Egged Tours acquires Oranim Educational Initiatives

Oranim founder Momo Lifshitz says he is sure new management will continue to educate groups from abroad about Jewish values.

ethiopian aliyah 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ethiopian aliyah 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
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.”
“There are 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 values.
“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 pilgrims.
“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.
Providing 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 Oranim.