Mifgash, meaning "encounter" in Hebrew, refers to the multi-day peer-to-peer meeting between young adult Jews from abroad and from Israel. Every Birthright Israel trip incorporates Israelis of the same age who join the trips for five to ten days and experience Israel along with their peers from the Diaspora. Since trips began, more than 55,000 Israelis have taken part – 87% of them Israeli soldiers. Almost all of the rest of the young Israelis who participate are students, though in the last year we have begun to incorporate young professionals as well.
In the first two years of Tagilt-Birthright Israel trips, the Mifgashim program was a meeting between Israelis and Diaspora participants that lasted a few hours. Very quickly, though, it became a central and integral part of the ten-day educational experience, and today is cited by more than 80% of participants as the most important part of their journey.
By engaging in creative, recreational and educational activities with Israeli peers, members of the group develop a personal connection to Israel. These aren’t random or token Israelis dropped into the trip. They are the participant’s peers who are interested in gaining the same understanding of Israel, Judaism, Jewish identity and the larger Jewish community.
For the Israeli it is an opportunity to understand the nature of Jewish life outside of Israel through the inner worlds of contemporary peers. For the participants from overseas, it is an opportunity to understand the nature of life in Israel as experienced by their young Israeli peers. Both groups are enabled to, and often do, build long-lasting friendships, and associations which extend beyond the Birthright Israel ten-day educational experience.
to actually explain the meaning of living here in Israel was an enormous event. I truly believe the time we spent with the American participants has changed their lives. I still keep in touch with a few of them.