BBYO | AZA & BBG | International Convention | Summer

Explore Israel

The People, the Nation, the State, and what it can be

Israel is the homeland of the Jewish People: historical and modern, innovative, diverse, vibrant, and complex. The Explore Israel initiative is intended to help you begin to understand your relationship with the State of Israel through programming, training, debate, immersive travel, face-to-face encounters with teens and adults representing all viewpoints and thoughtful dialogue. Alephs and BBGs have a wide array of Israel experiences, opinions and questions. We may not always agree on everything, but we're working to build a safe space that encourages curiosity, challenging each other, and personal growth. Your relationship with Israel will be lifelong. Start exploring today!

Get Started

AZA and BBG's history is closely tied to that of the State of Israel. AZA and BBG leaders signed a declaration recognizing the State of Israel before independence in 1948 and have been experiencing Israel through teen travel since 1956. As the leaders of the global Jewish community, it is our responsibility to learn about, appreciate, advocate for, challenge, and shape the future of Israel. Explore Israel has two primary objectives:

  1. Utilize programming, travel experiences, meaningful face-to-face engagements, and other platforms to explore all facets of Israel—historical, cultural, spiritual, societal, political, entrepreneurial, and more.

  2. Empower leaders, dialogue with local, national, and international government representatives, plan rallies, write petitions, create information campaigns, and utilize media outlets to educate our communities and advocate for Israel—as well as use these tools to further strengthen Israel's democratic character and values.

Start Learning

There are hundreds of news sources where you can stay up to date with what's happening in Israel. Israel news is often world news. The events that happen in Israel affect all of us.

Check out the links below to explore different sources of news about Israel—we even encourage you to subscribe to a few of their newsletters. Each site has a different approach and a different political orientation. A wide range of opinions and perspectives will help deepen your understanding about all things Israel.

Start Reading

Literature about Israel can educate, entertain, and inspire about the State's history, culture, politics, and people. Explore the titles below to inspire your next read.

1948 | Benny Morris

This history of the foundational war in the Arab-Israeli conflict is groundbreaking, objective, and deeply revisionist. A riveting account of the military engagements, it also focuses on the war's political dimensions. Benny Morris probes the motives and aims of the protagonists on the basis of newly opened Israeli and Western documentation. The Arab side--where the archives are still closed—is illuminated with the help of intelligence and diplomatic materials.

Start Reading

A Tale of Love and Darkness | Amos Oz

A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many.

Start Reading

Beaufort | Ron Leshem

To the handful of Israeli soldiers occupying the ancient crusader fortress, it is a little slice of hell—a forbidding, fear-soaked enclave perched atop two acres of land in southern Lebanon, surrounded by an enemy they cannot see. And to the thirteen young men in his command, twenty-one-year-old Lieutenant Liraz “Erez” Liberti is a taskmaster, confessor, and the only hope in the face of attacks that come out of nowhere and of missions seemingly designed to get them all killed. But in their stony haven, Erez and his soldiers have created their own little world, their own rules, their own language. And here Erez listens to his men build castles out of words, telling stories, telling lies, talking incessantly of women, sex, and dead comrades. Until, in the final days of the occupation, Erez and his squad of fed-up, pissed-off, frightened young soldiers are given one last order: a mission that will shatter all remaining illusions—and stand as a testament to the universal, gut-wrenching futility of war.

Start Reading

Exodus | Leon Uris

Exodus is a historical novel by American novelist Leon Uris about the founding of the State of Israel. Published in 1958, it begins with a compressed retelling of the voyages of the 1947 immigration ship Exodus.

Start Reading

Homesick | Eshkol Nevo

It is 1995 and Noa and Amir, a student couple, have decided to move in together. Noa is studying photography in Jerusalem and Amir is a psychology student in Tel Aviv. They choose a small apartment in a village in the hills, midway between the two cities.

Start Reading

Six Days of War | Michael B. Oren

Though it lasted for only six tense days in June, the 1967 Arab-Israeli war never really ended. Every crisis that has ripped through this region in the ensuing decades, from the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to the ongoing intifada, is a direct consequence of those six days of fighting.

Start Reading

Someone to Run With | David Grossman

The story of a lost dog, and the discovery of first love on the streets of Jerusalem are portrayed here with a gritty realism that is as fresh as it is compelling.

When awkward and painfully shy sixteen-year-old Assaf is asked to find the owner of a stray yellow lab, he begins a quest that will bring him into contact with street kids and criminals, and a talented young singer, Tamar, engaged on her own mission: to rescue a teenage drug addict.

Start Reading

Son of Hamas | Mosab Hassan Yosef

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. The oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of Hamas and its most popular leader, young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status . . . and power. But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader. In Son of Hamas, Mosab Yousef-now called "Joseph"-reveals new information about the world's most dangerous terrorist organization and unveils the truth about his own role, his agonizing separation from family and homeland, the dangerous decision to make his newfound faith public, and his belief that the Christian mandate to "love your enemies" is the only way to peace in the Middle East.

