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Young Adults Discovering Their Roots

October 9, 2012
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Taglit-Birthright’s Beginnings

The nation of Israel is known as the ancient homeland of the Jewish people and as a modern, robust country. It is made up of millions of Jews from over 154 countries who have returned to Israel in a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. However, a common concern from the global Jewish community is the rapid secularization and assimilation of Jewish young adults in the Western world. This fear continues to grow as the international Jewish community is threatened by intermarriage, changing of faith, or the lack and care to pass on their Jewish roots to their families and children. 

In the late 1990s, Israeli politician Yossi Beilin had a vision of counteracting the declining Jewish identity in the Diaspora. His solution was straightforward: strengthen the Jewish identity, build understanding, foster bonds of friendship, connect Jewish young adults with Israel and her people, and reinforce solidarity with the global Jewish community.

Taglit tour participants
www.israelimages.com/Noreen HaCohen
In 2000, Taglit-Birthright, a unique Jewish tour experience for young adults, was born. The main focus of the program lay not in the promotion of aliyah (immigration to Israel), but rather in reconnecting Jewish young adults to their Jewish roots. This goal is cemented in the origins of the name, taglit, which in Hebrew means “discover.” It is a free 10-day tour to Israel aimed at young adults, ages 18–26. Since its inception, more than 300,000, from 54 countries (including all 50 US states and 10 Canadian provinces) and from nearly 1,000 North American colleges and universities, have participated.

Taglit-Birthright was only made possible by strong avenues of support from the State of Israel, independent Jewish philanthropists, global Jewish organizations, and some 25,000 individual supporters. One of the most impacting financial donations given by a single donor was made in 2007 when US $60 million was donated to ensure the program’s future.

In Daniel Gordis’ book, Saving Israel, he explores the phenomenon of Taglit-Birthright with the inspired vision of Yossi Beilin. Gordis quotes, “Bring them to Israel, show them the vitality of Jewish life in the Jewish state, and they’ll feel something that they won’t ever want to abandon.” Israel has seen the success and truth of these words as, every year, Jewish young adults tread upon the streets of Jerusalem and Tiberias, ride camels in the desert, hike the hills of the Golan, or attend special synagogue services to learn about Torah [Gen.–Deut.] and Judaism.

In reflecting on this incredible “Jewish awakening,” Gordis states that, “Part of the power of this experience stemmed from the fact that their Jewishness no longer set them apart.” The term “Israel” would no longer be associated with a sense of “ancient history” for the Taglit participants; Israel told their story and evoked a deep sense of feeling and belonging.

A Christian Response, Zealous8:2

Zealous8:2 tour participants After years of successful Taglit-Birthright tours, Bridges for Peace took notice with a desire to glean from Taglit and create something similar for Christian young adults. Was there an effective way that Bridges for Peace could connect Christian young adults to the heart of God, Israel, and their Hebraic roots? This question initiated the creation of the Zealous8:2 Young Adult Adventure Program.

Inspiration was also derived from Zechariah 8:2 (“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her.’”) and is interwoven into the very fabric of the program’s title. Zealous8:2 focuses on bringing Christian young adults to Israel in order to open their eyes to God’s plan and purpose in this Land and to connect them to the work of Bridges for Peace.

Since its first tour in January 2007, Zealous8:2, now planning its 13th tour, has effectively reached over 240 young adults worldwide. It cannot erase the past and the Church’s anti-Semitic history, but it has the power to change the future by beginning to heal hurts that come from negative Christian–Jewish relations. With Zealous8:2, that healing starts on every tour when the participants cross paths with Taglit groups and are able to spread their message as Christians who love and support the Jewish people.

Editor’s Note: You can help ensure that the generations to come share your love for God and Israel. I encourage you to make an investment in the future. Send a young adult you love on a Zealous 8:2 tour or make a contribution to our Zealous 8:2 scholarship program.

Source: By Peter Fast, Zealous8:2 Coordinator

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