Daily Israel Report

Taglit-Birthright to Begin Visiting Judea and Samaria

Gush Etzion open to Birthright visitors in landmark move for Zionist outreach group.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/2/2014, 2:21 PM

Taglit-Birthright participants (file)
Taglit-Birthright participants (file)
Flash90

Taglit-Birthright Israel brings tens of thousands of Jewish young adults to Israel each year, to tour Jewish sites - including the Western Wall and Yad V'Shem - and connect to their homeland.

One area is off-limits, however: Judea and Samaria - ostensibly to avoid political confrontations. In addition, it has been argued that tour groups would require armored buses, special security units, coordination with tour companies and other logistical nightmares. 

That is about to change, according to Makor Rishon. On Friday, the news site announced that Birthright groups would be allowed to visit Judea and Samaria for the first time.

Last month, the organization revealed, one group was allowed to tour the Gush Etzion region almost completely freely - no need for special permits to visit important sites - and now tourist companies have been hired to show several groups what they have been missing. 

Sites being offered in Gush Etzion include the Kfar Etzion light and sound show, as well as a tour of the Tzomet Institute, where technology is modified to be compatible for use with Jewish law (specifically on Shabbat). 

The Samaria (Shomron) Regional Council has expressed dissatisfaction before with the popular organization for forbidding young adults from learning about the region. Now, Birthright participants will not only get to see all of Israel, but may also have the choice of exploring the region further, including attending meetings with both Israeli and Arab residents of the region. 

Taglit-Birthright noted Friday that the issue, now, is simply a matter of security. 

"Taglit allows participants to visit whatever areas of Israel they wish, so long as it meets our security standards," they said, in a statement.