In sign of pandemic’s waning, first Birthright trip in a year lands in Israel

Dozens of trips for vaccinated participants are planned for the coming months

Participants in the first post-COVID Birthright Israel trip, after landing in Israel after a year-long hiatus for the organization, on May 24, 2021. (Erez Uzir/Courtesy)
Participants in the first post-COVID Birthright Israel trip, after landing in Israel after a year-long hiatus for the organization, on May 24, 2021. (Erez Uzir/Courtesy)

In a sign of the ebbing of the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel, a Birthright group landed in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon, for the first time in a year.

The participants are all vaccinated college students from the United States, Birthright Israel said.

They will take part in the organization’s signature 10-day educational tour of Israel offered to all college-age Jews by the foundation.

“Dozens of trips are expected during May and June, with many more tour groups planned for July, August, and October,” the organization said in a statement.

“I am extremely excited that we are renewing the connection between the young Diaspora” and Israel, the group’s CEO Gidi Mark said.

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

“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 and connect them with the State of Israel,” Mark said.

“Following the rise of antisemitism over the past weeks, this is now more important than ever before,” he added.

In 2019, Birthright brought over 44,000 young Jewish adults to visit Israel. It has seen some 750,000 participants since its founding in 1999.

Israel has made dramatic gains in stamping out the virus through its vaccination campaign, driving down the number of daily cases (based on a weekly average), from 8,600 at the peak of the health crisis to just 26 on Sunday. At the height of the pandemic, there were 88,000 active cases in the country and 1,228 serious cases; as of Monday, there were 514 active infections and 59 people in serious condition.

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

On Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that from June 1, the ministry will lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions on gatherings, and will no longer limit entry to certain venues only to the vaccinated, following the near-vanquishing of COVID-19 in the country as a result of its successful vaccine drive.

According to the ministry, over 5.1 million Israelis received both doses of the vaccine and 92% of Israelis over 50 are fully vaccinated.

The morbidity rates in the country have remained low despite the reopening of most of the economy and of the school system.

Israel is gearing up to begin vaccinations of children ages 12-15, who currently are not qualified to get the shots.

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