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Birthright Israel celebrates 18 years of changing young lives

An overwhelming 6,000 participants and 1,500 Israeli soldiers join in an event in Jerusalem marking one of the great success stories of Jewish education and Israel-Diaspora relations.

Thousands of young Jews attend Birthright mega event. Credit: Yossi Gamzo Latuba.
Thousands of young Jews attend Birthright mega event. Credit: Yossi Gamzo Latuba.

The numbers speak for themselves.

Gathered at the 18th-year mega-event held at Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem on June 27 were approximately 6,000 participants from countries all over the word, in addition to 1,500 soldiers from various units of the Israel Defense Forces. The event was the largest one in the history of the project, which started back in 1999.

In a recorded greeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Birthright Israel is a life-changing experience for so many. Young men and women see the miracle of Israel for the first time often and firsthand. They take pride in our democracy and our land of opportunity, and become active participants in the greatest story ever told: the rebirth of the Jewish people.”

He continued, saying, “I thank all the participants and supporters around the world. I look forward to another 18 years and beyond of Birthright Israel’s great success. Mazal tov … congratulations!”

Hatikvah 6 and the 2018 Eurovision song-contest winner Netta Barzilai performed for the oversized crowd.

The event included greetings from leading philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson, who attended with her husband, supporter Sheldon Adelson; and Birthright Israel co-founder Charles Bronfman. Also featured was an awards ceremony for IDF units excelling in promoting the activity of the program within the military.

This summer season, Birthright Israel also marks another significant milestone: the arrival of 33,000 visiting participants from 33 countries.

Gidi Mark, CEO of Birthright Israel, thanked all who have contributed to the program, which was founded with the aim of strengthening identity among young Jews worldwide, enhancing their ties to their home Jewish communities and solidify their association with Israel.

He especially noted the IDF soldiers not present at the event “because they are busy defending the State of Israel.”

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