Birthright Trips to Israel Back On

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After a year of Covid interruptions, young Jewish adults can once again travel to Israel for free.
The Birthright Israel Foundation will again provide the gift of an educational trip to Israel beginning in May of 2022.
The country has since reached almost 90% vaccination of eligible Israelis, thus permitting the return of tour groups. Requirements for the trip now include full vaccination. Negative PCR tests are mandatory before boarding flights as well, and an antibody test is taken upon arrival in the Ben Gurion Airport.
Birthright is the chance for young Jewish adults to travel to Israel for free to educate themselves on their heritage. It occurs throughout the year but had been delayed or cancelled for the past two years due to Covid restrictions, according to Haaretz, a popular Israeli news site.
The program is cutting the tour group sizes in half from 40 to 20. The organization works closely with Israel’s Ministry of Health to maintain safety.
Emily Wesoky, a student at Wagner College in Staten Island, went to Israel in 2020, and experienced numerous health protocols that weren’t in place for her previous trips in 2018 and 2019.
“The only way you could re-enter or enter was with permission and excessive screening from the Ministry of Health, or if you were a born and raised Israeli citizen with proof of a negative Covid test,” Wesoky said.
“The Ministry of Health wouldn’t even let us enter the country without a Visa or permission from the government to be there,” she added.
Pre-pandemic, a majority of the cultural experience took place in crowded areas, including an event in a large stadium where the thousands of young Jewish adults on Birthright gathered and represented the country they traveled from.
Future Birthright trips will not experience these same densely-populated interactions, which Wesoky believes will ultimately take away from the overall experience.
Julia Wise, Williston class of 2016, went on her Birthright trip in 2017. She spoke about the transformative nature of the experience.
“The trip takes place throughout Israel, from hiking Mt. Masada to praying at the Western Wall, and floating in the Dead Sea,” she said. “The trip is designed to orient Jewish people with their heritage and is also an attempt to root more Jewish adults into the land by making Aliyah.”
Aliyah, a central tenet of Zionism, refers to Jews’ immigration to Israel.