The price of a standard 10-day Israel trip can be expensive, averaging about $3,000 per person, according to Israel’s Tourism Ministry. But there are a number of programs that can get you to Israel at a reduced price or free, as long as you meet certain criteria.
Aish JerusalemFellowships (goisrael.org) features single-sex study trips with scholarships available to reduce program costs from $2,000 to about $500. Women-only trips include JEWEL (19-30) and GEM (30 and older); men-only trips aimed at current college students and those under 30 include the Alpha Epsilon Pi Jerusalem Road Trip (jerusalemroadtrip.com) and Essentials, a beginner study program for ages 18-29.
American PhysiciansFellowship (apfmed.org) works with Taglit-Birthright Israel to send medical and nursing students — or college seniors with a letter of acceptance to a medical or nursing school — to train at Israel Defense Forces and civilian medical facilities. Students must be under age 26 as of May 31.
BBYO Passport (passport.bbyo.org) offers the 10-day Israel Family Journey, a Jewish heritage tour designed for adults and families of all backgrounds. All meals are kosher, and there are no bus-based tours on Shabbat. The base price is $1,750 per person, airfare and one meal not included. Group rates are available. Membership or prior affiliation with BBYO is not necessary.
GoSephardic (gosephardic.com), an Aish HaTorah program, offers three-week educational trips for 18- to 26-year-old Sephardim. Trips cost $2,000, including airfare, with departures from Los Angeles or New York.
Hasbara Fellowships (israelactivism.com) brings college students with at least two semesters remaining to Israel to study information relevant to becoming a campus activist. Fellows work with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are required to run at least one campus campaign.
Livnot (livnot.com) trips provide a glimpse into Judaism through community service, lectures and hikes. The three-week program, aimed at adults 18 to 30, costs $1,000, not including airfare.
MASA (masaisrael.org) offers various semester- or year-long trips for college students (18-30) who want to study in Israel. The programs — more than 150 — vary in duration and cost. Depending on the program, grants and scholarships may be available to help defray the expense; a few cover the entire trip.
Taglit-BirthrightIsrael (birthrightisrael.com) offers free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish adults 18 to 26 (those turning 27 prior to May 1 are ineligible) who have neither traveled to Israel before on a peer educational trip or study program nor have lived in Israel beyond the age of 12. Birthright enforces strict security measures; participants are not allowed to go off on their own at any time. The program places an emphasis on peer experiences, and many participants develop long-term friendships and continue on with other Birthright initiatives after their trip. Oranim (israelfree.com) offers a similar 10-day trip for Jews 18 to 30, as well as a five-month work-experience program in the hotel industry or a five-month volunteer program.
Volunteers for Israel(vfi-usa.org) works with Sar-El to place American volunteers on Israel Defense Forces bases for two or three weeks to relieve reservists. Volunteers work on the base Sundays through Thursdays. VFI pays for meals, uniforms and housing during the workweek, but participants pay their own way Fridays and Saturdays.