USY Israel Pilgrimage Security Q&A

What is USY’s approach to safety?

Since 1956, USY has operated Israel programs for Jewish youth from North America. Although an enriching and exciting Israel experience is certainly our mission, the safety and well being of our participants has always been, and continues to be, our highest priority. Matters of security always take precedence over all other concerns.

All of our programs are adapted as the situation requires, in a manner to assure the safety of all participants. This includes the routes, accommodations and security measures taken. We have decades of experience operating programs in normal and abnormal times and our safety record is proven. We are equipped to make any necessary changes throughout the programs. The supervision on all our programs is intense and diligent. We have always scrupulously avoided unsafe places and venues.

How does USY know which areas and sites are safe?

Every decision regarding itinerary, travel route, lodging location or site for an evening activity, is made in conjunction with the Security Department of the SPNI. The SPNI Security Department is in constant contact with the police, army and other intelligence sources and provides USY with very frequent updates and precautionary devices. Generally speaking, USY exercises an even higher level of caution and takes precautionary measures in advance of those recommended or required by SPNI.

Can changes be made to the itinerary as a result of various situations?

Generally speaking, in conjunction with the security apparatus in Israel, USY routinely examines and re-examines each activity, lodging site, and transportation route to ensure the safety of our participants. Generally speaking, it is our current policy to avoid crowded or congested areas. Free time will be curtailed and supervised. These are the only changes necessary at this time to continue to ensure the safety of our participants. As always, the participants, both individually and as a group, are prohibited from traveling to the West Bank and prohibited from traveling on public buses in the cities.

Will my child’s experience be diminished due to security regulations?

Occasionally, participants may miss one site or another, but being in Israel with the people of Israel at such time enhances the experience educationally in ways far more significant. Our experience over the past five years has been that the USYers have returned from Israel with a more profound understanding of the fabric of Israeli society, its place in the Jewish world, and the meaning of being Jewish, along with all the other enrichment that is a routine part of coming on an Israel program. Those who have participated in recent years can attest to the fact that they had a full and enriching Israel experience.

What about the State Department warning?

While the U.S. State Department frequently issues warnings to U.S. citizens regarding travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, we feel that our routine security precautions responsibly account for the issues it raises. To begin with, although the advisory includes Israel, much of its focus is on the West Bank and Gaza, and our groups do not and will not travel to these areas. Next, all of the general precautions in the advisory are already incorporated into our security guidelines. Further, it is important to note that the State Department Warnings include no suggestion that Americans in Israel should consider leaving the country, nor does it prohibit travel to Israel. Finally, while other countries around the world have similar advisories warning against travel to the West Bank and Gaza, they do not instruct their citizens to avoid travel to the parts of Israel that our programs visit.

Does USY currently have any programs in Israel?

Since September 2011, more than 100 recent USY graduates from North America have been in Israel on our Nativ Program.

How will I remain updated during the summer?

Prior to, and during the summer, a full compliment of staff is available to you both in New York and Jerusalem. Our staff is accessible to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week during operation of the programs. In addition, the USY web site is updated frequently with pictures and short descriptions of the group activities. Weekly letters by the group leaders are sent by email to the parents.