We hope you find that there is a lot of good information below. Take a few minutes and get the information and details you need!
Questions & Answers
If you are ready to register, please go to our How to Apply page for full instructions. If you still have questions, we will be more than happy to walk you through the details and give you all of the information that you need to make a smart decision. Just email us or call 202-370-4026. We look forward to hearing from you!
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. 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. They also tend to be professionals in the Reform Jewish Movement. The medics/security escorts are usually men and women that 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’ll have to see it for yourself.
Not very. Here are some very important limitations to keep in mind:
- You must depart for Israel with the group from the scheduled gateway airport
- You cannot meet the group in Israel, even if you are already in Europe at the time
- If you fail to extend your ticket until after the group flight departs Israel, your ticket will be void
- You can not pay extra for a stopover or to change your return flight destination
- It is not possible to get frequent flier miles for your ticket given the nature of the ticket fare rules
Sorry if any of these limitations are bad news for you. Please take our word that it is impossible to get around them!
Yes. Israel is sunny, with long days, and virtually zero chance of rain. Summer trips tend to spend more time in the northern Galilee region and less time in the southern desert. Summer trips almost always include outdoors activities such as rafting on the Jordan River and water hikes that are not possible in the winter. Just keep in mind that it can sometimes be very, very hot in the summer!
Yes. Israel has a moderate, Mediterranean climate. Winter weather is typically warm during the day, although evenings may be cool and it may rain occasionally. In the winter, we spend more time in the southern areas of Israel to take advantage of warmer weather.
Our trips are designed for you. To meet you wherever you are in your Jewish journey and do not require any specific background or Jewish observance. Kesher is associated with the Union for Reform Judaism, NFTY, URJ Camps, and all URJ youth programs. We’ve planned these trips carefully, and we take great pride in knowing that participants from all Jewish backgrounds will feel comfortable with 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.
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). Additionally, there are 2 free leisure nights on the trip, where you have time to explore area of the city on your own. You can have friends or family meet up with on those nights, but may not leave the boundaries your staff provides. You will not be able to leave the group during the program under any circumstances.
We have prepared a detailed packing list as well as a ton of great information to help you get ready in the Pre-Trip Preparation section of our web site. Check it out!
All participants on a Birthright Israel program are required to have valid health insurance that works in Israel. If you do not have your own policy or if your policy does not cover you abroad, you must arrange for temporary travelers insurance (See: Health Insurance).
Of course! After completing the registration process, you will have an opportunity to let us know who you would like to travel with in Israel, when you choose trip dates on the Secondary Application. 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 and submit the required paperwork as soon as possible. Also, while we can try to make sure that you are in the same group and room 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!).
One major advantage to the URJ Kesher experience is that participants generally come from all over the United States and Canada. 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 North America and from all backgrounds. (note: gateway airports are New York, Toronto and Los Angeles).
Trip dates are determined directly by Birthright Israel. Typically, trip dates are issued in multiple stages. Even if the trip date you want is not offered in the initial allocation, it may be offered soon after. If your first choice of trip dates is not yet available, we do suggest that you select as many back-up dates as possible just in case your ideal dates do not get issued. Trip date selections can be entered and updated anytime on the Secondary Application once you have completed the Birthright Israel Application.
Apply early! We assign spots on the trip according to when you have completed your application. We consider your application complete after you have finished the Birthright Israel Application – including submitting the refundable trip deposit. We recommend completing the Birthright Israel Application with URJ Kesher on the first day of registration to give yourself the best chance of getting on the trip you want. All applications received on the first day will be treated the same no matter what time of day they are received. In addition to honoring a first-come-first-served registration policy, priority trip selection status is granted to applicants who have applied in the past as well as applicants who are about to turn 27 and age out of the program.
Individual groups are 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, and plenty of support staff. Trip groups are typically organized by program choice and/or by age group (ages 18-22 0r 22-26). The hotels that we use during the program typically accommodate three participants to a room with three separate beds.
The maximum number of total spaces for this round of trips will be determined by the Birthright Israel foundation, based on funding and other factors. If the total number of applicants exceeds the number of spaces available, some applicants will be assigned to a waitlist Your chance of being put on a waitlist depends on when you registered as well as which trip dates you have requested.
Definitely. You can stay longer in Israel, up to 90 days depending on the airline. And you can arrange for your extension before the trip or during the trip. Extra fees do apply. All of the details are in our Pre-Trip Prep section. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to arrive in Israel ahead of the group.
Physical plane tickets are only distributed at the airport once you check in with the airline. URJ Kesher staff will be at the airport to assist with check-in and give an orientation. It is impossible to book seats on the plane in advance, however you will be able to reserve special meals (see: Flight Details). Additional airport meeting instructions will be sent to you once you have been confirmed on a specific flight group.
Trips are offered in two seasons each year — winter and summer. Winter trips take place in December, January, February, and March. Summer trips take place in May, June, July, and August. Registration for summer season trips typically opens in mid-February and registration for winter typically opens mid-September. Actual departure dates are not released until after registration has opened for a given season.