What is Birthright Israel?
Birthright Israel was launched in 1999 as a non-profit foundation whose purpose is to enable young adults to visit Israel at least once in their lifetime. To date, over 500,000 Jewish young adults from around the world have come to Israel under the Birthright Israel initiative.
Will I be safe?
Ensuring your security and safety are the primary concerns of Birthright Israel and Israel Outdoors. Please refer to the Security & Safety section for more information about our approach to providing a travel experience in Israel that is safe, secure, and still incredibly exciting.
Is it really free?
As hard as it may be to believe, the answer is YES! The gift includes a roundtrip flight to Israel from various departure cities in North America, overnight accommodations at 3 and 4-star hotels (plus one night under the stars at a Bedouin tent in the desert), two meals per day, and all organized activities and touring. What do you pay for? You are expected to get to the departure city airport in North America on your own. You are also responsible for spending money for souvenirs, personal purchases, most lunches, snacks and drinks. Additionally, applicants are required to submit a refundable $250 deposit. Learn more: About the Trip Deposit
Why is it free?
The Birthright Israel foundation was set up in order to give every young Jewish adult the chance to experience Israel at least one time in their life. As a licensed provider of Birthright Israel trips, the Israel Outdoors program has no religious or political agenda. Our only goal is to ensure that your experience on the trip is both meaningful and enjoyable.
Who is eligible?
This special opportunity is open to anyone who is between the ages of 18-26, who is Jewish, and who has not been to Israel on a peer program since turning 18. Learn more: Eligibility Rules
Are the eligibility rules serious?
Yes. Very serious. The generous funders of the Birthright Israel gift have established clear eligibility rules for the program, and we expect all applicants to respect these rules with the highest level of seriousness. Each applicant must sign the Trip Waiver Form which verifies that they are in fact eligible for the program. Applicants who attempt to lie in order to secure a spot on the trip are committing theft and will be held legally and financially accountable for their actions. If you are confused about your eligibility status, that’s okay. But it is still your responsibility to clear up any questions directly with the Israel Outdoors staff. Learn more: Eligibility Rules
Why choose Israel Outdoors?
There is more than one Birthright Israel trip because we all know that no two people come to Israel with the exact same hopes and dreams. We are very proud that more applicants choose Israel Outdoors than any other Birthright Israel trip organizer. We believe the Israel Outdoors experience balances the perfect mix of informal education, an always enjoyable atmosphere, and a spirit of adventure. We have tens of thousands of alumni from the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Russia who can tell you why our experience is not just any Birthright Israel trip. Learn more: Why Israel Outdoors?
When can I register?
Registration for Winter/Spring trips typically opens in early September. Registration for Summer trips typically opens in early February. Registration stays open for about 4-6 weeks each season. In between registration periods, you can pre-register to get a head start on the process and to secure priority trip selection status. Registrations do not carry over from season to season, but returning applicants do receive priority status for future rounds if they are not selected. Your actual registration begins on the Birthright Israel site. Learn more: Launch your registration
How is the order of trip assignments determined?
Because we know there are frequently more eligible applicants than there are available spots on the trip, our goal as an organization is to keep the process as fair as possible. Israel Outdoors first tries to accommodate applicants who have applied in the past as well as applicants who are about to turn 27 and age out of the program. We also give priority to those who pre-register, and take into consideration when you complete your application. We consider your application to be complete after you have fully finished the Primary Application – including submission of the refundable trip deposit. We recommend completing the Primary Application with Israel Outdoors on the first day of registration to give yourself the best chance of getting on the trip you want. All applications received on the first day will be treated the same no matter what time of day they are received.
Am I guaranteed a spot on this trip?
The maximum number of total spaces for any round of trips will be determined by Birthright Israel, based on available funding and other factors. If the total number of applicants exceeds the number of spaces available, some applicants will be assigned to a waitlist. Pre-Register to help avoid the waitlist and get on a trip immediately.
Can I go on the same trip as a friend?
Of course! After completing the registration process, you will have an opportunity to let us know who you would like to travel with in the Secondary Application. We will always do our best to accommodate you. Just keep in mind that since we take into account when you register, it is critical that you and your friends register and submit the required paperwork at the same time. Also, while we can try to make sure that you are in the same group as a friend, we are not able to assign specific seats on the flight to/from Israel. Requesting seats can only be done at the airport on the day of departure (an additional reason to get to the airport early).
What are the departure dates?
Trips are offered in two seasons each year – winter and summer. Winter trips take place in November, December, January, February, and March. Summer trips take place in May, June, July, August, and sometimes September and October. Actual departure dates are released a few weeks before registration has opened for a given season. We invite you to view our upcoming trip dates.
What if the flight that I want is not available?
