The Birthright-Taglit program, partially funded by Israel, restricts free trips to Israel to Jews, but a former guide says that non-Jews have no problem joining.
Birthright responded that “the process is involved,” the number of non-Jews discovered on the program is “minimal" and every one of them "is flown back home immediately."
The organization’s policy states, “Taglit-Birthright Israel gift is open to all Jewish young adults, ages 18 to 26, post high-school, who have neither traveled to Israel before on a peer educational trip or study program nor have lived in Israel past the age of 12.”
The 12-year-old program has enabled tens of thousands of young Jews to visit Israel for the first time. Last year’s success of bringing 32,500 people to Israel prompted Birthright and the government to agree to plan for 50,000 next year. The government funds one-third of the expenses, amounting to approximately $25 million.
The applicants must declare they are Jewish, but “David," a former Birthright guide, told Army Radio Monday that there is no thorough check on their religion. Jewish law defines a Jew as one whose mother is Jewish, unless there was a conversion according to Jewish law.
The organization’s workers do not check the applicants," according to David. “They give them a questionnaire and that’s it. Anyone who wants to tour free of charge can do so – there is no way to know [if he is non-Jewish]; they do not check the documents,” he added.
Army Radio said it obtained a document from the office of the Prime Minister confirming that applicants are not required to submit official documents proving their Jewish identity. Exceptions to the probability of infiltrations are those from the former Soviet Bloc and Eastern Europe, where the Israeli government’s Nativ agency and local consulates help with the screening process. Nativ’s purpose is to reach out to Jews in these regions and bring them closer to Judaism.
For others, there is no problem to infiltrate, David claimed, adding that he saw Christian crosses on some of the Birthright tourists who arrived with his groups at Ben Gurion Airport.
Danny Danon, chairman of the Knesset Aliyah Committee, said that he has received many complaints that non-Jews have arrived on the Birthright program. “It is totally unreasonable that [non-Jews] call fill out a form on the Internet and arrive in Israel for a free trip on tax money. We don’t think we should fund non-Jews coming to Israel.”