With Dr. Zohar Raviv - Birthright Israel VP of Education Strategy

A Gift - Not A Free Trip

Birthright Israel is founded on three values that are central in the Jewish world: Unity, Continuity and Mutual Responsibility. The project itself is therefore a gift of the Jewish people to its younger members, given with no strings attached as a pledge by the State of Israel, worldwide Jewish communities, foundations and over 30,000 individual donors --- all putting partisan and theological differences aside to ensure the vibrant future of world Jewry and the State of Israel.

Our Essence - A Jewish Educational Experience in Israel

Birthright Israel is an introductory and intensive educational experience in Israel. Its mission is to create opportunities for participants to explore their Jewish identities, strengthen their connection to Israel and its diverse society, and ensure the vibrancy of the Jewish people worldwide. Birthright Israel regards Israel as a diverse mosaic of experiences, narratives, ideas and places that can be effectively explored throughout the journey. As we maintain that Israel is a state of ideas and ideals - rather than an ideal state - Birthright Israel is committed to understanding Israel’s place as a Jewish, democratic and sovereign state among the family of nations, and to preserving its historic and eternal standing as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Our Heart - Each Participant  

Birthright Israel is rooted in a person-centered educational approach. It views the needs and interests of young people as the starting point of its educational work, and aims to engage participants in meaningful and relevant dialogues with Jewish concepts, values and living, as well as associations with their home communities and with Israel. Birthright Israel is therefore committed to offering all participants a sense of ownership over the educational process, by empowering the active engagement and involvement of the learners as the captains of their own Jewish journeys.

Our Community - Unity, Not Uniformity

While seeking to connect young Jewish adults with each other, with their home communities and with Israel, Birthright Israel refrains from any political, ideological and/or religious partisanship in its platform. Our educational journey therefore endorses unity, yet rejects any uniformity in either opinion or practice. Birthright Israel regards the group experience indispensable to personal identity formation, and therefore strives to build a traveling community of young Jews whose members exercise mutual recognition, tolerance, responsibility and trust, without undermining their diversity. This open, safe and pluralistic culture promotes meaningful dialogues about diverse visions and versions of Jewish living and associations with Israel. All participants are equally privy to be part of the Birthright Israel experience by voicing their different opinions, irrespective of personal background, ideology, political views, religious beliefs and/or practices, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Our Journey - Insight-Seeing, Not Merely Site-Seeing

Birthright Israel views the land, the State and the people of Israel as a vital laboratory to explore core questions of both past and contemporary Jewish values, ideas and life. Correspondingly, Birthright Israel’s programs are not structured as site-seeing trips, but as what we call “insight-seeing” journeys. The sites we explore are obviously important, yet serve a much higher purpose: to promote a culture of reflective and critical thinking through dialogue, discussion and the exchange of ideas in meaningful landscapes and supportive climates. By shaping the entire journey around such values, Birthright Israel wishes to motivate and elicit an inner quest for each participant and for the group as a whole, toward continued engagement with Jewish concepts, values, communal life and Israel long after their journey ends. Birthright Israel therefore endorses the Less is More approach, which does not seek to overload its itinerary at the expense of ‘rushed’ visits and transitions between activities; rather, it calls for a thoughtful organization of the itinerary to allow each component the needed time to be explored in a manner that offers meaningful engagement, reflection and discussion.

Our Learning: Context, Not Merely Content

In today’s technological era, “information” or “content” are readily accessible to anyone who seeks them, and their acquisition – albeit important - no longer requires a formal educational process. What is needed far more is the ability to situate content in appropriate context, and by doing so realize the fuller depth and complexity of the issues we aim to explore. Birthright Israel therefore wishes to broaden the scope by which our participants engage diverse topics, and to foster a process that does not necessarily resolve them, as much as it offers tools to explore them further thoughtfully and responsibly. To that end Birthright Israel developed the Thematic Approach and the Integrative Model as two important educational principles. The Thematic Approach offers a thematic framing for each day, and for the journey as a whole, while recognizing multiple sites or activities that may correspond with each respective theme. By doing so, it allows diversification in itinerary offerings, without undermining the thematic cohesion of the journey as whole. The Integrative Model, respectively, aims to guarantee such consistency by articulating shared concepts, questions and values that underline seemingly disparate sites or experiences, and weaving them together to form a more coherent and contextualized picture. The Integrative Model calls upon the Trip Organizer to create a comprehensive mosaic of diverse themes, core questions and values whose various associations serve to link not only between figures, sites and eras, but also between the personal story of the participant and the greater story of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Our Relationships - Mutual Recognition and Reciprocal Contribution

The importance of sites and landmarks notwithstanding, true conversations and shared impact can only occur between people. Birthright Israel therefore offers a platform for multi-day shared travel and dialogue between worldwide and Israeli peers (“mifgash”), and as a vehicle for mutual insight into the lives of contemporary young Jewish adults. As Birthright Israel renders both Israeli and world Jewry indispensable for ensuring the thriving existence of Israel and the Jewish people, it endorses a process wherein young members of both communities learn to appreciate each other’s assets, challenges and unique contributions to the contemporary Jewish world, as well as to its future course. This approach values a mutual and reciprocal recognition and interest, as a means to forge meaningful and lasting relationships of young Jews (and their respective communities) with each other.

Our Israel - Past, Present, Future

Birthright Israel does not regard itself as “a heritage trip”. Instead, ours is a journey that weaves together past, present and future into a fascinating tapestry of the evolving Jewish and Israeli civilization, in which we all are active engagers, rather than passive heirs. The integration of biblical landscapes alongside contemporary arts & culture; national landmarks alongside cutting-edge technologies and innovations; or ancient Jewish values and texts alongside bustling nightlife scenes lies at the core of the well-rounded, exciting, and relevant experiences Birthright Israel aims to offer its participants throughout the trip.

Our Approach - Taking “Fun” Seriously

Birthright Israel takes “fun” seriously. As we continue to invest in a vibrant Jewish present and future, we contribute in transforming the Jewish and Israeli narratives from that of “Oy” to that of “Joy”. While recognizing the undeniable place of tragedy in our historical and contemporary narratives, and while remaining fully committed to their study and commemoration, Birthright Israel seeks to engage participants in a Jewish exploration whose chief foundation is a rhetoric of values, meaning and vitality, rather than catastrophe, war, survival and persecution. We believe that Jewish identity should revolve around proactive engagement of ideas and values from within Jewish life, rather than a protective response to external threats to Jewish living; and that Jewish discourse and experience should be implemented in enjoyable and gratifying ways that are as emotionally engaging as they are intellectually challenging. Consequently, Birthright Israel does not view “fun” in the superficial sense of ‘constant enjoyment’, but as a vital mosaic of meaningful, challenging and stimulating experiences that articulate our shared story as a people and combine into exciting, relevant and enduring associations with oneself, one’s group members, one’s community, as well as Judaism, Israel and the world.

Our Responsibility - Tracking Outcomes and Advancing Self-Reflection

Birthright Israel views continued effectiveness, relevance and success as reliant on the ability to sustain constant and unyielding learning curves. We are therefore committed to research and evaluation protocols that are extensive, rigorous and regularly evolving. Looking into educational process evaluation alongside outcomes measurement allows Birthright Israel to assess Trip Organizers’ adherence to its standards; to acclimate its educational approach, implementation and offerings based on the shifting characteristics, needs and interests of Jewish young adults;  and to view short and long-term impact of the program in appropriate context. This concern with outcomes and measurements reflects our strong commitment to feedback, reflective upgrading, ongoing change and improvement.