Trip dates are determined directly by Birthright Israel. Typically, trip dates are issued in multiple stages. Even if the trip date you want is not offered in the initial allocation, it may be offered soon thereafter. If your first choice of trip date is not available right away, we suggest you select as many backup trip dates as possible just in case your ideal dates do not get issued. Trip date selections can be entered and updated anytime in the Secondary Application once you have fully completed the Primary Application.
What airlines are used?
Our group flights are booked on EL AL Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, Air Canada, and a number of European airlines. Most group flights depart from New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. However, some flights may depart from Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Miami. Flights from New York may depart from JFK Airport, Newark Airport, or LaGuardia Airport. Participants are always responsible for arranging their own travel to and from the departure airport, and confirmed flight details are released once we have assigned you to a trip.
How do I get my plane ticket?
All tickets are issued electronically, and you will receive a printed copy at the airport. It is impossible to reserve seats on the plane in advance. Additional airport meeting instructions will be sent to you once you have been confirmed on a specific flight group.
Can I extend my ticket?
Yes, you can stay longer in Israel. Most airlines will allow you to extend up to 90 days depending on their availability. And you can arrange for your extension before the trip or during the trip depending, again, on the airline’s regulations and availability. You will have to pay the airline a ticket change fee. The specifics vary by airline and can be found in the Flight Info and Extensions section. Unfortunately, extensions can only be made for the end of the program. It is not possible to arrive in Israel ahead of the group.
How flexible are the group flight rules?
Here are the very important limitations to keep in mind:
- You must depart for Israel with the group from the scheduled gateway airport
- You cannot meet the group in Israel – no exceptions
- Once the group flight departs Israel at the end of the trip, you can no longer make changes to your own ticket
- If you fail to show up for your return flight, you will forfeit your $250, unless you notify the airline prior to the flight’s departure
- You cannot pay extra for a stopover or to change your return flight destination
- In many cases, it’s impossible to get frequent flier miles or elite travel benefits for your ticket given the nature of the ticket fare rules
If any of these limitations come as bad news to you, we are sorry! Please take our word that it is impossible to get around them! Many more flight details are available on our website in the Flight Info and Extensions section.
Who will be in my group?
Individual groups are typically made up of 40 participants plus staff. For about half of the program, the group is also joined by about 8 Israeli peers, who are also participants on the program. Groups are generally divided into two age brackets: 18-22 year olds and 22-26 year olds.
How strict are the 18-22 and 22-26 age brackets?
Generally, we must adhere to these age requirements. However, we can usually accommodate special situations, especially siblings who are hoping to travel together.
Where will the other participants come from?
One major advantage to the Israel Outdoors experience is that participants generally come from all over the United States. In other words, in addition to having a fantastic experience in Israel, you will have the opportunity to meet participants from all over the country and from many different backgrounds. Keep in mind that in order to participate in most Israel Outdoors trips you must either be a temporary or a permanent resident of the USA. Some Israel Outdoors trips are organized for specific campus groups (Ages 18-22) or specific community groups (Ages 22-26). In these cases, you must be a part of the specific campus or community to participate.
Who staffs the trips?
Each individual group is comprised of one professional Israeli guide, two North American peer staffers, one or two medic/security escorts, and a bus driver. Our guides tend to be men and women in their late 20s or 30s. We choose guides that are energetic and charismatic and understand how to connect with the group and share the beauty of Israel. Our peer staffers from North America tend to be in their 20s (usually one male and one female), and we choose them based on their prior experience in Israel and their leadership skills. The medics/security escorts are usually men and women that recently completed their service in the Israel Defense Forces. They are with the group to help deal with any medical issues that come up and to make sure that we are always traveling in a safe environment. Finally, the bus driver usually provides the “color” for the group. There’s nothing quite like an Israeli bus driver. You will have to experience it for yourself.
Are there different types of groups?
What’s the difference between the Israel Outdoors trip options?
Israel Outdoors offers three main trip options Israel Quest, Israel By Bike, and Israel By Foot as well as a number of Specialty Group trips. There is something for everyone. Our most popular trip is Israel Quest, which combines a little bit of everything. Israel Quest will give you the broadest taste of Israel. Israel By Bike and Israel By Foot are slightly more active and outdoorsy trips with extended hikes and bike rides.
How many participants per hotel room?
The hotels we use during the program accommodate three participants to a room with three separate beds. All rooms are single gender. Room assignments are chosen by participants during the trip.
Will I be able to do laundry during the trip?
Probably not. Some of the hotels may offer this service, but the nature of the trip will make it pretty inconvenient, so make sure to pack enough. For a packing list, check out israeloutdoors.com/prepare.
What about health insurance while I am in Israel?
All participants on a Birthright Israel program are required to have health insurance that is valid in Israel. If you do not have your own policy or if your policy does not cover you abroad, you must arrange for temporary travelers insurance. You will be asked for your medical insurance policy number as part of the Secondary Application.
I have health insurance for Israel. Should I also get travel insurance?
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance. If you have a travel-related issue such as a missed domestic flight or lost luggage, you’ll be very thankful you did. Learn more at israeloutdoors.com/insurance.
