Below you will find many of the questions we are most frequently asked – and their answers.
If you have any other questions, please call us on 1-800-218-9851 or email us!
- What is Taglit-Birthright Israel?
- Am I eligible for the trip?
- What are the departure dates?
- Where do the trips depart from?
- Do I have to be a student to be eligible?
- I don't know any Hebrew and I'm not particularly religiously observant. Will I feel left out?
- Is the trip really free?
- This sounds too good to be true. Where's the catch?
- Israel has been in the news a lot recently. Is it safe to go?
- What does the trip include?
- Will I have any free time during the trip?
- Can I stay on in Israel after the program? What if I'd like to take a side trip to Jordan, for example?
- How do I extend my ticket?
- How many participants will there be on the upcoming trips? Where will they come from?
- How are the groups organized?
- Do I need a passport?
- What if I'd like to be with friends of mine who are also applying for the program?
- What are your Shabbat programs like?
- Can I leave the program and visit my uncle who lives in Jerusalem?
- How do I reserve an IsraelExperts extension program?
- Will it be possible to reserve one of your extension packages while we are in Israel?
- When is the best time to reserve an extension to Europe?
- If we decide to extend our trip to Europe, does that mean we have to fly back to Israel to return home on El AL or can we fly home from Europe on a different airline?
- If I go to Jordan, will we have security with us the whole time? Do I need a visa for Jordan?
- What is the best way to get to Eilat?
- After visiting your website and reading this section, I still have questions about the program. How can I have them answered?
What is Taglit-Birthright Israel?
Taglit-Birthright Israel is the most significant Jewish philanthropic endeavor of its kind. The co-founders of the project, philanthropists Charles R. Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, have created a unique and unprecedented partnership between the Government of Israel, Jewish federations/communities around the world and private philanthropists. These partners believe that it is every Jew's right to be offered a first-time visit to Israel as a gift from the Jewish people.
Since the launch of the Taglit-Birthright Israel initiative in 1999, close to 300,000 Jewish young adults have benefited from this incomparable opportunity through the tremendous generosity of the program's partners.
- 18 through 26 (see below)
- Have not been to Israel on a peer program for a period of 3 months or longer since turning 18.
On the other end of the age range, you must have turned 18 AND completed high school before your trip departure date.
Family visits to Israel or private visits on your own do not disqualify you. If you are unsure whether a previous visit to Israel affects your eligibility, contact us to find out.
For Taglit-Birthright Israel eligibility requirements, you are Jewish if you have at least one Jewish parent (mother or father) and consider yourself to be Jewish, or if you have completed a conversion course (certification will be required).
Where do the trips depart from?
Taglit-Birthright Israel IsraelExperts groups depart from New York area airports and Los Angeles. Airfare to and from Tel Aviv is part of the Taglit-Birthright Israel gift, but participants are responsible for making their own way to the departure point.
Do I have to be a student to be eligible?
No. Although dates for the trips are often set in order to accommodate student schedules, you are eligible as long as you meet the three basic eligibility criteria above.
I don't know any Hebrew and I'm not particularly religiously observant. Will I feel left out?
As the tour is open only to individuals who have never been to Israel on an organized trip, you will likely be with many others who don't speak a word of Hebrew, are not religious, and who may feel quite distant from their Jewish background. Our itineraries (a sample can be viewed HERE) are specifically geared toward first-timers to Israel like you, and our programs and approach have typically appealed mainly to non-affiliated participants.
As for the language issue, many Israelis speak English fluently, and all programs, including the activities during which you'll meet Israeli peers, will be conducted in English.
Is the trip really free?
Yes. Apart from lunch, snacks & spending money, there is no cost involved for the 10-day program. This gift is 100% subsidized through the generosity of major philanthropists, local Jewish Federations and the Government of Israel. You will be asked to send a refundable $250 deposit after you are accepted to the program. This deposit is only intended to secure your space on the program and will be fully refunded once you've completed it, no questions asked and no strings attached. It will also be refunded if you voluntarily withdraw your application before a specified cancellation deadline set by Taglit-Birthright Israel. There are no other administration or registration fees whatsoever.
