Israel tour still a must as 1,200 teens sign up

More than one in five teenagers joining youth movement tours to Israel this summer will be receiving help to pay for their trips.

Ten organisations are running trips this year, with a total of 1,216 participants. UJIA, which co-ordinates the trips, said that almost £200,000 had been allocated after 260 youngsters applied for bursaries.

The figure represents a slight decrease, with one in four having received financial aid in 2011 and 2012.

A poor exchange rate, with the pound not as strong against the shekel as in previous years, means tour costs continue to rise. A place on FZY’s four-week trip is £2,799 for non-members. Habonim’s trip costs £2,755.

Many regard participation in the tours as a barometer of Anglo-Jewry’s relationship with Israel. Fears are raised every year that fewer parents will send their children but, despite rising costs, numbers are holding up.

FZY’s tour remains the most popular tour, with nearly 480 young people on it this summer. RSY-Netzer has 230 participants across six groups; the most for more than a decade.

“It is indicative of the steady growth that RSY-Netzer as a whole has been experiencing,” said movement worker Joey Leskin.

Two movements — Hanoar and Maccabi — are staying home this summer. But youth leaders say tours have generally been unaffected by the trend in Jewish schools running their own trips .

“If anything, school trips act almost as a preparation for tour and have allowed us to implement a more varied programme,” said Jonathan Sherman, national director of Bnei Akiva.

Participants will still hike in the Galil and ride camels in the Negev, but emphasis this year has been placed on philanthropy, with each group asked to choose fundraising projects to set up on their return.

“It is a formative experience,” said Habonim’s Lucy Travis. “This is the first step towards building the leaders of tomorrow.”

Last updated: 1:45pm, June 28 2013