NEW YORK (JTA) — Birthright Israel said it has received a record-breaking number of North American applicants for its free, 10-day trips to Israel.
The organization, which provides all-expense-paid trips to Israel for Diaspora Jews aged 18 to 26, received 40,108 applicants during the seven-day registration period ending Tuesday.
Israel’s Minister For Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, called it "the most successful project in the Jewish world.”
Currently, demand for the free trips far oustrips the resources available to pay for them. Birthright says it can send 15,000 of the applicants on trips between May and August, part of a larger total of 33,000 young adults it will bring to Israel from all over the world in 2011.
The Israeli government announced in January it would be increasing its contribution to the program to $100 million between 2011 and 2013. The money will only come through, however, if American philanthropists can raise $222 million over the same period.
Birthright hopes to bring 51,000 Jews to Israel in 2013.