Birthright Israel launched in 1999 as a non-profit foundation with the goal of enabling young adults to visit Israel at least once in their lifetime. To date, over 250,000 Jewish young adults from around the world have come to Israel under the Birthright Israel initiative.
Is it really free?
As hard as it may be to believe, the answer is YES! The trip includes a roundtrip flight to Israel from various departure cities in North America, overnight accommodations at three and four star hotels, plus one night under the stars at a Bedouin tent in the desert. It also includes two meals a day, and organized activities and touring. What do you pay for? You are expected to get to the departure city airport in North America on your own. You are also responsible for spending money for gifts, one meal a day, personal items, snacks and drinks. The registration process for the trip should take no more than 15-20 minutes. After you register, you will need to be interviewed by our staff.
Why is it free?
The Birthright Israel Foundation was created to give every young Jewish adult the chance to experience Israel at least one time in his or her life. As a licensed provider of Birthright Israel funded trips, YJ has no religious or political agenda. Our only goal is to ensure that your experience on the trip is both meaningful and always enjoyable.
Why choose YJ?
We believe that the YJ experience offers the perfect mix of education, fun and adventure. We have thousands of alumni from the United States and Canada who can tell you why our Birthright Israel trip is the best.
The trips are offered in two separate seasons. Winter trips are offered in December and January. Registration typically opens for winter trips in early September. Summer trips are offered in May, June, July, and August. Registration typically opens for summer trips in mid-February. Check out our winter departure dates here. Our summer dates will be release in January prior to summer registration. Registrations do not carry over from season to season, but returning applicants do receive priority status for future rounds if they are not selected.
How do I sign up or get more information?
If you are ready to register, please go to our Registration & Trip Dates page for full instructions. If you still have questions, we would be happy to walk you through the details and give you all of the information that you need to make a decision. Just email us or call 1-866-520-9993. We can’t wait for you embark on your journey with YJ Birthright Israel.
How are the groups organized?
Individual groups are typically made up of 40 participants plus staff. The staff on each group includes a licensed Israeli tour guide, two North American peer chaperones, an Israeli guard/medic, a driver, and other support staff. The hotels that we use during the program accommodate three participants to a room with three separate beds.
Where will the other participants come from?
One major advantage of the YJ experience is that participants generally come from all over the United States. In other words, in addition to having a fantastic experience in Israel, you will have the opportunity to bond with participants from all over the country with a diverse variety of backgrounds. Keep in mind, that in order to get onto a USA trip you must either be a temporary or a permanent resident of the USA. Some YJ trips are organized for specific campus groups (Ages 18-22) and community groups (Ages 22-26).
Can I go on the same trip as a friend?
Of course! After completing the registration process, you will have an opportunity to let us know with whom you would like to travel in Israel when you choose trip dates on the Personal Profile. We will be happy to accommodate you. Just keep in mind that since ticketing is done on a first-come basis, it is critical that you and your friends register, get interviewed, and submit the required paperwork all at the same time. Also, while we can try to make sure you are in the same group as a friend, we are not able to assign specific seats on the flight to/from Israel. Requesting seats can only be done at the airport on the day of departure (an additional reason to get to the airport early!)
Rules of the program
All Birthright Israel trips require participants to follow a few rules designed exclusively for your own safety:
No illegal drugs of any kind
No drunkenness or excessive alcohol consumption – please see the official alcohol policy below
No leaving the group*
No opting out of any group activities or programming
*Each trip will have one night that is designated as a “night out”. This is the main opportunity to explore on your own but within the boundaries the tour guide gives you. Otherwise, there will be some evenings when the group will go out as a group. But the general rule is that there is no leaving the group at any time during the program.
Birthright Israel’s alcohol policy
Participants will be removed from the program for improper use or possession of alcohol. There will be no tolerance for drunkenness or disorderly conduct.
Drinking is not permitted on the flight to Israel.
Drinking is never permitted during program time or while on the bus.
Drinking is not permitted in any hotel/guest house bedrooms.
Drinking is only permitted in locations that are authorized and designated for that purpose (e.g.: pubs, hotel bar, etc.) with the Trip Organizer’s full knowledge and consent.
Purchase of any form of alcohol for later use outside the designated place is not permitted.
It is forbidden to buy or to be in possession of bottles or multiple cans of alcoholic drinks of any kind, no matter where they are purchased (supermarkets, grocery stores, kiosks, duty free, or anywhere else).
Staff may not purchase alcohol for participants.
Participants may purchase a closed bottle of wine as a gift to bring home when visiting a winery with their group.
Purchasing alcohol in the hotel bar is only permitted if the Trip Organizer has personally approved such to the group’s educational staff.
In the evenings before the visit to Yad Vashem (for educational reasons) and strenuous activities such as the climb up Masada (for health reasons), alcohol consumption will not be allowed. Trip Organizers may add to this list at their discretion.
Outings to pubs and bars as a group activity are not permitted.
During ‘Leisure Nights,’ participants may go to a bar and pub and drink responsibly within the parameters of the Birthright regulations. They may not purchase or be in possession of bottles of alcohol.
Soldiers participating in the program as part of Mifgashim may not drink any alcoholic drinks due to general IDF instructions.
Staff is not permitted to drink during the course of the 10-day trip.
Failure to abide by the policy will result in immediate removal from the trip.
