Parents worry, but Israel tour keeps going

Post-16 Israel tour takes off but with 60 per cent fewer teens than last year


A Bnei Akiva Israel Tour in Jerusalem (Photo: Bnei Akiva and UJIA Israel Experience)

Five hundred Jewish teens travelled to Israel this week for the annual post-16 Israel tour.

A rite of passage for many young Jews, this year’s three-week tour sees 60 per cent fewer teenagers participating in tour than last year as they travel to a country which is still at war.

Fewer youth movements are going to Israel, but groups with planned trips include Bnei Akiva, Ezra, FZY, Habonim Dror, Sinai and Tribe. Habonim-Dror have altered their usual trip to include some time in Europe.

Safety concerns are always paramount to the organisation of tour and every eventuality is planned for – from health scares to rocket barrages, said UJIA Israel Experience, which oversees all the groups.

Speaking to the JC, UJIA’s head of external relations, Jonathan Roland, said: “The security procedure is not new but it has been developed. All groups will have a guard with them as normal and a tracking device.”

He said that parents would be kept well informed via the status page on their website.

Madrichim (leaders) have been given additional support in their training to enable them to speak about the war with their groups, he said.

On a normal year, 60 per cent of Jewish 16-year-olds from the UK travel to Israel on tour, according to Roland. 

“Last year was a big year, we had approximately 1,250 young people, but a standard year will be between 1,000 and 1,100,” Roland said, adding that UJIA’s counterparts in America had similar numbers on Israel tours this year, which amounted to only 10 per cent of their regular cohort.

Parents had been divided over whether to send their children to Israel, with many citing security concerns and a feeling of discomfort about their child holidaying in Israel during wartime.

Some parents whose children landed in Israel this week said they felt nervous.

One parent who wished to remain anonymous said, “I feel a tad anxious but trust the youth group will look after them. I can’t worry forever, and I’m pleased that the kids are able to be in Israel and experience that ‘life goes on’ mentality.”

Another said: “I’m excited for them at the same time as being worried about the situation. It was a difficult decision when we signed up and, of course, we hoped that things would be better by now, but I wouldn’t want to stop them going.”

UJIA chair Zvi Noé said: “After months of careful planning by UJIA Israel Experience, youth movements and ground providers, we are delighted that the first Israel tours have arrived.

“The safety and security of the programme has been of the utmost priority, and we are confident that 500 of our community’s teens will have an educational, powerful and meaningful summer in Israel that reflects the unique moment of Jewish history that we are living through.”

With the fight against Hamas in Gaza and the escalation on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the tour schedule has been adapted in line with Israel’s guidance.

Groups will not be visiting the north, nor will they travel to the areas surrounding Gaza. All groups will visit Kikar HaChatufim, Hostage Square, in Tel Aviv, the key site of memorial for the October 7 massacre in Israel, where the teens will be shown the empty Shabbat tables set for the hostages.

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