While students at the University will endure another Minnesota January, 20 of their peers will be overseas enjoying a free trip in the warm climate of Israel.
Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, is offering 20 Jewish University students between the ages of 18 and 25 a free 10-day trip to Israel during winter break.
The trips are funded by Birthright Israel, a partnership between philanthropists, Jewish communities and the citizens of Israel. Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, the founders of the travel program, wanted to give Jewish students an opportunity to explore their identities.
“Steinhardt and Bronfman felt it should be the birthright of every Jew to visit Israel,” said Amy Olson, executive director of Hillel.
The trip was also designed to help students build stronger Jewish identities and communities.
“I think a sense of community will be gained from an intensive trip like this one. The combination of the living and ancient history will be unforgettable; it brings Jewish history alive,” said Olson.
In addition to the 20 students from Minnesota who will travel to Israel, a total of 2,800 Jewish students from universities across the country will also be in attendance through the same program.
“I think the experience of going together as a group will be the most important part of the trip,” said Jay Ciegel, a junior in history.
The itinerary will include tours of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Galilee region. Students will have a chance to meet with Israeli peers and representatives from a variety of Jewish organizations.
Upon returning from the trip, Hillel plans to hold follow-up activities that will encourage students to participate in Jewish activities and deepen their understanding of their Jewish identity.
This is the first time Hillel has offered students a chance to visit Israel for free, but they hope it will not be the last.
“This trip is like a guinea pig. The hope is that this will be the first of many trips to come,” said Olson.
Because there are only 20 University spots open on the trip, not all applicants may be able to participate. A lottery system will be used to decide who gets to attend after the initial screening is completed.
The deadline for applicants is Sept. 30. In order to be eligible, students must be between the ages of 18 and 25, Jewish and never have been to Israel.
Applications are available online at www.israel2000.org.
Liz Bogut welcomes comments at [email protected]