Options for Taglit-Birthright Israel
February 11, 2007 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Taglit-BirthrightIsraelFilter: who's got info/buzz about the different trip organizers? I see 11 non-denominational, generic-looking trips ... does it matter which I choose? Random personal anecdotes welcome.

I'm interested in a spring trip through Taglit-Birthright Israel, and I see all these options. I'm interested in a diverse/"normal" group where a secular Jew will fit in ... but most of the options listed seem to fit this. I'm interested in going with people from my area (NYC), but I don't see this option anywhere.

Mostly, I have no idea how people choose these things, what the big/popular ones are, and what to expect from the different options. Is there any difference between the various organizers in terms of the types of people? Does anyone have stories or unfounded impressions (those are helpful too)? Does it matter at all which I choose?
posted by geremiah to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Aish is a scary, reasonably right-wing group that will try as hard as possible to convince you to stay in Israel (not that there's anything wrong with that). I say this from the position of someone who has a close friend and a family member brought into the orthodox movement initially by Aish.

I can't speak to the motivations of the other groups, but I'm sure people can tell you about Hillel at the very least.
posted by luriete at 12:08 AM on February 12, 2007


I'll have a longer answer later, but before I get to that, are you a college student?
posted by andoatnp at 12:23 AM on February 12, 2007


Sorry that this is sort of unhelpful but I don't have specifics. All I now is tread carefully-- a friend of mine has gone on both Birthright and Birthright alumni trips. The second time she had intensely Zionist leaders and portions of the trip were spent listening to pro-Israel rhetoric.
posted by sneakin at 3:13 AM on February 12, 2007


Wow. OK, apparently it does matter which I choose ... the couple people I know said their groups were not pushy/propaganda-y at all.

@andoatnp: I'm not in college, I'm 25. I'd prefer to be with older people, and would also prefer to go on an NYC-specific trip, but I only see a couple organizers that mention these options in the descriptions. And I'll take chilling out on the Zionism over these things.
posted by geremiah at 5:53 AM on February 12, 2007


I don't know about many of these but...

Aish - Yes, aggressively Jewish / observant. Your trip leader may well rock payes and tzitzit. They're all about bringing the lost children home to the book.

USD/Hagshama - This will be ardently and unapologetically Zionist in its agenda and their leadership will match. I guess this is unsurprising from the "World Zionist Organization"

SPINI - This is the "National Park" arm of the Israeli Government. They're the analogs to our staff at Yosemite and stuff (but they don't wear those funny hats). I worked for them in Israel for a little while. They're more interested in the land of Israel and the land of Israel if you know what I mean. But yes, probably Zionist as well.

My recommendation is to look for the ones that offer a 20s trip and go with that. I think that this is more important than anything else -- the difference between the college trips and the young adult trips is going to be a) better discussions and b) less prowling for hookups (though, you know Jews....).
posted by zpousman at 6:46 AM on February 12, 2007


IsraelExperts is the biggest organizer, and I just went on a tour with them. They're pretty secular (some on my trip had never been to a synagogue) so you'll fit right in. My biggest beef with them was that they were super-tight on security, which meant that we weren't allowed to leave the hotel at night to go anywhere, and so rarely saw the actual cities, rather than historical site after historical site.

Other than that, they were good, and I'd recommend them.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:21 AM on February 12, 2007


I went on a "community" Shorashim trip a few weeks ago. People were 22-26. Their defining characteristic is that you have Israeli's on the trip with you, which was actually a huge plus.

Most people were pretty secular, though there were some hardcore jews. We played a silly game where we stood in particular areas based on how we felt about a specific issue (are you an american jew or a jewish american? Or just an atheist who wanted a free trip like me?).

Olmert spoke at the (horrible) "Mega-Event", and sort of gave the hard-sell about how we should all move there, but other than that, people were pretty reasonable and non-preachy. Try and avoid the "Mega-Event".
posted by zazerr at 9:16 AM on February 12, 2007


geremiah: I happen to work at Hillel in St. Louis, and we run our own trips, and are pretty knowledgable about the other trips that are out there. I'm friends with someone at the NYU Hillel who could get in touch with you to find out what exactly you want out of a trip and let you know which ones would be best for you.

Can you send me an email at andy@stlouishillel.org and I'll put you in touch with someone local to help you find out the best trip for you?
posted by andoatnp at 12:49 PM on February 12, 2007


I went on the Hillel trip and had a great time. The mega-event was rather silly, but kind of cool if for no other reason than hearing that many people sing Hatikvah is an interesting experience. I wasn't in school when I went and was a bit older (23) than the average, but my group was a good mix of ages/observance/locales.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:42 PM on February 12, 2007


I went with Israel Experts in 2002 and enjoyed it very much. It was very secular, and the tour provided many points of view about various historical events/sites, and I'd say that our guide even had a bit of disdain for the so-called "ultra" orthodox.

I was 26 at the time and most of the crowd on my bus had already graduated college. There was a LA contingent in our group (they joined part way thru the trip) and a DC contingent but I think most were from the NYC area.

But I'll second kingjoeschmoe's comment about the security. Though I assumed this to be true of *all* the organizers.
posted by scottso17 at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2007


I have to third the recommendations for Israel Experts. I just went on the 22+ trip with them (got back last week) and had an amazing time. Our guide was amazing and really left wing (which I appreciated, and we saw an extreme amount of stuff for only 10 days. The 22+ thing was great too, and a good percentage of the people on the trip were from NYC as well. If you want to see photos, I've started posting them on my flickr page.

as for security, yeah it was annoying but hey, its a free trip! I definitely reccomend you extend your stay and explore on your own for at least a few days to get more of a feel for the country without an armed guard and 40 other people.
posted by cloudless at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2007


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