Photo: “Choose Your Own Adventure” with Navee, a real and local Israeli guide.
Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and for the first time in its history, Birthright-Israel has postponed all trips since mid-March. “While tens of thousands of Jewish young adults were planning to visit Israel this summer, the organization quickly turned to online high-quality engagement with its alumni and prospective participants. Since mid-March we reached 4.4 million people around the world” says Noa Bauer, VP of Global Marketing at Birthright. “Today we invite the thousands of Birthright applicants whose trips were canceled, as well as past and future Birthright participants, their families and loved ones, to take part in a virtual tour of Israel using unprecedented technology” she adds.
Today, Birthright Israel is launching the first of its kind interactive video “Choose Your Own Adventure” on a platform called Eko, allowing people to choose in real-time which sites in Israel they want to visit. This means that the online tour led by Navee, a real and local Israeli guide, allows you to choose between a visit to Masada or the Western Wall, eat in an Arabic Bistro or a Vegan restaurant, visit Birthright’s Tel Aviv Center for Israeli Innovation or a local winery and then float in the Dead Sea or surf the beach. In each location, Navee introduces visitors to local Israelis providing a deeper perspective about Israeli culture. The tour only takes about 8 to 10 minutes and you can do it again and again with different choices each time.
While Birthright was working on the project, Professor Len Saxe of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University issued a report studying all Birthright Applicants whose trips were postponed. The study found that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the emotional distress of Birthright applicants; At least one in five feel lonely, hampered by emotional difficulties and that they are not coping well. In addition, about a third are interested in any kind of Jewish online engagement – just like the one Birthright is Launching today. According to Saxe’s study, 18% of Birthright applicants whose trips were canceled are willing to board a plane to Israel “Right Now.”
“The tour is available for every person that wants to get a glimpse of what Israel has to offer, from historic sites to Israeli Innovation in a fun, innovative way,” says Bauer, “But we are still working relentlessly on making the proper adjustments in creating safe and possible options for Birthright trips to resume, supporting both Israel’s relations with the Diaspora as well as providing massive support and income to Israel’s periphery and tourism industry”.
Birthright Israel has a steadfast partnership with the government of Israel, donors and Jewish communities from around the world. Now celebrating 20 years since inception, more than 750,000 young Jewish adults from more than 68 countries participated in a 10-day free educational tour in Israel with Birthright Israel. Of these 115,000 are Israelis, most of which are IDF soldiers, students and young professionals.