Gidi Mark
Gidi Mark
CEO, Taglit-Birthright Israel

Birthright Israel is Almost Back: It Will Be Worth the Wait

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Birthright Tour, Summer 2019

Let’s talk about some things that we know you don’t really want.

We know you don’t want to talk about Covid-19 anymore. We know you don’t want to obsess about social distancing or “masking up” or try to remember how many times you’ve washed your hands today. We know you don’t want to spend another summer cooped up, away from your family, your friends, your community.

So for now, let’s forget those things and instead talk about some things that you do want.

We know you want to travel. We know you want to sit in a restaurant and enjoy a meal with a good friend. We know you want to see a live concert, meet new people and visit exciting places. You want to shop and dance and enjoy this world — enjoy your life!

How do we know these things, you ask? Well, to start, we know that if you are reading this, you are eager to return to normal, fun and exciting life likely human. And for so many of us humans this last year has been difficult, to say the least, and we are all generally looking for some hope and some joy. But beyond that fact, we know that you want these things because the experts asked and what they found was incredible.

According to a recent study performed by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, we have learned that people cannot wait to return to Israel on Birthright Israel trips.

The study, overseen by Leonard Saxe, PhD, found that a majority of our current Birthright Israel applicants — the number of which is currently resting at nearly 80,000 from NA alone– report that going on Birthright is “very much a priority.” A significantly larger percentage said that attending a Birthright Israel trip is actually a higher priority for them than participating in any other type of travel. While this enthusiasm all sounds great, you may still think that returning to Israel on Birthright is a pipe dream — something that is still far away.

You would be surprised!

A majority of respondents to the survey said that they are highly motivated to get vaccinated and come on a Birthright Israel trip. Our recent data shows that 68% of applicants that answered the new covid-19 section on their application, are either fully vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated.

This is incredibly exciting news and a development that could not come at a better time. While the vaccination statistics are encouraging, the suffering that young diaspora Jews are feeling is troubling and very real. Young respondents have expressed a clear hunger for social connection. Among current undergraduate’s college students who replied, most have said that they are studying primarily online. Many respondents replied that they feel starved of social interaction and more than 1 in 4 expressed that they frequently feel lonely.

For those of you who are feeling this pain — hold on. We are so close. We are so very close.

We at Birthright Israel share all of the desires we discussed above with you. For too long we have missed the sights of young Jews gazing upon Israel for the first (or second, or third!) time. For more than a year we have gone without the sounds of laughter and joyous song of thousands of participants, many of whom met as strangers and who leave as close friends. For what seems like an eternity we’ve gone without the smell of a delicious Shabbat meal, or a campfire on an Israeli night.

Soon enough, we will enjoy all of these senses once again. In Israel, daily life is approaching something of a pre-pandemic normality with leading vaccination rates worldwide. We are just about to turn the corner. With your help — with everyone’s help — we will continue seeing positivity rates decline, and vaccination rates increase globally as well.

We’ll soon stop asking ourselves:

“How many times have I washed my hands today?”

And begin asking ourselves:

“Which Birthright Israel trip should I choose?”

We’re right here, waiting for you!

About the Author
Gidi Mark is CEO of Taglit Birthright Israel and has been with the organization since 1998. Prior to this he served in Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in embassies and consulates in Istanbul, Bonn and New York.
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