Birthright Israel

Birthright program contributed over $1 billion to Israeli economy, study shows

NEW YORK – The Birthright Israel program, which provides free trips to Israel for young Jews across the world, has contributed $1.1 billion to the economy since it begun in 2000, according to a study by the firm Ernst & Young.The figures show that the gross contribution was made both directly and indirectly. The direct contribution of Birthright Israel to the economy, which consists of paying for hotels, tourism suppliers, flights and educational activities, amounts to $840 million. The indirect contribution, consisting of participants’ expenses, such as food, beverages, souvenirs, trip extensions and returning trips, amounts to $325m.

Ernst & Young’s report also showed that Birthright Israel participants make up 12% of the tourists visiting Israel from June to August and December to January, and that while the Israeli tourism sector is often affected by the security situation, Birthright participants growth remains steady, highlighting that most Birthright groups arrive in the off-season and therefore balance supply and demand.

In addition, Birthright Israel participants were found to be significant drivers of small businesses in Israel, with 47% of Birthright overnights taking place in peripheral areas in Israel, in locally owned accommodations, compared to only 28% of overnights for overall incoming tourism.

“This new report validates the success of our program and reinforces one of our main goals: to have participants return to Israel and foster relationships with its people throughout their lifetime,” Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark said.

Mark predicts that Birthright will “have an even greater impact on Israel in the near future, as participants decide to work at Israeli companies or start businesses of their own in Israel.”

The data from the study project an additional gross contribution from Birthright to the economy until 2020 estimated at $770m.

Since its founding 15 years ago, Birthright Israel has provided free trips to more than 500,000 Jews aged 18 to 26, with the goal of “strengthening Jewish identity, facilitating cultural understanding and fostering solidarity with Israel and its people.”

Birthright Israel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Taglit-Birthright Israel (Hebrew: תגלית‎‎), also known as Birthright Israel or simply Birthright, is a not-for-profit educational organization that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage, aged 18–26.[1]

Taglit is the Hebrew word for discovery. During their trip, participants, most of whom are visiting Israel for the first time, are encouraged to discover new meaning in their personal Jewish identity and connection to Jewish history and culture.[2]

Since trips began in the winter of 1999, more than 500,000 young people from 64 countries have participated in the program.[3][4] About 80% of participants are from the United States and Canada. The number of participants has not grown beyond 40,000 a year due to budgetary constraints.[1]

First ‘Birthright for business executives’ trip takes in Israel

Where a program that sponsors college students’ visits to the Holy Land leaves off, the AlmaLinks group aimed at entrepreneurs steps in
By Dan Schwartz October 20, 2016,
The Birthright program has brought more than half a million young adults to Israel on intense 10-day visits. To replicate that experience for members of the business world, AlmaLinks, a group focused on promoting ties between the global Jewish business community and Israel, has started sponsoring its own Birthright-style trip, bringing business executives to Israel to meet their local counterparts.“Despite nearly two decades of Birthright, the program that brings college-age students to Israel to get to know the country, the large majority of American Jews have never visited Israel, and even with the reputation of the Start-Up Nation, there are many in the tech and business community who are not familiar with what we do here. They have missed out on brand Israel,” said AlmaLinks founder, business executive Tomer Sapir.

“Through AlmaLinks activities including parlor meetings, lectures, social events, and now organized tours, we try to instill and promote a positive relationship between the two sides.”

AlmaLinks started out five years ago as an informal network of Israeli and US young executives who were looking for a way to keep the friendships they had made in Israel alive. Today, AlmaLinks is a network of over 600 outstanding young CEOs and executives in 10 global chapters. It is led by businesspeople and financiers who decided to form an organization focused on Israel and the Jewish people.

The guest list at a typical AlmaLinks event is a who’s who of the Israeli business community. One recent event included over 50 CEOs and founders of some of the largest high-tech startups in the country, and similar events in the US, South Africa, and other places where the group is active hosted a similarly accomplished list of guests.

“For 60% of our members, AlmaLinks is the first Israeli or Jewish organization they have been involved with, and many of our unaffiliated members haven’t been able to make it to Israel yet due to the heavy workload that comes with building a business,” said Sapir. “AlmaLinks fills that gap, providing opportunities to meet with and connect to like-minded Israelis, and come face-to-face with the business leaders who are driving the Israeli economy.”

Last month, AlmaLinks sponsored its first Diaspora delegation visit to Israel. The group saw the sights — Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People; the Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim; the Western Wall — as well as the inner workings of several startups, with participants (who are in the tech business themselves) getting a first-hand look at how Israeli firms operate.

Among the executives the group met with were Ziv Aviram, CEO and founder of Mobileye, Haim Neerman, founder of Credorax and FabrixTV, Noam Shomron, founder of Variantyx, a cutting-edge genome diagnostic company; and Yaron Ben Shaul, CEO of Vernet and Hometalk.

For some participants, AlmaLinks programs are a transformative experience. Amanda Bresler of PW Communications, one of the largest business development and proposal writing firms on the East Coast, said that, having been raised in a Reform household in suburban Washington, “I had no real Jewish network to speak of. While I had never had any strong desire to visit Israel, I was nearing the end of my eligibility for Birthright and figured that, given I already had the time off, I may as well take advantage. I went on Birthright in December 2014, and while I was in Israel, I quickly recognized that the country has an amazing energy and ability to produce brilliant solutions.”

Bresler decided that her company needed to be active in Israel, but had no idea how to proceed – until she got involved in AlmaLinks.

The group, she said, “has connected me to hundreds of people around the world, who I count among not only my business contacts but also my personal friends. AlmaLinks ‘shows’ Israel to a group of people who, in many instances, are otherwise disconnected from the country. As a Jew who lives in the Diaspora, I know firsthand how easy it is to live well and productively, without ever engaging in Israel. The other organizations I would come across in New York and elsewhere in the US try to bring you into the ‘fold’ in Israel, by leading with a religious message. That message works for some, but not for a growing population of American Jews — Jews, like me, who are largely secular and are more likely to derive a meaningful connection to Israel through business/networking opportunities.”

For Israeli members, AlmaLinks brings a refreshing change to the usual connection that they have with Disapora Jews. Israeli business magnate Victor Vaisleib said, “’Old-school’ Israeli groups plead with American Jews to either make aliyah or to donate money, and both approaches have long been controversial and polarizing. In fact, in the 21st century they’re simply irrelevant. Israel as a springboard for young leaders at their career prime is a value-based concept that makes a lot of sense in today’s environment.”

Long-term, it remains to be seen what the real effect of AlmaLinks will be on Israel-Diaspora business ties, said Vaisleb, but Sapir is optimistic. “What AlmaLinks provides is the platform, at a local and a global level, to grow and sustain that spark of excitement about Israel’s business, high-tech, and entrepreneur community. Our aim is to foster that excitement among the talented young professionals who, as they take up leadership positions in their industries, will keep in mind Israel and the Jewish community.”


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