Birthright trips — the 10-day Israel tours offered free to young Jews — are so much part of mainstream culture that they have been copied by other religions, parodied on television shows like “Broad City” and “Transparent,” and debated by academics and activists.
But if your idea of Birthright is outdoor hikes, camel rides and visits to the Kotel, think again. The third-party vendors that work with the Taglit-Birthright Israel foundation offer an array of unexpected options including the latest niche offering, announced last week: a trip for vegans run by Mayanot Israel and Jewish Veg, a nonprofit that promotes plant-based diets. Participants will visit Israeli farms, eat at vegan restaurants and meet with some of the country’s leading vegan diet proponents.
Here are seven other niche trips:
For yoga junkies (Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life). Birthright is known for being an action-packed blur of activity. But for those looking to take a step back, take some deep breaths and strike a few relaxing poses, there is the Yoga and Mindfulness trip. This past winter’s trip included a combined Iyengar yoga and Torah lesson, a meditation session in the Amuka forest near Safed, a yoga session at the Safed Citadel and a Shabbat service that included meditation.
For Latin America aficionados (Tlalim-Israel Outdoors and IsraelExperts): The USA-Argentina Joint Journey includes Argentine and North American participants, and the Across the Universe trip is made up of 20 Brazilians and 20 North Americans (and eight Israelis). In addition to Hebrew, you might pick up some Spanish or Portuguese along the way.
For medical students (Tlalim-Israel Outdoors): In addition to the usual sightseeing fare, participants get to meet with doctors at the prestigious Hadassah hospital, visit medics and soldiers working in the Israeli army’s Medical Corps and receive training through Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross.
For Kabbalah dabblers (Israel Free Spirit): This might be the only Birthright trip that brings you at least one degree of separation closer to Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow. The Soul Trek promises to teach participants about the ancient Jewish practice of Kabbalah through “mystical hikes,” “life-changing insights” and a meeting with a kabbalistic artist.
For food Instagrammers (Shorashim: Israel with Israelis): The A Taste of Israel Through the Lens trip encourages its participants to take photos of Israeli and Middle Eastern food and share them on social media. Participants will experience more food markets, tours and tastings than those on typical Birthright journeys, and receive guidance on how to frame photos especially well for social media posts.
For journalists (Mayanot Israel): Long before Trump clashed with journalists at his latest news conference, the question of a free press was a hot topic in Israel. Participants on the Newsroom to Newsroom trip get a behind-the-scenes look at some of Israel’s most prominent media organizations.
For frat bros and sorority sisters (Tlalim-Israel Outdoors): This is for Jewish Greeks — not Jews who trace their family history to Athens, but Jews in a college fraternity or sorority.