Teenagers visiting Israel with the Taglit-Birthright program were taken for a day of fun at a spa on Tisha B'Av, Ynet learned Sunday.
Birthright strives to bring Jewish teens from around the world to Israel to connect with their Jewish roots. The program was established in 2000 by wealthy Jewish philanthropists, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Israeli government in order to battle assimilation and strengthen young people's ties to Israel.
But this year, participants spent one of the most important dates in Jewish history – the day of mourning for the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha B'Av – at Ein Gedi's famous thermo-mineral pools.
One of the teens participating in Birthright complained of the lack of respect for the religious day of mourning, suggesting it would have been better spent at the Western Wall.
Ynet has found that it was not the first time Birthright has ignored Tisha B'Av. Last year the program also scheduled a fun day on that date. Apparently, the activities are scheduled according to the regular calendar, not the Jewish one.
Birthright stated in response that it functions "in the spirit of Judaism, and respects Israeli holy days", but that on Tisha B'Av "educational tours take place as usual."