Demand among young Jews in the Diaspora to participate in Taglit-Birthright Israel educational tours of Israel rose by 11% compared to last year, according to the most recent enrollment data of candidates in North America.
The data refers to young people aged 18-26, who apply to come on a 10-day educational tour of Israel.
During its latest registration period in September, Taglit-Birthright Israel received 23,623 eligible applications for 9,576 places on its winter trips, which will take place between December this year and March 2011.
Registration closed after just seven days in order to avoid disappointing thousands of further potential applicants. This number of applications compares to 21,093 applicants at the same time last winter, when registration closed early after 10 days, due to the high demand.
These figures follow the most successful year to date for Taglit-Birthright Israel - the most successful Jewish and Zionist educational project in the world – which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
Last summer, Taglit-Birthright Israel doubled the number of participants compared to summer 2009, but owing to unprecedented demand, thousands are still left on waiting lists.
Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, said: "Taglit-Birthright Israel is the leading Zionist youth project in the world today that is dealing with the phenomena of assimilation and a distancing from Israel amongst the younger generation in the Diaspora. Our success is turning into growing numbers of young Jews in the Diaspora who want to join Taglit-Birthright Israel trips in order to connect to their heritage.
"At a time when Israel's international public image is under attack, the changing trend we are seeing with these youth is tremendously encouraging. These numbers from North America reflect the scope of the unprecedented demand in other places around the world, too. We are taking another crucial step towards achieving our strategic goal of bringing the majority of young Jews from the Diaspora to Israel for a life-changing experience."
'Main defenders of Israel's image'
A recent Brandeis University study, which marked a decade of Taglit-Birthright Israel, found that Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni feel a stronger connection to Israel than others in their peer group (23% more than young people who did not participate in the project). Additionally, the study showed that alumni believe they can better explain Israel's position to others, following a tour in the country.
Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, said: "Ten years ago, Taglit-Birthright Israel grew from an idea into reality. Today, a quarter of a million Jews from around the world have visited Israel on Taglit-Birthright Israel educational trips.
"It is comforting to know that these young Jews are the main defenders of Israel's image on campuses in the United States. It is our duty to step up efforts and contact with young Jews in the Diaspora, and seek to bring as many of these young people as possible to Israel every year. "
Participants on the recent summer trips came to Israel from North America and from countries around the world including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Denmark, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and even Suriname.
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