ILSI is BBYO's elite leadership program in Israel designed for BBYO members and welcoming Jewish teens from around the world. This experience combines educational touring, leadership training, interactive seminars and meaningful community service. Gain an appreciation for the complexity of modern Israel and an enduring connection to the Jewish State and the Jewish People worldwide.
- Experiencing Israel on a Deeper Level
ILSI covers all the highlights of a first-time Israel experience — Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Negev Desert, the Galilee, the Golan, the Carmel Mountains, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. However, unlike traditional tours, ILSI features seminar-style travel, using the land of Israel as our classroom and incorporating meetings with leading artists, social activists, innovators and political leaders for additional perspective
- A Focus on Jewish Leadership Models
As a leadership experience, ILSI highlights the stories of leaders present and past who have made key impacts on the course of Jewish history — figures like King David, Bar Kochba, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, Theodore Herzl, Hanna Senesh, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, and Yitzhak Rabin. Their stories shed greater light on our past and provide insights to inform our future.
- Defining Contemporary Zionism
ILSI places a special emphasis on understanding the richness and complexity of modern Israel by meeting locals like soldiers, Beduin, Druzim, Palestinians, Israelis and others. Our educators and staff challenge participants with the big questions in an effort to refine their leadership develop into mature young adults.
- Learning with Jewish Teens Worldwide
One of the most special aspects of the ILSI experience is that it attracts Jewish teens from North America and from around the world. Past sessions have convened participants from Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, and Israel. All together we form a single community — learning, traveling, and bonding together in Israel. Each teen brings their own perspective, their own unique background and their own way of relating to Israel. Together this diversity enriches our experience and is an opportunity to live the Jewish value of Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze La Ze. We are all responsible for one another.
- Small Group Learning
As an enrichment experience, ILSI features small group learning opportunities. Although everyone travels together, one senior educator is attached to each cluster of 20-25 teens. We divide further into smaller mishpacha (family) groups for processing and discussion. Also, as a BBYO members experience, ILSI is staffed primarily by full-time BBYO professionals and leading BBYO advisors.
- The Summer of a Lifetime in Israel
In addition to the extra educational opportunities, ILSI is also about experiencing the joy of a summer in Israel. You'll raft down the Jordan River, spend an overnight in a Bedouin tent, hike down lush canyons on the Golan, enjoy the Tel Aviv beachfront, explore colorful open-air markets and swim in natural springs. In other words, you'll return home with both a rich educational experience as well as lifelong memories.
Is ILSI Right For Me?
ILSI is designed with BBYO members in mind as a unique enrichment, touring, and leadership experience. Although most ILSI participants are BBYO members, ILSI is open to non-members who are seeking this type of experience as well as Jewish teens from around the world. ILSI is appropriate for teens who have never been to Israel as well as for those who are returning for a new perspective.
- Enrich your mind on topics ranging from Jewish philosophy to contemporary Zionist thought to geo-political strategy
- Put all your BBYO leadership skills to use in the land of Israel
- Travel Israel with fellow Jewish teens from Europe & Israel
- Spend Shabbat in the heart of Jerusalem and learn about Judaism's mystical tradition in Tzfat
- Meet with a variety of dynamic speakers, artists, and religious figures
- Walk in the footsteps of 4000 years of Jewish history
- Experience the beauty and power of the Kotel and Jerusalem’s Old City
- Float in the Dead Sea and climb to the heights of Masada at sunrise
- Participate in meaningful community service projects
- Soak up the cultural richness of modern Tel Aviv
A sample itinerary is available for an even fuller sense of the experience.
WEEK #1 | Foundations in Jerusalem
Land at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and begin the ascent to Jerusalem where we devote the first part of the week to exploring the foundations of Jewish history and the role of Jerusalem in shaping it. Our first Shabbat is spent bonding together as an ILSI community in the Jerusalem hills.
WEEK #2 | Leadership Lessons in the Negev & Galilee
Depart from Jerusalem and travel to the Negev and follow the path of key leaders who shaped our history from Exile to the Return. Our travels in the desert include a memorable Bedouin tent overnight, watching the sunrise from Masada and floating in the Dead Sea. From the desert we travel north to Israel's fertile Galilee region. Here we'll celebrate a special Shabbat immersed in the mystical old city of Tsfat.
WEEK #3 | Looking to the Future
After traveling throughout the Galilee, we head for Tel Aviv, Israel's cultural capital to explore the origins of the Zionist idea, recount the founding of modern Israel and examine the trends shaping the future of the Jewish State. Our experience concludes by returning to where we started in Jerusalem with a moving Shabbat experience at the Western Wall.
Are scholarships available for this trip?
Yes, BBYO provides needs-based scholarships on the local and national level to help ensure that Israel is accessible to all Jewish teens. Many Jewish Federations also provide grant funds for all Jewish teens traveling to Israel regardless of need. Learn more: Scholarship Information
How do you handle safety and security in Israel?
As an organization that has been serving teens for over 85 years, and teen travel programs to Israel since 1956, our philosophy is to treat each and every BBYO Passport participant as a member of our own family. Safety and security considerations always come first. This means that we plan our itineraries to avoid areas of concern, limit opportunities for free time, generally use accommodations outside of city centers, and in certain countries we travel with a security/medical escort. Passport programs adhere to Israel’s Ministry of Education security policies regarding youth and student travel. Each group's itinerary is approved and monitored by a special "Situation Room" that coordinates with Israel's security services. Each participant is given an emergency contact card with phone numbers of all staff and personnel who are available to the participants on a 24x7 basis. Each group is accompanied in Israel by a licensed medic/guard as well as a professional Israeli guide who is licensed according to Israel's high logistical, security, and educational standards. Learn More: Security in Israel
Where will my teen stay in Israel?
Most of the accommodations we stay at are kibbutz-based guest houses that are located in Israel's countryside and provide space for exploration within a secure environment. All of the accommodations that we use have a dedicated guard and a secure area.
If we have family in Israel, will my teen be able to see them?
If you have family or friends that you would like to have visit you during the program, the best times for visits are on non-scheduled evenings at the hotel. Saturday afternoons during free time hours is also an appropriate time for a visit. All visits with family/ friends outside our trip community must be arranged with BBYO Passport staff in advance. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to leave the group with friends or families outside of the Host Family Weekend. The second Shabbat in Israel for all groups is an optional Host Family Weekend. This is the perfect opportunity to visit with relatives or family friends while in Israel. If you wish to take part in the Host Family Weekend, arrange for your host to pick you up at our scheduled accommodations on Thursday evening as of approximately 8:00pm. To take advantage of the optional Home Hospitality Weekend, parents must submit a release form online as part of your registration account (https://passport.bbyo.org/login).
What is the weather like during the summer in Israel?
Prepare for hot Israeli summer days and cool summer nights. The clothing that you pack for during the day should be light weight and comfortable in hot temperatures. Evenings in Israel tend to get chilly quickly. It’s important to always bring a day-pack with you with a windbreaker, long-sleeved shirt, or light sweater. Also, bringing solid walking shoes is key. We will be doing a lot of walking, and having comfortable shoes will go a long way. Additionally, appropriate clothing for religious sites is necessary. We will be visiting some religious sites where more modest clothing is more appropriate – no tank tops, short skirts, etc. You will receive a sample itinerary before departure of your trip.
For more information now, check out our general FAQs.
Sign-on for a full summer of eye-opening multi-continent travel. This experience can be connected seamlessly with the following worldwide BBYO Passport programs.
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