The program sends thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.
Sophomore Alex Lizen is currently KU Hillel’s Birthright Israel Intern. She has been involved in the recruiting process from the beginning. “I’m looking forward to everything about this trip,” she said. “Since I have been so active in all aspects of this process, from helping with applications to answering prospective participant’s questions, I’m so excited to get to know everyone who will be going.”
This year, the trip will take place from January 5-16. For a portion of the trip, eight off duty Israeli soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force will join KU Hillel to travel around Israel. These soldiers are also between the ages of 18 and 26, and have never had the opportunity to explore their own country.
Allowing young adults that come from such different backgrounds to connect and experience Israel together is truly a unique and special opportunity. Both KU Hillel students and the Israeli soldiers will be exposed to the cultural differences of what it is like to grow up in the United States compared to Israel.
Throughout the 10 days, students will travel to a variety of historical, cultural, religious heritage sites, including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, Tel Aviv, and the Western Wall.
Prior to the trip, students will participate in three pre-trip sessions. These sessions allow the students a chance to meet the other participants of the trip before heading to Israel.
Some of the sessions will focus on the history of Israel, including how Israel became a state, while others focus on what to pack and what to expect while in Israel. Neal Schuster, KU Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educator, and Melissa Kingston, KU Hillel’s Program Director will lead these sessions, as well as the trip.
“This will be my first time staffing a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip and I could not be more excited,” said Kingston. “The opportunity to take forty students and help them discover the land of Israel as well as their own Jewish identities is going to be one of the highlights of this year.”