Birthright trips — the 10-day Israel tours offered free Jewish young adults — are so much a part of mainstream culture that they have been copied by other religions, referenced on television shows such as “Broad City” and “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and debated by academics and activists.
Many people envision Birthright trips as including hikes, visits to the Western Wall and flirty bus trips around Israel, but third-party vendors that work with the Taglit-Birthright Israel foundation offer an array of unexpected options — trips for yogis, journalists, medical students and more.
The latest niche offering, announced last week, is a trip for vegans run by Mayanot Israel and Jewish Veg, a nonprofit that promotes plant-based diets. Participants will visit Israeli farms, eat at vegan restaurants and meet with some of the country’s leading vegan diet proponents.
“So many young Jews who are vegan or vegetarian have become distanced from Judaism because their needs have not been met by our communal institutions,” Jeffrey Cohan, the executive director of Jewish Veg, told the Forward. “This is a phenomenal way of re-engaging them.”
The first vegan Birthright trip is scheduled for August.
Here are six other niche trips that put an unusual spin on the Birthright experience.
For journalists: Participants on the Newsroom to Newsroom trip get a behind-the-scenes look at some of Israel’s most prominent media organizations. On past trips, participants have met with Jerusalem Post writer Khaled Abu Toameh, author Yossi Klein Halevi and Times of Israel founder David Horovitz.
For yoga junkies: This past winter’s Yoga and Mindfulness trip included a combined Iyengar yoga and Torah lesson, a meditation session in the Amuka forest, a yoga session at the Safed Citadel and a Shabbat service that included meditation.
For Latin America aficionados: The USA-Argentina Joint Journey includes Argentine and North American participants, and the Across the Universe trip is made up of 20 Brazilians and 20 North Americans (and eight Israelis).
For medical students: In addition to the usual Israel sightseeing fare, participants get to meet with doctors at the prestigious Hadassah hospital, visit medics and soldiers working in the Israeli army’s Medical Corps and receive training through Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross.
For Kabbalah dabblers: The Soul Trek promises to teach participants about the ancient Jewish practice of Kabbalah through “mystical hikes,” “life-changing insights” and a meeting with a kabbalistic artist.
For social media foodies: The trip is called A Taste of Israel Through the Lens, and it encourages participants to take photos of Israeli and Middle Eastern food and share them on social media. Food markets, tours and tastings await participants, who will receive guidance on how to frame photos especially well for social media posts.