When a plane filled with Hillel participants in the birthright israel program pulled up to a hangar at Ben-Gurion airport in Israel, the students were greeted by program co-founder Charles Bronfman and Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky. The two luminaries greeted the students on the tarmac and then joined them for a gala celebration at Ben Gurion Airport.
"The greatest thing was that people just started dancing the Horah in the middle of this airport hanger!" said Tulane University student Jenna Addis. "It felt like home, and was really special. Israel is beautiful - I am so thankful to be here."
This summer, more than 1600 students from across the United States will join Hillel for their first organized trip to Israel and an experience of a lifetime. Over the last five years, Hillel, as part of the birthright israel program, has sent nearly 17,000 students on ten-day trips to Israel. Hillel is the largest North American provider of the birthright israel trips.
Participants' days are jam-packed with tours, hikes and special educational sessions that help connect the students to Israel and the Jewish people.
Hillel's trip this summer stands out with several "specialty trips." In addition to the standard "Explore Israel Campus Trip," there are additional trips focusing on Spirituality, Arts and Culture, and Environmentalism. While still going to all of the main locations in the country, these trips have specialized sessions to give the participants an understanding of how Israel relates to these topics. In addition, the Outdoor Adventure Trip; Peace, Politics and Journalism Trip; and Graduate and Young Professionals Trip all are making return appearances for this summer's round of Hillel's birthright israel trips.
Hillel is also introducing this year an August trip specifically designed for incoming college freshmen. Over 160 students will be participating on this revolutionary trip.
"It is wonderful that so many students are so interested in connecting and reconnecting with their heritage," said Hillel President Avraham Infeld. "It is truly a sign of the growing strength of the Jewish peoplehood."
Hillel's birthright israel trip is part of birthright israel, an international partnership of philanthropists, Jewish communities and the State of Israel dedicated to providing Jews between the ages of 18-26 with a first, free ten-day trip to Israel.