A great opportunity for Jewish URI students to visit Israel through the Birthright Israel organization. Photo courtesy of Yaniv Havusha.

Jewish Students attending the University of Rhode Island will have the opportunity to embark on a nearly all-expense-paid trip to Israel this upcoming spring. The University’s Hillel chapter will be engaging in what is known as Birthright Israel and it is open to any Jewish student attending the University.

Birthright Israel is an organization that takes Jewish adults between the ages of 18-26 to Israel for 10 days. While in Israel, visitors will have the opportunity to visit historic landmarks, explore contemporary arts and culture, examine core values of the religion and see the challenges the country faces. Birthright has grown to become the largest educational tourism organization in the world today, and has provided over 600,000 young Jewish adults the chance to visit the state of Israel.

Yaniv Havusha, the director of Jewish student life on the University’s campus, is the liaison between Hillel International and URI to coordinate and execute the trip this upcoming Spring. Havusha has been to Israel eight times for Birthright; twice for URI Hillel and six times for Hillel international.

“I think it is a great opportunity for Jewish students to connect to the land of Israel and their heritage,” said Havusha. “It gives them the opportunity to do that with individuals who are like-minded and the same age.”

There are also certain requirements students must meet to be granted their Birthright trip, as they must prove they are Jewish.

“Unfortunately, it is not open to everyone,” Havusha said. “You must prove your Jewish identity as part of the application process. You don’t need to be overly religious, but you must have one Jewish parent. Students who have been to Israel for a 3-month or longer-term program are ineligible.”

Sophomore Rachel Levine participated in the University’s Birthright Israel trip this past summer. Levine noted that the trip not only brought her closer to Judaism as a religion, but made her desire to go back an unyielding task.

I would encourage other students to apply for Birthright because you get to experience a new culture and meet so many new people whether its students from your school, Israeli soldiers or people from other colleges that combine with your trip. By the end of the trip, Israel becomes your second home,” said Levine.

Levine had the opportunity to camp in the Negev Desert, a region in Southern Israel. In addition, Birthright gives participants the opportunity to ride camels and watch the sun rise over the Dead Sea.

Levine was accompanied by 12 other students from the University. “I was really nervous because I didn’t know anyone going into the trip,” she said. “I met so many new people from URI that I still hang out with and talk to till this day.”

Interested candidates should contact the University’s Hillel center for extensive details about the upcoming trip. There is no strict deadline for applications, but students are encouraged to show interest and submit paperwork as soon as possible.