“When I grew up, when it came to Israel, every Jewish kid knew who the players were,” says Steve Eisenberg who recently led a group for Israel Free Spirit (IFS), the OU’s Taglit-Birthright Israel program. “They knew Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan,” he says. And they knew about “the wars” in 1948, 1967 and 1973. “What I’m seeing now is people who have no idea what Jews have been doing for the last 3,500 years,” he says. That’s the reason he has become passionate about leading IFS groups. In fact he has escorted 16 groups in the past six years.
In Summer 2013 and Winter 2013-2014 Israel Free Spirit had 55 groups. Of this total 31 groups came last summer and another 24 came during the winter. Registration is underway for Summer 2014 trips. One of the unique features of IFS trips is that each group has 40 participants from the US and eight IDF soldiers—contemporaries of the participants—for five of the 10 days. The idea of having soldiers in the group is to foster a relationship with real Israelis.