In a Nutshell
Key questions to ask yourself: Why are you leading the trip? Why are the participants going on the trip? What will participants take away?
The starting point for planning a student trip to Israel is to formulate a set of 4 to 6 goals that grow out of answers to these questions:
- Why are you leading the trip?
- Why are the participants going on the trip?
- What do you hope the participants going on the trip will take away from the experience?
The leadership team needs to meet and define trip goals. Write them down and use them—they inform how you shape your itinerary and will form the backbone of any proposal you draft to share with potential funders. Trip goals will also affect the size of the group.
Personal goals: Why you are leading the trip
Leading a student trip to Israel is hard work, requiring three to six months of planning and three to ten hours of work each week. Why are you doing it? Each team leader has his or her own personal answer to that question.
Perhaps it is to share a passion for Israel, or to share a Jewish heritage, or to foster a more nuanced understanding of the issues that face Israel. Your interest may lie in the Middle East conflict, or public policy, or entrepreneurship. Perhaps you are doing it for the experiential learning, or managerial experience on the ground, or social and professional networking opportunities.
Articulate a set of your own personal goals for the trip.
Group goals: Why are the participants taking the trip
Participants will have their own personal goals for the trip. As part of their application, ask them:
- Why do you want to go on the trip?
- What are you most interested in learning about in Israel?
- What can you contribute to the group’s dynamics?
- How are your past experiences and future aspirations relevant to this trip?
You want to take people who want to be there for the right reasons, not simply to take a subsidized trip over spring break. Their interests might include Middle East politics, entrepreneurship, innovation, startups, high tech, finance, law, cultural diversity, the Arab/Israeli conflict, Judaism, Zionism, Holy sites, sustainable energy, human rights, the immigrant experience, etc. Not every participant’s special interest can be addressed during a week-long trip, but many can.
Core issues: What you hope the participants will take away
An overarching trip goal is for every participant to experience Israel beyond the headlines and come away informed with a fresh, more complex understanding and appreciation of Israel.
Regardless of the unique focus of any trip, a successful trip should build a core understanding of these topics:
- Israel’s story and context
- The Jewish narrative starting before the existence of the State of Israel
- The role of history, ancient Israel, and the land in Israel’s narrative
- Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust
- The modern political landscape: Israel in the Middle East
- The security reality
- The Israeli/Palestinian conflict
- Non-Jewish citizens of the state
- A nation of immigrants
- Entrepreneurship and start-ups
- Being a democracy and a Jewish state: is it possible?
- US/Israel relations
How many participants? A pragmatic, goal-driven decision
Trip size will depend on your trip goals. Think about what is the best ratio of participants to trip leaders and guide for the program you are putting together.
There is no one size fits all; trips have ranged anywhere from 25-100. But a factor to consider is tour bus capacity. A single tour bus holds 52 or 61, including bus driver (tour busses in the Palestinian Authority tend to be smaller).
Keep in mind, too, that a larger group generally translates into one that is less expensive per traveler because fixed expenses can be shared.