Taglit is back: Birthright groups return after COVID-19 postponements

Taglit-Birthright Israel, known colloquially as Birthright, is an organization that sponsors all-expense-paid trips to Israel for Jews living across the diaspora.

 A Birthright group arrives in Ben Gurion Airport. (photo credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)
A Birthright group arrives in Ben Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)

Birthright groups began arriving in Israel this week and are beginning the first trips of 2022 after the Omicron variant outbreak brought the trips to a halt in December.

Taglit-Birthright Israel, known colloquially as Birthright, is an organization that sponsors all-expense-paid trips to Israel for Jews living across the Diaspora. The goal of the trip is to bring Jews closer to their cultural roots and connect them to the Jewish State of Israel. More than 750,000 young people have participated so far – 115,000 of whom are Israeli soldiers, who accompany the groups as they explore Israel.

"After a long hiatus, we are excited and honored to bring back these important and exciting tours to Israel," said Birthright CEO Gidi Mark. "We expect to bring about 3,000 young adults from around the world in the next two months, and during the summer we expect more than 15,000. When they return home to their local Jewish communities, they will serve as Israel's best ambassadors."

The trips, which have dealt with numerous suspensions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, now require all participants to be vaccinated against COVID-19, undergo PCR tests before and upon landing, and adhere to all COVID-related laws and restrictions during their stay. Group sizes have also gone down dramatically to accommodate social distancing. Birthright groups resumed in June 2021 – after more than a year-long hiatus – before being immediately grounded again in July amid the global outbreak of the Delta variant.

 A Birthright group poses for a photo. (credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT) A Birthright group poses for a photo. (credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)

The first groups to arrive this year hail from Ukraine, Hungary and Argentina; groups from the United States and Russia plan to begin their trips in mid-late February. They will travel across Israel’s iconic sites, such as the Western Wall, Masada, the Dead Sea and more.

"This is the first time I have been traveling outside Ukraine since the beginning of the global pandemic and I am excited to be here," said 21-year-old Yevhenii Bilenkyi from Ukraine. "I am Jewish, and I am in Israel. It is amazing."