A new Israeli government initiative could effectively double the number of Taglit-Birthright participants traveling to Israel within a few years.
The initiative, drawn up in the past year by the Prime Minister’s Office with the assistance of the Jewish Agency and Jewish leaders, will be announced in Jerusalem at a conference scheduled for October. It aims to further strengthen ties between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.
In an interview with Haaretz, Jewish Agency Director-General Alan Hoffmann said the new initiative reflected the government’s wish to step up Israel’s involvement in the Jewish world. The plan, he said, was based on four key components: Expanding Israeli presence on university campuses abroad; increasing the number of Israeli educators in Jewish institutions abroad; increasing the number of young immigrants in professions deemed required for the Israeli economy; and increasing participation of young Jewish adults in Israel experience programs.
Hoffman said he hopes that the new initiative would help to eliminate the long waiting lists to come to Israel on Birthright. Since the program was launched 13 years ago, it has brought roughly 350,000 young Jews from around the world to Israel on free, 10-day trips. In recent years, the number of participants has plateaued at about 40,000 a year and not grown beyond that because of budgetary constraints. For the 21,000 spots available on its summer 2013 trips, for example, Birthright received 32,872 applications. For the 20,033 spots it had available on its summer 2012 trip, it received 37,319 applications.
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