In total, a record 3.54 million visitors entered Israel in 2013.

Looking out over Israel’s desert

UJIA is to extend eligibility for its flagship Birthright programme to those in their 20s who have already been to Israel on Tour or through school. 

The change, which will allow hundreds more young British Jews to go on the free 10-day trip, was described as a “barrier lifted” by the charity this week.

It comes in response to concerns from UJIA Israel engagement officers that today’s youngsters are not forming the same relationship with the Jewish state as their parents and grandparents did.

“We have to respond to the fact that young people are not automatically forming a strong bond with Israel,” said UJIA Birthright and Gap Year Development Co-ordinator Josh Dubell. 

“A second educational trip to Israel in their twenties, even if they went on Tour at 16, will help us cement that connection.”

Currently about 280 British Jews aged 20-26 go to Israel every year on the long-established programme, but the change in eligibility criteria – to include 19 year-olds to reach first year university students – means that there could now be up to 500 participants annually. 

Under the new rules, a 19-26 year-old will be eligible as long as they have not been on an organised trip to Israel since the age of 18, and have not been on an organised trip lasting 3 months or more since the age of 12.

“We believe that opening up eligibility is something our young community needs,” said Dubell. “We’re still focusing on first-timers, but it’s important to offer more chances to have a deep engagement with Israel, while also helping prepare people for campus and the workplace.”

Previously, those who had been on Israel Tour or an extended school trip to Israel were ineligible to go on UJIA Birthright, but the organisation said “this barrier has now been lifted, opening up the programme to second timers”.

Under the changes, which are effective from Monday, participants will be able to select from different group options, such as those reflecting their Jewish affiliation, or opting for a student trip.