Jewish organizations taking high-school students to Israel this summer are revising their tours and taking extra precautions to ensure a safe and rewarding experience this summer. But they are taking different approaches.
The Conservative movement's United Synagogue Youth, for example, plans to bar its participants from going into congested areas, including shopping malls.
The outdoor Machane Yehuda market and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, both popular destinations in Jerusalem, are off limits.
Young Judaea, the Zionist youth group of Hadassah, has canceled trips to such places as Tel Aviv and the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, according to its national director, Doron Krakow.
But even as the groups prepare their itineraries, they have yet to resolve a major issue--insurance coverage. Because of the U.S. State Department warning against travel to Israel, many life insurance companies may not pay in the event of a fatal terrorist attack.
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, termed it a "big problem."
The rabbi said he wrote to Israel's ambassador to the United States, David Ivry, on Monday asking Israel's help.
Asked if his organization's USY trip might be canceled unless coverage is provided, Rabbi Epstein replied: "We're confident we're going to work it out."
Some groups are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars as they prepare to take only a fraction of the usual number of teens to Israel.
In a conference call Monday to parents of many of the 300 teens going on the USY trip, Jules Gutin, director of youth activities for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, reassured them that safety would be paramount.
At the same time, he said, "we feel we can provide a high-quality Israel experience, the impact of which can last a lifetime."
For the first time, USY will permit its participants to either rent a cell phone or buy a phone card to keep in close touch with their family back home.