Israel tour programmes for 16-year-olds have been cancelled for the second year running due to the pandemic.
The announcement was made on Monday by UJIA after “every route has been exhausted” to make it go ahead.
Last year more than 1,200 Jewish teens across 11 different Jewish youth movement were left disappointed after Covid-19 prevented month-long trips to Israel from taking place. Ordinarily, tour groups for year 11s costs around £3,250.
The cancellation comes despite Israel and the UK having run successful vaccination programmes, which have driven down case numbers in both countries. Israel’s health ministry announced that travellers would be allowed to come to Israel by mid-May if they could prove they had been vaccinated. The vast majority of 16-year-olds would not have got a vaccine by July when tour takes place.
Mandie Winston, chief executive of UJIA, said: “Every route has been exhausted not just once, but multiple times. We have a responsibility to the community to make a decision, and, very reluctantly, we have decided that this is the only safe and responsible course of action available.
“It is inconceivable that teenagers under 18 years of age who wish to participate will all have been vaccinated by July and uncertainty over insurance and Covid-19 protocols means that, with heavy hearts, we can’t run Israel Tours this summer,” added Winston.
“We know how disappointing it is for teenagers not to be able to take part in an Israel Tour this summer and we’re grateful to them and their families for their patience while we did everything we could to try to make it possible.”
Irit Barash, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s delegation to the UK and Western Europe, said: “The connections between Israel and the UK Jewish community are an inspiration and Israel Tour plays such a crucial part in strengthening those ties. It is sad that we can’t go ahead with tours this summer but it is important that we continue to work together to provide Jewish teenagers with formative experiences of engagement with Israel.”
While tour has been cancelled, for the second year running UJIA is running a £140,000 Summer Engagement fund to ensure Israel education takes place.
It has also said there will be significant investment in Israel trips for 2022 including bursaries and more places on Birthright, Onward Israel and opportunities for funding with gap year programmes.
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”