This sounds too good to be true. Where's the catch?
Believe it or not, there is no catch. There are no hidden costs and no one will ask you to do anything in particular when you return. All that will be asked of you is that you participate fully in the program itself during the time you're in Israel. Of course, we'd like to think that you will enjoy the experience so much that you'll share it with eligible friends and acquaintances who have yet to visit Israel.
Israel has been in the news a lot recently. Is it safe to go?
The majority of disturbances we've seen in the news occur in specific areas, namely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. IsraelExperts programs do not visit these areas and we make sure to coordinate our itineraries with various security agencies throughout Israel. Also, the program is run in a very structured way and participants are forbidden to use public transportation or to walk about freely without any supervision. Taglit-Birthright Israel programs have run successfully and incident-free since 1999, with over 250,000 participants in spite of the situation.
What does the trip include?
It includes a round-trip ticket to Israel from one among several designated departure cities, shared hotel accommodations, two meals a day (usually breakfast and dinner), ground transportation in air-conditioned luxury tour coaches, entrance fees to all sites on the itinerary, and the services of qualified staff and tour guides. Spending money for gifts and personal purchases is your responsibility, of course.
As for the program details, check out our Trip Options section for more information.
Will I have any free time during the trip?
There will be (depending on the itinerary) structured opportunities to explore selected areas of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other cities. If you have family in Israel they will be able to visit you at your hotel over Shabbat, or you may extend your stay after the program for longer visits. At no time will participants be allowed to be picked up by family or friends during the trip, nor to leave the trip to visit them.
Can I stay on in Israel after the program? What if I'd like to take a side trip to Jordan, for example?
IsraelExperts offers a variety of affordable add-on options that allow you to stay on in Israel after the end of the program, including trips to Jordan and Eilat.
How do I extend my ticket?
Extensions prior to departure are handled through Gil Travel (Taglit-Birthright Israel's travel agency). We highly recommend that you extend your stay prior to leaving the US since all seats are subject to availability, contract specifications and specific classes of service by the airlines. Although some airlines permit the extension to be made in Israel, it can be time consuming, and seats are limited.
You can only make your extension request via the Gil Travel website and must allow sufficient time for it to be processed prior to your departure date. The link for extension reservations is: http://www.giltravel.com/extensionsinfo.htm
Please note : It is the participants’ responsibility to contact the airline if they are not flying on the original or new extended return date. Participants who are no-show to the airline risk having their return ticket “NULL and VOID” and will be responsible to buy a one way ticket return.
How many participants will there be on the trips? Where will they come from?
There will usually be between 40 and 44 participants on your bus and depending upon the trip you choose, they will probably come from all over the United States. Taglit-Birthright Israel trips are available to people from the USA, Canada and many other countries throughout the world.
How are the groups organized?
Individual groups travel in one bus each and are usually made up of 40 participants plus staff. The staff includes a Ministry of Education certified Israeli tour guide, two IsraelExperts group leaders and one Israeli guard/medic. We also have a number of support staff that move from group to group to ensure things go smoothly. Although individual groups may occasionally run into each other at various sites, they are normally independent of one another.
Unless the trip is a community or campus trip, participants do not typically come from one region but rather from all over the United States. From experience, we believe that there is educational value in experiencing Israel with fellow Jews from other places. For the benefit of group dynamics, IsraelExperts groups are divided by age whenever there are multiple departures on a given date.
Do I need a passport?
YES!! You do need one and this is something you should take care of right away. Click here to get a detailed explanation of passport and visa requirements for travel to Israel.
What if I'd like to be with friends of mine who are also applying for the program?
