OpinionJewish Diaspora

Birthright Israel: Now more than ever

The trip forges visceral, lasting connections to Israel’s land, people and heritage that cannot be replicated through education alone.

Birthright Israel participants pose for a picture. Credit: Courtesy of Birthright Israel.
Birthright Israel participants pose for a picture. Credit: Courtesy of Birthright Israel.
Gidi Mark. Photo by Dedi Elias.
Gidi Mark
Gidi Mark is the international CEO of Birthright Israel.

After Oct. 7, Taglit Birthright Israel’s status as a focal point for Israel-Diaspora relations became indisputably evident. The data below confirms Birthright Israel’s historical place not only for Israel but for global Jewish resilience and the existence of a thriving Jewish community in the future.

A strong and proud young Jewish generation serves as the backbone of Israel’s resilience and continuity in the face of its myriad challenges. These young adults represent the vitality and dynamism of the Jewish people, embodying the enduring spirit that has allowed Israel to thrive against all odds.

In an era marked by rising tides of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, anti-Israel and eroding connections between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel, Birthright Israel has emerged as a critical force strengthening the enduring bonds that unite our global community. The latest data we gathered from our participants from the summer of 2023 resoundingly affirms Birthright’s unparalleled impact in igniting profound emotional connections, activism and solidarity with Israel that transcend Jewish backgrounds and political boundaries.

The dramatic increase in participants feeling “very much” connected to Israel after their Birthright experience soared from 29% pre-trip to more than doubling itself to 59% post-trip, starkly contrasting the substantially smaller increase among non-participants. The increase in connection to Israel among Birthright participants was four times the increase among non-participants. Remarkably, this heightened attachment cuts across the entire political spectrum, with massive surges among liberals (who more than doubled, from 23% to 50%); moderates (from 37% to 63%); and conservatives (a leap from 40% to 76%) alike in the aftermath of their immersive journeys.

Moreover, Birthright cultivates a wellspring of empowered, engaged young adults who actively support Israel. While 71% of our participants were never involved in Israel activism pre-trip, just 33% of alumni remained uninvolved following their transformative experiences, with nearly a third becoming frequently involved in Israel activism. This vibrant alumni base translates directly into tangible support with Birthright participants far outpacing their non-participant peers in taking pro-Israel actions, media engagement and prioritizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially after the war that started in October 2023. We can see that while just above half of the non-participants “very much support Israel,” nearly two-thirds of our 2023 alumni very much support Israel.

The numbers unambiguously attest to Birthright’s unique capacity to forge visceral, lasting connections to Israel’s land, people and heritage that simply cannot be replicated through education alone. By walking the paths of our ancestors, engaging with Israeli peers and bearing witness to the resilient vitality of the Jewish homeland, the experience opens hearts and minds to the profound, unbreakable covenants that bind our global Jewish family.

We can see this impact in the thousands of alumni who have come to volunteer in Israel as part of our new program. The program started as a response to the cry of need in Israel, and our alumni work in agriculture, packing goods for those in need, cooking for soldiers and rebuilding homes that were damaged in the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas in southern Israel.

Facing the challenges and threats to the Jewish people, Zionism and Israel are more crucial than ever. Strengthening the bond between Jews worldwide and Israel is paramount, providing them with tools to fortify their resilience. The recent conflict underscored the importance of Jewish unity and broad international support for Israel’s defense and right to exist. It is clear, more than ever before, that Israel must continue receiving strong backing from Jews worldwide to bolster its standing on the global stage.

The transformative impact of bridging our global Jewish community transcends political ideologies, emerging as a modern renaissance of Jewish pride, identity and belonging. We all recognize the importance of engaging young Jewish minds, instilling deep faith in themselves, their Jewish identity and the State of Israel. This ensures that our children and grandchildren will continue to stand proudly and, if needed, fight for Israel’s future and the equal rights of the Jewish people everywhere.

The Jewish world, as much as possible, should be very proud of these achievements on their behalf and for them, and recognize the necessity of standing behind and supporting this vital project.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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