We hope you find that there is a lot of good information below. Some of it is general. Some of it is very specific. We recommend that you take ten minutes and get smart about the program...
What is Taglit-Birthright Israel?
Taglit-Birthright Israel was launched 13 years ago as a non-profit foundation whose purpose is to enable young adults to visit Israel at least once in their lifetime. To date, over 300,000 Jewish young adults from around the world have come to Israel under the Taglit-Birthright Israel initiative.
Is it really free?
As hard as it may be to believe, the answer is, yes. The trip includes 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), two meals a day, and all 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, personal purchases, snacks and drinks. The registration process for the trip should take no more than 15 minutes. After you register, you will need to get interviewed by our staff and send in a signed waiver and a $250 fully refundable security deposit. The deposit is returned within 2-3 weeks after the trip is over...and usually much sooner than that.
Why is it free?
The Taglit-Birthright Israel foundation was set up in order to give every young Jewish adult the chance to experience Israel at least one time in their lives. Our goal at Israel Free Spirit is to ensure that your experience on the trip is both meaningful and always enjoyable.
Who is eligible?
This special opportunity is open to anyone who is between the age of 18-26, who is Jewish, and who has never previously been to Israel with an organized peer program of seven days or longer (Learn more - Eligibility Rules).
Are the eligibility rules serious?
Yes - Very serious. The generous funders of the Taglit-Birthright Israel gift have established clear eligibility rules for the program, and we expect all applicants to respect these rules with the highest level of seriousness. Each applicant to the program must sign a Trip Waiver Form which verifies that they are in fact eligible for the program. Applicants who attempt to lie in order to secure a spot on the trip are committing theft and will be held legally and financially accountable for their actions. If you are confused about your eligibility status, that's ok. But it is still your responsibility to clear up any questions directly with the Israel Free Spirit staff (Learn more - Eligibility Rules).
Will I be safe?
Ensuring your security & safety are the primary concerns of Taglit-Birthright Israel and Israel Free Spirit. Please refer to the Security Information section for more information about our approach to providing a touring experience in Israel that is safe, secure, and still incredibly exciting.
What are the departure dates?
Trips are offered in two season 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. Our flights may originate from New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. Most trips depart from New York...and most New York departures fly from JFK International Airport. Sometimes we use Newark Int'l Airport in northern New Jersey as well. Assuming you complete the application process and have chosen a trip date that has immediate availability, we will confirm that you have been assigned to the flight and provide you with full flight details.
How do I get my plane ticket?
Physical plane tickets are only distributed at the airport by airport staff. It is impossible to book seats on the plane in advance. Additional airport meeting instructions will be sent to you once you have been confirmed on a specific flight group.
Can I extend my ticket?
Definitely. You can stay longer in Israel...30 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...
Am I guaranteed a spot on this trip?
The maximum number of total spaces for trips will be determined by the Taglit-Birthright Israel foundation, based on funding and other factors. Usually, the sooner that you register, get interviewed, and send in your security deposit and waiver, the sooner we can assign you to the flight of your choice. Priority will be given to applicants who have applied in the past who were unable to attend a trip.
How are the groups organized?
Individual groups are made up of approximately 40 participants plus staff. The staff on each group includes a licensed Israeli tour guide, two North American peer chaperones, one Israeli peer chaparone, an Israeli guard/medic, and plenty of support staff. The hotels that we use during the program typically accommodate three participants to a room. You may request to be roomed with family or friends who are also on the trip.
How is the order of ticketing determined?
Because we know that there are frequently more eligible applicants than there are available spots on the trip, our goal as an organization is to keep the process as fair as possible. We determine the order of ticketing according to when you have completed your application, interviews, depost etc. (see: Detailed Application Process). A confirmation will be emailed to you as soon as your application is complete. Applicants who are turning 27 (i.e., last chance to take part in the experience) and for applicants who registered with Israel Free Spirit in the past but were not able to participate for whatever reason and applicants referred by alumni get top priority.
What if the flight that I want is not available?
Trip dates are determined directly by Taglit-Birthright Israel in coordination with the aiirlines. Typically, trip dates are issued in multiple stages. Even if your first choice of trip dates is not yet available, we do suggest that you select a "back-up" trip date just in case the perfect trip date you want does not get issued. If we do confirm you for a "back-up" date, we will let you know as soon as new dates become available, and you will have the first chance to switch to the new trip date if you prefer it.
Where will the other participants come from?
One major advantage to the Israel Free Spirit expereince 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 and from all backgrounds. Keep in mind, that in order to get onto a US trip you must either be a temporary or a permanent resident of the US.
Can I go on the same trip as a friend or family member?
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. We will be happy to accommodate you. Just keep in mind that 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 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!)
What about health insurance while I'm in Israel?
All participants on a Taglit-Birthright Israel program are required to have valid health insurance that works in Israel. If your current health insurance policy will not cover you while you are abroad, we encourage you to purchase a policy through travelguard. Check out the Pre-Trip Prep section for more details.
What should I pack?
We have prepared a detailed packing list as well as a ton of ther great information to help you get ready in the Pre-Trip Prep section of our web site. Check it out!
Do I need a sleeping bag or hiking boots?
Not at all! Each trip spends a night in the desert at a Bedouin tent where you are provided with sleeping mats and blankets. It will be one of the most memorable nights of the trip! Otherwise, you will be staying at hotels and kibbutz guest houses in normal beds! As for shoes, heavy duty hiking boots are never necessary. Good sturdy walking shoes or light weight hiking boots are your best bet. Athletic sandals like Tevas or Chacos work well too (summer trips only).
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, they're welcome to visit during a trip leisure night, usually in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Other than this option, you will unfortunately not be able to leave the group during the program under any circumstances.
Is winter/spring 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 occasionally. In the winter, we spend more time in the southern areas of Israel to take advantage of warmer weather.
Is summer a good time to travel in Israel?
Yes. Israel is sunny, with long days, and no chance of rain at all. 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. On the downside, it can sometimes be very, very hot in the summer!
How flexible are the flight rules?
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 can not meet the group in Israel...even if you are already in Europe at the time
- If you fail to extend your ticket till 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's impossible 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!
Will I learn Hebrew on this trip?
While this trip is not about class room 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.
Will this be an amazing experience?
Yes it will. Of course!