my life. I feel like I can go home and reintroduce certain traditions into my home.”

-The next trips, Israeli Winter 2023, will take place in January 2023 and we’ll be working in partnership with UIA, WIZO and ARZA. Registrations will open on 5 September. Link https://int.birthrightisrael.com/

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