Israel tours to go ahead, with increased security for teenagers

Registration for tour will open on Monday after a delayed launch, but some movements are planning alternatives


Israel tour (photo: UJIA)

V Israel tour is going ahead this summer with additional security measures and volunteering opportunities, as most youth movements opt in for the rite of passage. At least one youth movement is planning an alternative to Israel tour.

Applications will open on Monday for the post-GCSE tour programmes, which see thousands of Jewish teens explore Israel. In a statement, UJIA said: “Following October 7 and its aftermath, UJIA Israel Experience is now ready to launch applications after taking legal advice in the UK, securing travel and medical insurance policies and liaising with security officials and ground providers in Israel.”

A deposit is required, but UJIA said that “given the exceptional circumstances of this year, should participants decide they no longer wish to go, they can receive a full refund until March 18th.”

The launch of applications had been scheduled for November, but in the wake of Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7, a decision was made by UJIA to delay applications as it navigated “the additional logistical, security and insurance components of this summer’s programming”, said organisers.

At least nine organisations are set to offer an Israel Experience, which will place a strong emphasis on volunteering, education and social action projects.

Youth movement BBYO has decided not to run its Israel tour this summer. Ricky Kaplan, its executive director, cited “concerns with the Foreign Office advising against it”. Kaplan said BBYO would be working to organise a European tour instead.

RSY-Netzer is offering the option of either Israel or Europe, said its leaders.

UJIA CEO Mandie Winston said: “We encourage parents to come to their own decisions, based on what is right for your child and family.”

We have been working hard to ensure that additional security measures and risk mitigations will be implemented by our ground partners. While the situation on the ground remains fluid and FCDO travel guidance is in place due to the war, we are confident that a safe and meaningful Israel tour, led by youth movements and organisations in the UK, is feasible.

“This is critical for the future leadership pipeline of our community, especially now that we understand the negative impact of missed Israel tours during the pandemic.”

She was understanding of the exceptional circumstances, saying: “We know the decision to send your child on an Israel tour this summer is likely to be more difficult than usual.

Vadim Blumin, the head of the delegation to the UK and Western Europe at the Jewish Agency for Israel, added: “Giving young people meaningful, educational experiences connecting and engaging with Israel and its people is more important than ever. Israel is in need of a collective hug and understanding of the challenges we are facing.

“Running Israel tours this summer is a great chance for the British Jewish community to show solidarity when it is needed most, along with the rest of global Jewry.”

Financial assistance for Israel tour is available from UJIA through means-tested bursaries.

Last summer, more than 1,250 Jewish teenagers from youth movements and organisations across the UK — a record-breaking number — took part in an Israel tour through UJIA.

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