Ninety students and twenty-somethings from Seattle or Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at the University of Washington will tour Israel, are participating in Birthright Israel trips this June.
This Birthright trip will be the first free10-day trip for the constituents of Hillel at the University of Washington because previous trips conflicted with the University of Washington academic schedule. Since a summer trip was added to the Birthright Israel schedule, these students and young adults can now experience Israeli life while they learn about the culture. Throughout this trip, participants will visit well-known destinations such as the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the artist colony of Tsfat and modern Tel Aviv. They will also swim in the Dead Sea, hike up Masada, participate in an archeological dig and ride camels.
Birthright Israel sends thousand of Jews ages 18–26 on a free trip to Israel. The 90 people from the University of Washington and geshercity-jconnect Seattle will be among approximately 2,500 participating this spring. The Birthright Israel gift is funded by individual philanthropists who believe, as their Web site says, “in promoting Jewish peoplehood and Jewish renaissance with no strings attached.” This program gives these young adults the chance to explore their Jewish identity in Israel.
There are many different reasons why these individuals want to go to Israel. Most have never been to Israel, and if they have visited the country, none of them have ever had a peer-group experience. As David Lukas, a University of Washington student, explained, “It’s the perfect opportunity… even not having been [to Israel], I feel a cultural and spiritual connection to [this country] as a nexus of Jewish religion and tradition.”
Beyond the religious and cultural ties, some are just interested to see this country that is so often featured in the media. Eileen Klafter explains, “It will kill a lot of the misconceptions that I have about what is going on there and I can share this with other people.”
Although there has been some concern given the recent violence in Israel, almost all of the participants from the University of Washington and geshercity-jconnect Seattle are enthusiastic and confident about the trip. As Hillel Assistant Director Renée Cohen, who is staffing the student trip, explains, “I feel confident that Birthright Israel and Hillel are taking the appropriate precautions.” Itineraries have been altered, so that Hillel and Birthright Israel have, according to their Web site, “the utmost confidence in the whereabouts and well-being of the participants.” For example, there are now evening programs such as a late night pool party and evening performances scheduled in place of unstructured free time.
The Hillel Foundation at the University of Washington and geshercity-jconnect Seattle hope to offer Birthright Israel trips again in 2002. For more information on future Birthright Israel trips, contact Renée Cohen at 206-524-5436.