Since it was launched in 2000, the Taglit-Birthright program has injected more than $825 million into the Israeli economy, according to the findings of an independent study conducted by the global accounting firm Ernst & Young, which were published on Wednesday.
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The State of Israel contributes $35 million a year to the program’s $110 million budget. The rest of the funding comes from private philanthropists, most prominently casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish federations of North America, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency.
Taglit-Birthright, widely considered to be the most successful Jewish program in the world, has thus far brought more than 350,000 participants to Israel from 64 different countries and all 50 U.S. states on free 10-day trips.
The report said that direct payments made by the program for travel services, admission fees to tourist sites and tour guides in Israel totaled $565 million. Another $100 million went to special programs run by Taglit, such as its training institute for tour educators, the Excel summer internship program, the Genesis enrichment program for Russian speakers and peer meetings with Israeli soldiers and students. The report estimated that another $260 million was pumped into the economy through purchases of gifts of food, as well as trip extensions.
"For years we have conducted research showing our program's effectiveness in promoting Jewish continuity,” said Taglit-Birthright Chief Executive Office Gidi Mark. “With this study, we validate the important contribution we make to the Israeli economy. This study shows the critical role we play as one of the leading tour operators in the country and the positive impact we make on businesses in Israel."