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Birthright resuming trips to Israel for vaccinated or recovered US Jews from May

The organization, which canceled its visits for over a year due to COVID-19, says it expects hundreds of tour groups over the next few months

Illustrative: Taglit Birthright participants visit at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 18, 2014 (Flash90)
Illustrative: Taglit Birthright participants visit at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 18, 2014 (Flash90)

After a yearlong hiatus, Birthright Israel will resume its trips to the Holy Land, the organization announced Tuesday.

Starting in May, vaccinated or recovered participants from the United States will be able to travel to Israel to participate in a 10-day tour. Birthright discontinued its trips in March 2020 due to COVID-19.

The free 10-day trip takes participants throughout the country — from the stone streets of Jerusalem and the beaches of Tel Aviv to the ancient plateaus of Masada and the Golan Heights.

Gidi Mark, CEO of Birthright Israel. (Erez Uzir / Courtesy of Birthright Israel-Taglit)

“With the input of Israel’s Health Ministry, we’re confident that we’ve developed the best plan to safely and efficiently resume our trips, which play such a critical part in strengthening the Jewish identity of hundreds of thousands of young people around the world,” Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark said in a statement.

“The last year has been hard, but we never lost hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Now, the wait is over, and it is time to come back to Israel on Birthright Israel,” Mark added.

Participants will be required to present a negative PCR test before they fly and undergo a serological test upon arrival in Israel, which tests for antibodies. They will also be asked to maintain social distancing and mask-wearing measures in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines.

Groups will be limited to 20 participants, half the size of Birthright groups pre-pandemic.

Participants in the Birthright Israel trip. (courtesy)

“When the first Birthright Israel groups took off in December of 1999, we could never have imagined all of the incredible milestones we would hit in just 20 years,” said Charles Bronfman, co-founder of Birthright Israel.

“The pandemic has been heartbreaking for all of us. Needless to say, the pause in our program was so sad, but I’m thrilled to know that our participants will soon be back in Israel. The magic continues,” he said.

Birthright Excel participants at the opening of their 2019 program, which is taking place virtually in 2020 due to the coronavirus (Courtesy Birthright)

While the trips to Israel were in hiatus due to COVD, Birthright organizations offered several virtual alternatives, such as Birthright Excel, a 10-week internship program delivered via Zoom last summer, the organization said.

Birthright Israel announced that over 400 tour groups are planned for July, August and October. It also expects dozens of trips to take place in May and June.

Before COVID-19 stopped Birthright’s operations, the organization provided tours for over 750,000 young Jewish Adults hailing from 68 countries. To be eligible, participants must have at least one Jewish parent or have converted to Judaism, and be between the ages of 18 and 32.

Last summer, it was estimated that the cancellation of Jewish heritage trips — including Birthright — would cost Israel’s economy $200 million. According to the organization, Birthright Israel trips have contributed approximately $1.825 billion to the Israeli economy in the past two decades.

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