Will the CTAS insurance cover me during my extension?
Yes, if you extend your trip in Israel, your insurance policy can be extended for $3.50/day.
How can I keep in touch with my friends and family?
We recommend renting a cell phone and/or Mi-Fi device, which gives you internet access wherever you are in Israel. Through our partner, Talk N Save, we’ve set up free delivery and discounted rates. Learn more here.
Can Israel Outdoors accommodate special dietary needs?
In most cases, yes. Please make sure to include this information in your Secondary Application and also notify our staff during the interview process.
What should I pack?
We have prepared a detailed packing list as well as other great information to help you get ready in the Pre-Trip Preparation section of our web site. Check it out!
Do I need a sleeping bag, hiking boots, and a heavy backpack?
Not at all! While most nights are spent at hotels, each Israel Quest trip also spends one night in the desert at a Bedouin tent. You will be provided with sleeping mats and blankets. It will be one of the most memorable nights of the trip! Otherwise, you will be staying at hotels and kibbutz guest houses in normal beds. Israel By Bike and Israel By Foot trips spend one night camping in the desert mountains. Tents and sleeping bags will also be provided. As for shoes, heavy duty hiking boots are never necessary. Good sturdy walking shoes or lightweight hiking boots are your best bet. Athletic sandals like Tevas or Chacos work well, too (summer trips only). As for heavy backpacks, they are totally unnecessary. You are encouraged to bring a light daypack with you to carry water, a hat, extra clothing, etc. while we are on the move.
Will I have any free time during the trip?
While the trip itinerary is quite intensive, we do set aside plenty of time for relaxation and personal exploration. That being said, because we take your safety and security so seriously, there will understandably be some limits on your free time, especially when we are touring in larger cities. If you have family or friends who wish to visit you during the trip, they are most welcome to meet you at one of the hotels where we will be staying. We recommend that they visit either at night or on a Saturday morning/afternoon (which is basically down time on the trip). Otherwise, we do make time for some group nights out where there will be time to explore and relax as a group. In accordance with Birthright Israel rules, you will not be able to leave the group during the program under any circumstance.
Is this trip intended for people who are religious?
Israel Outdoors groups include many participants who are not religious or who may have only a very limited connection to their Jewish identity. Israel Outdoors accommodates Jewish applicants of all backgrounds. Although we do not like labels, the trip itself is considered “non-denominational,” which is to say that everyone should feel welcome and there is no religious agenda whatsoever. We’ve planned these trips carefully, and we take great pride in knowing that participants from all Jewish backgrounds will feel comfortable in traveling with us. Past experience has also taught us that having a group made up of participants from diverse Jewish backgrounds makes the Birthright Israel experience that much more interesting and special.
Do I need to be an “outdoorsy” person to enjoy these trips?
The bottom line – these trips are meant to be enjoyed. They are NOT meant to be an intense physical challenge. Anyone with a basic spirit for adventure will feel more than comfortable on any Israel Outdoors program. That being said, Israel Quest was designed as the more relaxed of the three trips and is appropriate for truly anyone with a spirit for adventure. The Israel By Bike and Israel By Foot trips tend to be more active in terms of outdoor touring experiences. Keep in mind you will not need to schlep your belongings during the trip. Even though we try to keep you on the move and off the bus as much as possible, we still use a bus to get around!
Is the winter season a good time to travel in Israel?
Yes. Israel has a moderate, Mediterranean climate. Winter weather is typically warm during the day, although evenings may be cool and it may rain occasionally. In the winter, we spend more time in the southern areas of Israel to take advantage of warmer weather.
Is the summer season a good time to travel in Israel?
Yes. Israel in the summer is sunny with long days and little chance of rain. Summer trips tend to spend more time in the northern Galilee region where it is cooler and less time in the southern desert areas. Summer trips almost always include rafting on the Jordan River and water hikes that may not be possible in the winter.
Will I learn Hebrew on this trip?
While this trip is not about classroom learning, there will be plenty of opportunities to pick up a little Hebrew from the guide, the medics, and the Israelis that you will meet. Hebrew is a very colorful and vibrant language with especially rich slang.
Will this be an amazing experience?
Yes! Of course it will!
How do I sign up or get more information?
If you’re eligible for Birthright Israel, you should sign up now. If you’re a parent, family member, friend, etc. and want us to send info to someone else you think should travel, just let us know. If you have questions, we will be more than happy to walk you through the details and give you all the information you need to make a smart decision. Just email us or call us at 202-537-0006. We look forward to helping you start your own Birthright Israel journey with Israel Outdoors.
How can I apply to staff an Israel Outdoors trip?
We are always on the lookout for exceptional young adults from North America to staff our trips. In order to be considered for a staffing position, you must have experience in Israel, other than participating in a previous Birthright Israel group. If you are interested in applying, please read this page.