Let us know the names of the people you'd like to be with during your telephone interview. You should also complete the registration process at the same speed and be sure to sign up for the same program. We'll do our best to make sure that you're all placed together.
What are your Shabbat programs like?
Shabbat in Israel is a unique and varied experience. In some cities, business comes to a stop, traffic is halted and the streets are filled with people walking to and from synagogue and to friends and families for dinner. In other places restaurants and clubs are open for Israelis who see Shabbat as a chance to change pace, relax, have a day off and meet with friends.
IsraelExperts celebrates the pluralism that makes Israel such a wonderful place to be for Shabbat. Depending on the itinerary and the number of Shabbats during the trip and other factors that come into play in the design, you can expect to experience Shabbat in Israel in one of many ways. For some it may be a walk to the Western Wall, for others it may be a creative service with guitar on the beach of Tel Aviv. For others it may be a choice of services and discussions while on a remote kibbutz in the Negev.
In all cases, we join together as a community to share in a special Shabbat dinner and gather afterwards to reflect on our experiences. As an organization that is geared towards a pluralistic and non-denominational group, we strive to create an experience that is accessible to all. In any case IsraelExperts guarantees that each participant will have an unforgettable experience that is special for your group and unique to Israel. Like all Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, we do not travel on Shabbat and all meals throughout the trip are Kosher.
Can I leave the program and visit my uncle who lives in Jerusalem?
Due to safety and security requirements, you will NOT be allowed to leave the group at any time throughout the 10 day program. Family & friends are welcome to come and visit you in the hotels when you do not have a program, and you will see time scheduled on your itinerary stating when else family & friends may come and visit.
How do I reserve an IsraelExperts extension program?
If you are applying for an extension while you are still in the US you can Click Here to see the different extension programs we offer, and also download the reservation form. Fill it out and send it to us either by fax or e-mail. We will then send you a confirmation e-mail with all the details. If you decide to extend when you are in Israel, there will be some reservation forms on your bus which you can fill out and fax over to our office. Or you can call the office and we will fill out the form for you.
Will it be possible to reserve one of your extension packages while we are in Israel?
You will be able to sign up for extension packages while you are in Israel. Sometimes it works out better to plan your extension while you are in Israel because you will have had a chance to find nice people on your bus to travel with. There will be a folder on your bus giving you full details.
When is the best time to reserve an extension to Europe?
The best time to arrange an extension to Europe would be when you get to Israel. This will allow you to take advantage of the best last minute deals available.
If we decide to extend our trip to Europe, does that mean we have to fly back to Israel to return home on El AL or can we fly home from Europe on a different airline?
You will have to go back to Israel and fly back to the States from Israel. Another option is that you buy your own ticket from Europe back to the States which means that you will forfeit the return portion of your Taglit-Birthright Israel ticket.
If I go to Jordan, will we have security with us the whole time? Do I need a visa for Jordan?
At the border, your Jordanian guide will be there waiting for you. In addition to that, the Government of Jordan provides a Jordanian Police Officer who is with your group at all times. You do not need a visa for Jordan - only border taxes, which you will pay at the border.
What is the best way to get to Eilat?
There are two ways to get to Eilat. You can take a bus from Tel Aviv/Jerusalem or anywhere in Israel. The bus ride is from 5 to 6 hours long; a round trip costs approximately $40. The second way is by taking a 45 minute flight to Eilat. A round trip costs $160. If you reserve a package with us, we will provide you with full information.
After visiting your website and reading this section, I still have questions about the program. How can I have them answered?
We want you to make a decision with as much information in hand as you need. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-218-9851. From the beginning of registration we will be in the office in Israel ready to answer your calls from Sunday through Thursday between the hours of 7am and 5pm (New York time). We'll be glad to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have about the trip.
If you'd like, we can also refer you to one of our past participants so that you get a first-hand account of the experience from someone just like you. We would also like to recommend you join our Facebook page, where you can meet participants who have already been to Israel with us and those like yourself who are just beginning their journey.