Participants will have to sign the following statement prior to their participation on the trip:
I agree to abide by this policy. Neither the Trip Organizer nor BRI is obligated to give me any “second chances” or warnings concerning my misconduct. I acknowledge that if I am removed from the trip I will be responsible for all expenses incurred from the date of my removal, including accommodations, as well as for the original cost of my airfare and of the return to my point of origin as well as forfeiting my deposit. Should I not embark on the return flight that was booked for me, that in addition to the above costs, the return portion of my flight will be deemed forfeited and I will be responsible for purchasing my own ticket home at my expense.
Religion & Kashrut
Is this trip intended for people who are religious?
Birthright Israel is only open to individuals who have never been to Israel on an organized peer trip. Therefore, it is natural that there will be many participants on the trip who are not religious or who may have only a very limited connection to their Jewish identity. YJ accommodates Jewish applicants of all backgrounds alike. Although we do not like labels, the trip itself is considered “non-denominational,” which is to say that everyone should feel welcome and there is no religious agenda whatsoever. We’ve planned these trips carefully, and we take great pride in knowing that participants from all Jewish backgrounds will feel comfortable while traveling with us. Past experience has also taught us that having a group made up of participants from diverse Jewish backgrounds makes the Birthright Israel experience that much more interesting and special.
Kashrut & special dietary needs
All group meals, including meals on the plane, are kosher as certified under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. There is usually one meal per day that you will purchase on your own (typically a light lunch), and you are perfectly free to eat whatever you wish. People with special dietary situations (i.e. lactose intolerance, vegetarian, etc.) should let us know in advance by completing your personal profile so that we can make proper arrangements for the flight and for the program itself.
Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest. It is a perfect time to reflect on the experiences that you have had so far, and to rest and recharge for the experiences ahead. During the trip, there will be a public observance of Shabbat. What this means is that no one on the program will force or encourage participants to violate the rules of Shabbat (or any other Jewish holidays that fall within the trip). There is also a great deal of scheduled free time during Shabbat and what you do with that time is totally up to you. Keep in mind that there will be participants on your trip of all Jewish backgrounds and we only ask that each person be respectful of everyone else’s individual level of religious observance.
Will I be safe?
We take stringent precautions regarding security matters, including planning our itineraries in daily coordination with the “situation room” administered by the Israeli Ministry of Education, Military, and Police. They issue specific guidelines as to where it is safe to travel and the best travel routes to use. The participants will be advised of security rules and regulations at a security orientation upon arrival, which include that, both individually and as a group, participants are prohibited from visiting the West Bank and Gaza, and from traveling on public buses. Our programs are designed to adapt to changing security concerns as the situation requires and therefore itineraries are subject to change.
Will I have any free time during the trip?
While the trip itinerary is quite intensive, we do set aside plenty of time for relaxation and personal exploration. That being said, because we take your safety and security so seriously, there will understandably be some limits on your free time, especially when we are touring in the larger cities. If you have family or friends who wish to visit you during the trip, they are most welcome to meet you at one of the hotels where we will be staying. We recommend that they visit either at night or on a Saturday morning/afternoon (which is basically down time on the trip). Otherwise, there is one truly free night on the trip, usually in Tel Aviv. Other than this one free night, unfortunately, you will not be able to leave the group during the program under any circumstances.
Is the winter season a good time to travel in Israel?
Yes. Israel has a moderate, Mediterranean climate. Winter weather is typically warm during the day, although evenings may be cool and it may rain. In the winter, we spend more time in the southern areas of Israel such as the Negev Desert and the Judean Desert to take advantage of warmer weather.
Is summer season a good time to travel in Israel?
Yes. Israel is sunny with long days and literally no chance of rain at all. Summer trips tend to spend more time in the northern Galilee region where it is cooler and less time in the southern desert areas. Summer trips almost always include outdoor activities such as rafting on the Jordan River and water hikes that are not possible in the winter. On the downside, it can sometimes be intensely hot in the summer!
Who staffs the trips?
Each individual group is comprised of one professional Israeli guide, two North American peer staffers, one or two medic/security escorts, and a bus driver. Our guides tend to be men and women in their late 20’s or 30s. We choose guides that are energetic and charismatic and understand how to connect with the group and share the beauty of Israel. Our peer staffers from North America tend to be in their 20s (usually one male and one female), and we choose them based on their prior experience in Israel and based on their leadership skills. The medics/security escorts are usually men and women who recently completed their service in the Israeli Defense Forces. They are on the group to help deal with any medical issues that come up and to make sure that we are always traveling in a safe environment. Finally, the bus driver usually provides the “color” for the group. There’s nothing quite like an Israeli bus driver. You will have to experience it for yourself!
Will I learn Hebrew on this trip?
While this trip is not about classroom learning, there will be plenty of opportunities to pick up a little Hebrew from the guide, from the medics, and from Israelis that you will meet on the street. Hebrew is a very colorful and vibrant language with especially rich slang.
No special vaccinations are required for travel to Israel. However we recommend that you come to Israel with an up to date Tetanus shot.
Israeli tap water is perfectly safe to drink. If you prefer bottled water, it is widely available and quite inexpensive. We recommend buying a bottle of water when you arrive and refilling it with tap water for the rest of the program, or just buying bottled water throughout the trip. It’s sold everywhere.