Why Israel, Why Now
Since 1956, BBYO has organized summer programs in Israel that have resulted in a strengthened sense of Jewish identity, a lasting connection to the State of Israel, and lives transformed. Behind our track record is a fundamental commitment to provide a safe experience in Israel.
Since 1956, BBYO has been shared the power of a summer in Israel with Jewish teens from around the world. Today, Israel trips remain at the heart of BBYO Passport programming. Why Israel?
Studies have consistently shown that a high school-age trip to Israel may serve as the single most powerful experience in the development of a teen’s Jewish identity. There is a good reason why this is true. The miracle of modern Israel’s re-emergence in the 19th and 20th centuries has resulted in a new and dynamic Jewish society. The richness of Jewish life in Israel today – in all of its many colorful forms – presents Jewish teens with a unique perspective on their own connection to Judaism and the larger Jewish world around them. This type of experience can only be found in Israel, and when these identity-building connections are made during the teenage years, the meaning is especially lasting.
Connecting with Jewish History
An experience in Israel is about 3000 years of Jewish history coming alive in a way that a classroom can never achieve. The BBYO Passport program is based on the notion that informal education through active touring is the best way to convey the richness and modern implications of Jewish history in Israel. Passport participants cover the spectrum of the Jewish people’s development in Israel – from the days of the Bible, to the Talmudic ages, and through the emergence of modern Zionism in our own times. Israel presents a unique opportunity for today’s Jewish teens to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, and make their own connections to the story of the Jewish people.
Commitment to Israel
We at BBYO believe that the thriving of modern Israel is essential to the continuity of the Jewish People. As a non-denominational and non-political program, we take pride that the Passport to Israel experience is designed to expose teens to the complexities of political life in today’s Israel. Participants will be challenged to consider different points of view and different ways to interpreting the contemporary meaning of Zionism. However, tying all of this debate and discussion together is our common unity in support of Israel and the Israeli people.
For generations, BBYO has provided deeply meaningful summer experiences in Israel for high school-age teens. We understand the unique transformational power of Israel on teen development. We also understand that many parents and teens are considering waiting until college for the 10-day Taglit-Birthright Israel program.
Birthright Israel has updated their eligibility rules. High school-age teens who travel to Israel with BBYO can now also return as a young adult using the Birthright Israel gift.
Here is why we believe so strongly that a longer, educationally-oriented high school-age summer program remains the single best time and the single best way to experience Israel...
Full & Rich Experiences
BBYO Passport programs in Israel range from three to four weeks of travel in Israel. During the course of this experience, Passport participants cover every region of Israel, and they gain a richer connection to Jewish history, spirituality, and modern culture.
Importance of High School Age Travel
BBYO Passport programs in Israel are open to high school age teens – current 9th through 12th graders. While experiencing Israel at any age can be a meaningful journey, we believe that a high school-age program is a uniquely powerful moment to visit Israel from a developmental perspective. By the time today’s teens reach college age years, frequently their priorities have started to shift, and they can be less receptive to the positive educational message of an Israel experience.
Investment in the Future
There are enormous scholarship opportunities for high school age Israel travel. These scholarship funds are offered by BBYO International, local federations, and synagogues. Often times these scholarships can significantly reduce the financial cost of an Israel trip. We encourage you to explore these scholarship opportunities aggressively and take advantage of our no-risk registration policy. However, no matter what the final cost for your family, we hope you will agree with us, that a high school-age Israel trip is not like any other summer travel program. It is an investment in the future!
What was the first BBYO trip to Israel like in 1956?
When BBYO first launched its Israel programs for teens in 1956, we welcomed 19 Jewish teens from across North America. The trans-continental flight took 33 hours from New York City with a stop to refuel in Gander, Newfoundland, and then again in London, England and then again in Rome, Italy before finally arriving to Israel. It was truly a journey!
Back in 1956, Jerusalem was still a divided city, and the Western Wall as well as the Old City in general were off limits. The Golan Heights belonged to Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula belonged to Israel. The Jewish State of Israel was only eight years old, and our teens traveled the land and contributed to the development of the Jewish Homeland. During the program they even met David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir!
Today, Israel has developed into a thriving democracy, full of culture and a modern, vibrant Jewish society. These days, our teens travel freely throughout all corners of Israel and proudly walk in the footsteps of three generations of predecessors.
Be a part of a three generation tradition
We often hear from parents who took part in past BBYO Israel trips as teens. Many are excited to tell us that they have decided to share the same BBYO experience in Israel with their own children. We were especially honored this past summer to welcome the grandson of an alumnus from the original 1956 trip in Israel! A lot has changed since then, but the spirit remains the same.
We welcome you to join BBYO this coming summer and share in the same magical experience of visiting Israel (and the world) as a high school teen. These days, BBYO Passport offers a large selection of program options in Israel and on four continents around the world. Start your summer journey today: Compare Trips
The following section focuses on trips traveling to Israel. If you have specific safety and security questions related to non-Israel trips, please contact us directly.
Below are the basic components of our approach to safety & security:
- Passport programs adhere to Israel’s Ministry of Education security policies regarding youth and student travel. Each group's itinerary is approved prior to the trip and re-approved daily by a special "Situation Room" that coordinates with Israel's security services.
- Participants are given a security and safety orientation upon arrival in Israel. During this session, participants are given rules and regulations that govern their safety. Each participant is given an orientation booklet that contains an emergency contact card with phone numbers of all staff and personnel who are available to the participants on a 24x7 basis.
- Each group is accompanied in Israel by a licensed medic/guard as well as a professional Israeli guide who is licensed according to Israel's high logistical, security, and educational standards. Each group is also accompanied by at least two counselors who are responsible for the health and well-being of each participant in their group. Each group carries a dedicated cell phone which enables contact on a 24x7 basis.
- All of the accommodations that we use have a dedicated guard and a secure area. Most of the accommodations we stay at are kibbutz-based guest houses that are located in Israel's countryside and provide space for exploration within a secure environment.
- The program itineraries do not include travel to or through any Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, Gaza, or East Jerusalem.
- We avoid travel in unsecured crowded public areas, and we always travel on our own private coach buses.
- While we make every effort to give participants space and time to explore on their own, there is no leaving the group without approved supervision.
- Parents are able to contact Passport staff on a 24x7 basis; and we regularly update parents, family, and friends about programs in progress.
- Our programs are backed up by our office in Israel and a network of field staff who support the trips on the ground during the summer.
Over and above these guidelines, BBYO as an organization will always act prudently regarding security-related decisions. And while we take matters of security seriously, we are equally committed to providing a fun, meaningful, and eye-opening summer in Israel. In spite of its media portrayal, Israel is an exceedingly vibrant country, and BBYO teens typically return home with an impression of our Jewish Homeland that is far different from their pre-summer perceptions.
On that note, we would be happy to put you in touch directly with a BBYO Passport alum if you are interested in a first-hand perspective.
Finally, if you, your family, or a friend would like to discuss our security approach in greater detail, we encourage you to contact us directly at 1-202-537-8091.