'Birthright Israel one of the few totally selfless things'

After more than 17 years and nearly 600,000 participants, Birthright Israel's contributions to be recognized at torch-lighting ceremony.

Hezki Baruch ,

Gidi Mark, Michael Steinhardt (c), Shimshon Shoshani
Gidi Mark, Michael Steinhardt (c), Shimshon Shoshani
Courtesy of Erez Uzir

Birthright Israel held a reception Sunday in honor of the organization’s cofounder and chairman, Michael Steinhardt, who was chosen to light the torch of the Diaspora on the eve of Independence Day at Mount Herzl.

The event was held at the Hensen House in Jerusalem and included Birthright Israel's business community, Steinhardt's family, donors to Birthright, and some of the 600,000 Jews who have visited Israel on Birthright trips since the group began operating in 1999.

The distinguished guests at the event included Len Rosen, CEO Barclays Israel, Yoram Tietz, Managing Partner at Ernst & Young, MK Roy Folkman, Hagay Elitzur, Senior Director of Diaspora Affairs, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Alan Hoffmann Director-General of The Jewish Agency, Prof. Gil Troy, Aviad Freedman, Chairman & CEO of the Israel Association of Community Centers, MK Elazar Stern, Tova Dorfman, Director of the Steinhardt Foundation in Israel, David Gapel, Senior Director of the Schusterman Foundation in Israel and Birthright Israel's International CEO, Gidi Mark, among others.

This year, Birthright Israel will mark 600,000 participants, including 90,000 Israeli soldiers and students who connected with their Jewish identity and Jerusalem in particular, celebrating 50 years to its reunification. 600,000 is a unique and symbolic figure - representing the number of Jews who lived in the State of Israel upon its establishment.

"It's hard to believe that at the age of 76 I will think about new ideas for the program and yet it has become an integral part of my life,” said Steinhardt. “In my view, Birthright Israel is one of the very few benevolent things that are completely selfless in our world. An experience that strengthens Jewish heritage for so many people. When you see the change in people who return from their trip, you understand its importance and see that it can grow further."



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