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The Israel Educational Travel Alliance: A New Model Professionalizes a Field

June 30th, 2023

At the height of the pandemic, leaders and organizations involved in Israel educational travel scrambled to stay up to date on travel policies and regulations. During that chaotic period, the Israel Educational Travel Alliance (IETA) was born. Today, it is housed at the Jewish Federations of North America and includes over 100 partner organizations and funders across North America and Israel—who share a commitment to learning from and with each other to provide innovative, effective, relevant, and impactful Israel educational travel experiences.

The field of educational travel to Israel has grown to become one of the cornerstones of Jewish identity building in North America. It is the most effective educational tool we have, and that is why Jewish Federations remain committed to our investment in IETA.
– Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America

In just a few years, IETA has evolved from a space focused on travel policies to become a critical source of leadership, support, and information for the field. More than 80,000 people come to Israel each year through IETA partner organizations, representing different age cohorts, target audiences, and travel experiences. Of course the common link is each partner’s dedication to Israel educational travel.

Israel educational travel plays a critical role in nurturing a strong sense of Jewish identity among North American teens and young adults, deepening ties between the global Jewish people and Israel, and inspiring allyship between Jewish and non-Jewish communities. IETA is committed to serving the professionals and organizations in this field so that they can be most effective and operate at the highest levels of professionalism.
– Tal Gozani, Founding Executive Director, IETA

Thanks in part to the IETA, the field is both growing and becoming more sophisticated as a space for knowledge sharing and skill development. The IETA hosts convenings, trainings, and enrichment opportunities for professionals in the field, and advocates on behalf of the field. It also engages funders to better align the interests, concerns, observations, and investments of the philanthropic community with the field.

Being part of a professional alliance with other organizations in the Israel educational travel space has helped to elevate the field in important ways. Enabling valuable information sharing and collaborations as well as raising awareness about important policies is proving to benefit the entire field. When the quality of Israel educational travel is raised, each of our member organizations are stronger.
– Elizabeth Sokolsky, Executive Director, Birthright Israel North America and co-Chair, IETA Steering Committee

This past year, the IETA conducted important, timely surveys about cross-organizational Covid policies and pain points as well as about the field’s impact on Israeli society. IETA plans on conducting more intentional planning for the future, with an eye toward three strategic priorities that build and expand on current efforts:

  • Advocacy: raise the visibility of the field and understanding of the importance of Israel educational travel through advocacy efforts with the Government of Israel and the North American Jewish community among other stakeholders
  • Research: continue to learn about the field through mapping and research to better understand and communicate the impact of Israel educational travel and the potential for greater effectiveness and efficiencies
  • Elevate & Support: ensure opportunities for professionals in the field of Israel educational travel to network and learn from one another through gatherings and professional development opportunities

Prior to COVID, there was little cross-communication other than through professional friendships we might have had or through other meetings convened for those of us working in the field of Jewish engagement. As a coalition we have created a field of practice as professionals. We can focus on looking forward to how we work with the government of Israel, advocating a policy to support travel, funding training across the field and building up the infrastructure needed to insure our success.
– Mike Wise, Founder and co-CEO, Honeymoon Israel and co-Chair, IETA Steering Committee

All organizations under the IETA umbrella work to provide meaningful learning experiences that add value to the participants’ lives. As the only professional community that brings together these scores of diverse Israel educational travel organizations and professionals, IETA is committed to ensuring the wellbeing and resilience of this important field.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of the Israel Educational Travel Alliance. Photos courtesy of Honeymoon Israel.