Coming to Israel for the first time is now becoming more environmentally friendly. Not only does Taglit-Birthright still offer a free 10-day trip for Jewish 18 to 26 year olds, but now each trip incorporates at least one environmental awareness aspect, and some newer tracks are even environmentally centered.
Taglit Birthright Israel first started in 1999 as a way to bring young Diaspora Jews to Israel for the first time. Generous and passionate Zionist donors have made large contributions to fund an amazing 10-day adventure, completely free of charge for participants.
Since the program’s inception, more than 200,000 participants from 52 countries have come on the program to experience Israel and examine their Jewish identity.
Taglit Birthright providers have made a solid effort to promote environmentalism by incorporate hiking in Israel’s north and south and education about issues of water shortage and sustainable agricultural on all of the trips.
Birthright is now taking the next step by bringing groups to solar and wind power centers, recycling plastic bottles, and finding ways to use the tour bus less.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has partnered with Birthright to offer a trip centered on environmental advocacy. In addition to visiting the Kotel, Masada, Rabin Square and some of the other major landmarks in Israel, this Birthright track incorporates urban environmental service work and education, and also includes an extensive outdoors focus.
Israel By Bike was created by Avi Green, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from Chicago. This new program still incorporates touring Israel’s main sites, but the transportation is done on a bicycle. What better way is there to see Israel for the first time, then bicycling through the land with 40 students? Additionally, the group learns about Israel’s environmental condition and participates in other outdoor activities like repelling and hiking.
Other Birthright groups that don’t have Eco in their title are boasting greener methods of running the program. Providers like Mayanot, have made the registration process paperless, and have incorporated recycling bottles, planting trees, and Israeli site cleanups into their action packed trip.
Having recently staffed a trip for the provider Young Judaea, environmental awareness was not an issue strongly addressed at the beginning of the program, but the trip actually made a solid effort to be eco friendly. The group limited use of the tour bus by walking whenever possible; participants were challenged by 3 hikes filled with environmental education; and there was a tour of the Israeli solar power company Solel’s test site in Sde Boker.
Bringing Jewish young adults to Israel for the first time for free is amazing on many levels. The program has developed a reputation for introducing participants to their future spouses, and has even inspired Aliyah.
With the important “isms” that Taglit Birthright promotes, such as Zionism and Judaism, it is great to see the evolving focus on environmentalism.