The first Birthright Israel group landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday, marking the resumption of activity following a yearlong pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The participants—vaccinated students from the United States—arrived for a 10-day educational tour, visiting such places as the Golan Heights, Safed, Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv.
Dozens of more trips are expected in June with even more tour groups planned for July, August and October.
“I am extremely excited that we are renewing the connection between the young Diaspora and the State of Israel,” says CEO of Birthright, Gidi Mark. “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. Following the rise of anti-Semitism over the past weeks, this is now more important than ever before.”
He added that “we have thousands of young Jewish adults who have signed up for our trips.”
As the organization announced last month, in order to attend a Birthright Israel trip, all fully vaccinated or recovered participants with one vaccine dose will be required to provide a negative PCR test before boarding a flight to Israel, as well as take an antibody test upon their arrival in Israel. Additionally, Birthright Israel will work to secure the proper testing required by the CDC for re-entry into the United States.
This season’s tour groups will be made up of about 20 participants, compared to the pre-pandemic number of 40.
The return of Birthright Israel programming marks the end of the only cancellations in the organization’s 20-year history. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Birthright Israel had provided trips for more than 750,000 young Jewish adults from 68 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization hosted 45,777 participants. That number was topped only by the 48,000 participants it brought in 2018.
Over the course of its two-decade existence, Birthright Israel trips have also contributed an estimated $1.8 billion to the Israeli economy.