Birthright participants bring tourism amid terror

Visiting Jewish youths undaunted and look forward to experiencing everything that Israel has to offer.

Raphael Poch ,

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

The week after Hanukkah, downtown Jerusalem was pretty much deserted. Between the tough security situation and the onset of winter, Jerusalemites have begun to head out less than usual, at least to open spaces such as Machane Yehuda and Ben Yehuda streets.

But shops and small business owners still have something to look forward to. In just a few days, the onset of the Birthright season will take place, and 16,000 young and enthusiastic tourists will come to learn about and experience what Israel has to offer.

The bi-annual wave of tourism is a welcome breath of fresh air to the country that direly needs a lift after facing nearly three months of multiple terror attacks each day.

With the silver lining comes a cloud. Some birthright providers are not allowing participants to visit public places such as Machane Yehuda or the downtown area in Jerusalem due to the security threats. However, the country and the city are enthralled that during such a difficult time, 16,000 youngsters from around the world are still planning to come in spite of the threats that are hampering the country.

“The spirit is really high and people are really excited to becoming," said Noa  Bauer, VP of international marketing of Birthright, in a special interview with Arutz Sheva. “The participants are not afraid in Israel, and we make sure that everyone is very well protected.”

Birthright has already seen more than half a million people come to Israel on its various programs.

“We’ve survived wars, intifadas and plenty of terror spikes,” said Bauer, “we adapt our security measures as necessary, based upon the situation at hand. We work with moked teva, and we have a communication center, that within minutes can contact any and all of our tour groups to update them on changes in the security situation, and provide them with specific instructions on how to act. We take extra precautions, and things move out from the center to the field in real time.”

Bauer said that while this year’s program is no different, there is certainly a challenge to bring this many people to Israel during a time of crisis. “When tourism is down, our participants still come. What’s more, they often go back abroad and talk to their friends and families about their experiences. They often speak highly of Israel and of their experience here. That helps to encourage others to come and to combat the BDS movements in their home town.”

Bauer said that no matter what the situation, “we are happy and excited and we will continue to bring young Jewish people to Israel.”