quote:is the purpose of the trips generally to reacquaint people with their faith? do they tend to be for people who are not really actively observing the religion, in hopes that they will? is it about introducing people to the country of israel as it is today? or about helping people take pride in their culture? what tends to be the "mission statement" of these organizations?
I am of course going to answer this question without actually looking at any birthright site, which I'm sure has their mission statement.
The point of the trips, as far as I could gather, was primarily to introduce people to Israel as it is today, and to try and foster an understanding of why it's important, that it exists, for Jewish folk. Just that understanding, I think, is something many may lack, and is really important. After that, the trips have a lot of other objectives, I'm sure - but it's that general introduction to and understanding of Israel that I think is aimed for.
There's something like 15 trip providers - some are for very relgious folk, some cater to Russian-speakers, some cater to hikers/bikers/trekker-types, some are pretty explicitly secular. But even if the people are very religious, it doesn't mean they know anything about Israel, or have ever been there. So your religiosity is secondary to the Birthright mission, though not necessarily secondary to your individual trip.
My trip/trip provider, like I think I said above somewhere, very secular, with a lot of hiking and talk of history. There were discussions of religion but more from a historical and intellectual perspective. For example, on Saturday morning the tour guide went over that week's Torah portion, explained what they would say about it in synagogue, then related its idea to philosophy, to something Plato wrote in his Republic. Another day we were on a hill where King David did his thing with Goliath (how they know this I don't remember, but they explained it and I nodded and thought "gee that's cool"), and so the guide read that part from the bible, describing how descriptions in the story related to the geography around us, and then filling in a bit about the history of the time.
So it's stuff like that.
I'm was born in Israel so I didn't need much reconnection with the land and the history... but I gathered, from the other people on the trip, that the trip really 'explained' Israel for them, or helped them get why they should care about, and believe in the need for, its existence, be they blindly supportive or harshly critical.
Ok that's a long enough answer, me thinks.