The first Birthright trip from Canada since the summer of 2020 left Toronto Aug. 9, just days ahead of stricter quarantine restrictions imposed in Israel.
It will also be the only trip from Canada this summer.
A second trip, which was scheduled to leave Aug. 15, has been cancelled, said Bonnie Goldberg, manager of programs and planning for Canada Israel Experience, Jewish Federations of Canada.
Israel is set to impose quarantine requirements on most travellers beginning Aug. 16, as the number of COVID cases there escalates.
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Birthright trips—free, 10-day guided tours to Israel for people aged 18-32—have not been run from Canada in over a year due to COVID restrictions and quarantines in both Israel and Canada.
“This has obviously been a very long, dry spell for all of our travellers,” Goldberg said.
As soon as Canada dropped its requirement for returning citizens to quarantine last month, Birthright began exploring the idea of resuming the popular trips.
Birthright trips from the United States have been running throughout the summer, but are also now cancelled due to tighter Israeli regulations.
Typically, Birthright Canada sends about 50 trips in the summer, with another eight or nine leaving during the winter holidays. Each trip has about 40 participants. Specialized trips for LGBTQ participants or people with cognitive and physical disabilities have also been offered.
The number of travellers on each trip this summer was halved, to allow for social distancing on buses, Goldberg said.
People from across the country applied when Birthright announced that two trips would leave Canada this summer.
“The response was overwhelming,” she said. “Unfortunately, I had to turn away quite a few people that were eager to travel.”
The trips, which were open only to fully vaccinated individuals, were scheduled to follow a typical Birthright itinerary and travel across the country.
Birthright still hopes to offer trips this winter, with registration opening in September.
“It’s such a meaningful and substantial program that I hope every Canadian has the opportunity to participate in,” Goldberg said.