Since Birthright Israel’s inception, 115,000 Israelis have participated in this extraordinary educational experience. The Israeli element of the Birthright Israel program is called ‘The Mifgash,’ which in Hebrew means encounter. The Mifgash gives Diaspora participants a chance to meet Israeli soldiers and Israeli young professionals as a unique way to experience the culture. On a typical trip, six to eight Israelis join a group for at least half of the journey. These young Israelis are full participants and become an integral part of the experience.
It wouldn’t be Birthright Israel without the Mifgashim.
The Israeli participants deliver an intimate and highly personal dynamic that allows Diaspora participants to explore and understand complex issues. These include Israel’s role in the world and the global Jewish community. “My discussions with the Israelis reinforced what I had learned in past travels. Without speaking to the people who call a place home, it is impossible to have any chance of understanding what it is really like,” says Sarah Fielding a 2019 alumna from Brooklyn, NY.
Thanks to feedback like Sarah’s, the Mifgash element has become one of the most meaningful aspects of the Birthright Israel experience. For North Americans, the participation of the Israelis shifts the character of the Birthright Israel trip by bursting the “bubble” of the typical bus tour, turning it into something more profound.
The interaction and conversation with Israeli peers — on the bus, during visits to historical sites, in a group and one-on-one discussions — allows young adults from abroad to learn first-hand about military service, Israeli society, politics, culture and family life as seen through the eyes of Israelis.
The impact on Israelis is equally profound.
Birthright Israel conducted a survey with former Mifgash participants and the results solidified the importance of this program. When asked why they want to join the program, the most common answers were:
- To meet Jews from abroad
- To strengthen trip participants’ identity with Israel
- To help participants understand the importance of the Israeli army
- To strengthen their own Jewish identity
Did You Know?
- 83% felt that Birthright Israel contributed to their understanding of Jewish life in the Diaspora.
- 95% were extremely happy with the program.
- 78% felt “very strongly” that Birthright Israel strengthened the importance of their army service.
- 88% reported that it is “extremely” important to continue the Birthright Israel program.