Egged Tours, a subsidiary of leading public-transportation operator Egged
Cooperative, has completed its multimillion- shekel acquisition of Oranim
Education Initiatives, the company has announced, in a move that will give it
better access to the incoming tourism market.
Under the deal, which was
originally announced in February but took two months to complete, Oranim merges
with Israel Way, an Egged Tours subsidiary that was established in October to
capitalize on the increase in incoming tourism and to build its capabilities in
the field of Jewish education.
Oranim, which was founded by Shlomo “Momo”
Lifshitz and two other people about 25 years ago, made a name for itself as one
of the biggest providers in Israel of services to Jewish groups from abroad. At
one stage Oranim was also one of the main service providers for Birthright
programs, although that partnership fell through due to a disagreement about the
educational goals of those programs.
Lifshitz, who has retired from the
company under the conditions of the sale, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday he
believes Oranim’s new management will continue the path he set out of promoting
Jewish values to young Jews from abroad.
“I founded Oranim, I gave Oranim
the ideology, I gave Oranim the passion,” he said. “We tried to deal with the
two major problems of the Jewish people: assimilation and the loss of the
connection between the Jews who live here and the Jews who live there. That was
the big cause for Oranim, and I don’t think that will change.”
more than 120,000 people, most of them young, who met me personally, who I shook
hands with in Israel, and I spoke to them personally about our family about the
centrality of Israel, about the need to raise children and raise Jewish
families,” Lifshitz said. “These are huge numbers. I see the impact every day. I
get e-mails from alumni from all my programs, telling me, ‘I just got married,’
‘I’m making aliya,’ ‘I want to come back to Israel,’ ‘My family wants to come to
Israel for the first time.’” Of the many youngsters his company welcomed to
Israel, Lifshitz said, about 50,000 came with Birthright programs, beginning
with the firstever Birthright program in December 1999, which was operated by
Oranim, and ending when the partnership was broken over the dispute over Jewish
“They [Birthright] don’t like to speak about aliya, nor about
Jewish babies,” he said.
Egged Tours CEO Guy Kahn said under its new
management Oranim would continue to provide educationfocused programs to young
Jews coming from abroad, while also branching out to provide services to older
tourists, including groups of evangelical Christians and other
“This is a company that on one hand is of course a business,
and as a business it has to profit from what it does,” he said.
values-focused educational tourism to Israelis is part of the Egged Tours
vision, Kahn said, and Oranim would also “continue to supply values-focused
tourism to world Jewry in Israel.”
The appointment of Danny Mor, a former
head of Jewish Agency subsidiary the Israel Experience, as CEO of the new
Oranim-Israel Way subsidiary indicates the direction Egged Tours wants to take
the company, he said.
“I personally believe that when you offer a product
that has added value, educational value, you also profit from a business
perspective,” Kahn said. “If you supply holidays based only on fun, you can
offer that in Mexico or in the Caribbean too. But when you supply a program that
has in it educational value, that is a quality product, then the customer is
prepared to pay for it.”
One of the first major projects for the
subsidiary will be to bring Birthright groups to Israel in the coming summer.
This is the first time Egged Tours will operate such programs, after a deal was
struck between Birthright and Israel Way prior to Egged Tours’s acquisition of