Birthright Stops All Trips to Israel Over Coronavirus Outbreak

Cancellations will affect 500 participants who had signed up for trips from the United States, Germany, and the former Soviet bloc countries as the world grapples with the coronavirus

Birthright participants in Israel, 2018.
Courtesy of Birthright

In wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Taglit-Birthright is canceling all its upcoming trips to Israel that are still scheduled for the winter season.

This is the first time in its 20-year history that the organization, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for young Jewish adults, has terminated trips.

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According to a spokesperson for Birthright, the cancellations will affect 500 participants who had signed up for trips from the United States, Germany, and the former Soviet bloc countries. Birthright’s winter season runs from the start of December until late March.

The spokesperson said that the decision would affect “only a handful of remaining scheduled trips.” Birthright is the largest provider in the world of educational trips to Israel. It brings on average 40,000 participants a year to the country.

Even during periods of war and terror attacks, Birthright has never canceled trips, though it has sometimes altered its itineraries when certain parts of the country were considered particular risks for travelers.

Birthright has every intention of resuming its trips at the start of the summer season, according to the spokesperson.

“For the past 20 years, the safety and well-being of our more than 750,000 participants have remained our top priority,” she said. “We look forward to restarting trips for summer season in May and will be staying in close contact with the Israel Ministry of Health. Any changes to our program will be communicated with our trip organizers and participants on a timely basis.”

Masa, an organization that brings about 12,000 young Jewish adults to Israel every year on more extended programs, said that as of now, none of them are being canceled.

“But we are aware of the situation and constantly monitoring any changes in regulations put out by the government,” the orgnization said. Masa offers hundreds of educational, volunteer and internship programs around the country.