by Karine E. Brown
Yesterday, Taglit-Birthright Israel broke another one of its all-time records by bringing to Israel 39 groups from across the globe. The organization marked the moment with a special reception at Ben Gurion Airport in the presence of the Minister of Tourism, Dr. Uzi Landau, the CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, Mr. Gidi Mark and 400 of 4500 participants traveling around Israel yesterday. The participants who landed throughout the day from Australia, Argentina, Russia, the United States, Germany and Canada will join over 350 thousand young adults who have come to Israel through the organization.
For the hour prior to the reception, the drums rolled and the music blared to welcome the groups as they made their way through the main hall at Ben Gurion airport towards a side room where they were greeted by Dr. Landau, Mr. Mark and a room full of welcoming Israelis.
“The sparks I see in your eyes remind me of how special and exciting Israel is and how much you all will experience as you travel throughout the country in the coming days. I’m sure this trip will change your lives,” said the Minister as he spoke to the young faces in the crowd. Contrary to what many may believe, Taglit-Birthright Israel’s main goal is not to promote Aliyah, yet, rather, to build connections and bonds between Israel and the Diaspora. Dr. Landau added another important aspect explaining that tourism is a way to bridge the gap “between cultures, nations, world views, languages and religions, there is no other trip such as this one offering such a menu.” He also noted, “The possibility tourists will be able to do what politicians have not succeeded in doing.”
Even more, the ecstatic CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, Mr. Gidi Mark, proudly walked to the platform and began by stating, “we broke another record, 1600 participants landed in Israel today alone,” a number not many organizations can claim their own. “I am equally excited we are able to bring to Israel thousands of young Jews, many of whom have never been to here before.”
Right before the ceremony came to a close, the President and CEO of Hillel International, Eric Fingerhut, gave his warm blessings and altogether the young participants welcomed in their upcoming experience with an emotional “she’echiyanu ve’kiymanu ve’higiyanu lazman hazeh” to mark the milestone in their lives.
photos by Assaf Lev