Birthright Israel FAQs

What is Harvard’s Hillel’s Birthright Israel Trip?

Harvard Hillel offers Harvard students of Jewish descent the chance to travel to Israel for free for ten days with their peers. There are also opportunities for non-Harvard students to join us! Americans and Israelis travel, live, and learn side by side as they explore Israel. By the end of the ten–day Birthright Israel program, participants are forever changed. North American participants gain a deeper understanding of Judaism and Israel—not only because of their experiences, but also because of the people they met.  Israeli participants are dynamic, warm, enthusiastic students and young adults. They are excited and ready to show the Americans the beauty and complexity of their country. In addition, they look forward to learning about Jewish life in America.  Harvard Hillel is committed to a pluralistic Jewish experience and reaches out to American youth who are unaffiliated and from all Jewish denominations and to Israelis from all backgrounds.

Please direct all questions to Lauren Cohen Fisher.

It sounds too good to be true. Is the trip really free?

Yes, the trip is free. There are really no catches other than the following:

  • A $250 deposit will secure your space on the program and will be fully refunded upon your return. Your deposit will also be returned if you withdraw your application before the date set forth in the waiver agreement (generally about 30 days before departure).
  • Participants are responsible for travel to and from the departure gateway.
  • Participants are responsible for one independent meal daily during the course of the program.

What does the gift cover?

It includes round-trip airfare to Israel from a departure city in the U.S., accommodations in hotels and guest houses, two meals a day, ground transportation, entrance fees to all sites on the itinerary and the services of qualified staff and educators.

When are the departure dates?

Our Winter Birthright Israel trip will depart on January 4, 2017 and return January 16, 2017. If these dates don't work for you, but you are interested in joining Harvard in Israel, please reach out to Lauren Cohen Fisher about our Summer 2017 trip.

What is the deadline for Registration?

Registration for all Birthright Israel trips opens on September 12, but you are able to pre-register now by clicking here. Registration will close when trips are full, so sign up ASAP!

I have been to Israel before. Am I eligible?

If you have been to Israel only with your family or for work, you are still eligible in most cases. Even if you've traveled on a peer group program before you turned 18, you may be eligible.  If you have any questions about your eligibility, contact Lauren Cohen Fisher before you begin the application process. You can also learn more about eligibility at the Absolutely Israel website.

Is it safe to travel in Israel?

Safety and security of participants is the top priority for Harvard Hillel, Israel Experts, and Birthright Israel. While participants are in Israel, bus itineraries are reviewed daily with Israeli authorities to ensure maximum safety, and changes are made if necessary. You can read for about our safety and security policy or contact Lauren Cohen Fisher with any questions.

Do I need a passport?

Yes, you must have a valid passport. Israeli law requires that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond the return date from Israel. If you are a U.S. citizen and you have a valid passport as defined above, you will not need a visa to enter Israel. If you live in the U.S. but are not a U.S. citizen you may need a visa for travel, depending on your country of origin. Contact the closest Israeli consulate and find out what the requirements are. Our office can help you with any documentation that you may need.

Can we visit family or friends on the trip?

Though you are never allowed to leave the group at any time, you can have friends or family in Israel visit you during the trip. On many nights there is free time at the hotel for guests to come visit. There is also often free time on Shabbat for family and friends to visit.

Can I extend my trip in Israel?

Yes. For a small fee, trips can be extended for up to six months. Contact Lauren Cohen Fisher for more information.

How many people are on the trip? How many to a room?

Your Harvard Hillel trip will have 40 students. Depending on the location, there are 2–3 participants per room. Each participant always has his/her own bed. Rooms are always divided by gender.  Most nights you’ll be in hotels or guest houses, with the exception being one night in a Bedouin camp. Eight Israeli participants will join you for half of the trip. A tour guide, Israeli guard/medic (or two) and two madrichim (trip leaders) will lead you around Israel!