Despite mass civilian casualties and a failed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, more than 6,000 young Jewish men and women have attended Birthright trips within the last month, The New York Times reports.
Birthright officials say roughly 31,000 participants from around the world are expected to travel to the Holy Land this year.
From May to September, participants between the ages of 18 and 26 are invited to spend 10 days travelling through the region, on the dime of the Taglit-Birthright organisation.
The program, created 15 years ago by Jewish philanthropists, is designed to “ensure the continuity of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and solidarity with Israel.”
Earlier this month Max Steinberg, 24, an American from California died fighting for Israel alongside the Israeli Defence Forces. Steinberg’s parents told the Washington Post that Max never wanted to go on his Birthright trip, but once he did it changed him.
Following Steinberg’s death, Birthright’s CEO Gidi Mark issued a statement saying, “His life, a life filled with promise cut short far too soon, will live in our hearts forever as a reminder of the sacrifices he and so many before him have made to keep Israel safe.”
Research from Brandeis University Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies shows that young Jewish men and women who have visited Israel on Birthright’s all-expense-paid trip feel “very much connected to Israel.”
Due to the current situation in Israel, the organisation has published a one-page document outlining security procedures. According to the document, trip itineraries are approved daily by the Israeli Ministry of Education and the IDF.
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