Start Reading

Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle | Dan Senor

Start-Up Nation addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel—a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources—produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?

Start Reading

To the End of the Land | David Grossman

David Grossman tells the powerful story of a mother’s love for her son. Just before his release from service in the Israeli army, Ora’s son Ofer is sent back to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, so that no bad news can reach her, Ora sets out on an epic hike in the Galilee. She is joined by an unlikely companion—Avram, a former friend and lover with a troubled past—and as they sleep out in the hills, Ora begins to conjure her son. Ofer’s story, as told by Ora, becomes a surprising balm both for her and for Avram—and a mother’s haunting meditation on war and family.

Start Reading

Visit Israel

There's nothing like being in Israel. The beautiful landscapes, the rich history and culture, the people, the delicious Israeli food, and more always make each visit unique, powerful, and enriching. Traveling to Israel is one of the best ways to deepen your understanding of the political landscape and connect with the culture in ways you will never be able to online or through events. BBYO has a number of trips you can take advantage of this summer through BBYO Passport. Explore different journeys focused on adventure, leadership, history, and more below.

Explore Trips

Start Reading

Dive into stories about Israel to deepen your understanding about the politics, people, culture, and history of the State. There are thousands of books about Israel but here's a list of some of the most popular titles to get you started.

1948 | Benny Morris

This history of the foundational war in the Arab-Israeli conflict is groundbreaking, objective, and deeply revisionist. A riveting account of the military engagements, it also focuses on the war's political dimensions. Benny Morris probes the motives and aims of the protagonists on the basis of newly opened Israeli and Western documentation. The Arab side—where the archives are still closed—is illuminated with the help of intelligence and diplomatic materials.

Start Reading

A Tale of Love and Darkness | Amos Oz

A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation.

Start Reading

Beaufort | Ron Leshem

By turns subversive and darkly comic, brutal and tender, Ron Leshem's debut novel is an international literary sensation, winner of Israel's top award for literature, and the basis for a prizewinning film.Beaufort. To the handful of Israeli soldiers occupying the ancient crusader fortress, it is a little slice of hell-a forbidding, fear-soaked enclave perched atop two acres of land in southern Lebanon, surrounded by an enemy they cannot see. And to the thirteen young men in his command, twenty-one-year-old Lieutenant Liraz "Erez" Liberti is a taskmaster, confessor, and their only hope in the face of attacks that come out of nowhere and missions seemingly designed to get them all killed.All around them, tension crackles in the air. Long stretches of boredom and black humor are punctuated by flashes of terror. And the threat of death is constant. But in their stony haven, Erez and his soldiers have created their own little world, their own rules, their own language. And here Erez listens to his men build castles out of words, telling stories, telling lies, talking incessantly of women, sex, and dead comrades. Until, in the final days of the occupation, Erez and his squad of fed-up, pissed-off, frightened young soldiers are given one last order: a mission that will shatter all remaining illusions-and stand as a testament to the universal, gut-wrenching futility of war.

Start Reading

Exodus | Leon Uris

Exodus is a historical novel by American novelist Leon Uris about the founding of the State of Israel. Published in 1958, it begins with a compressed retelling of the voyages of the 1947 immigration ship Exodus.

Start Reading

Homesick | Eshkol Nevo

This heart-warming, charming and clever first novel dips into the lives of each of the inhabitants of a village in Israel. It is 1995 and Noa and Amir, a student couple, have decided to move in together. Noa is studying photography in Jerusalem and Amir is a psychology student in Tel Aviv. They choose a small apartment in a village in the hills, midway between the two cities.

Start Reading

Six Days of War | Michel Oren

Though it lasted for only six tense days in June, the 1967 Arab-Israeli war never really ended. Every crisis that has ripped through this region in the ensuing decades, from the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to the ongoing intifada, is a direct consequence of those six days of fighting.

Start Reading

Someone to Run With | David Grossman

The story of a lost dog, and the discovery of first love on the streets of Jerusalem are portrayed here with a gritty realism that is as fresh as it is compelling.

Start Reading

Son of Hamas | Mosab Hassan Yosef

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. The oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of Hamas and its most popular leader, young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status and power. But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader. In Son of Hamas, Mosab Yousef-now called "Joseph"-reveals new information about the world's most dangerous terrorist organization and unveils the truth about his own role, his agonizing separation from family and homeland, the dangerous decision to make his newfound faith public, and his belief that the Christian mandate to "love your enemies" is the only way to peace in the Middle East.

Start Reading

Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle | Dan Senor

Start-up Nation addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel—a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources—produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?

Start Reading

To the End of the Land | David Grossman

David Grossman tells the powerful story of a mother’s love for her son. Just before his release from service in the Israeli army, Ora’s son Ofer is sent back to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, so that no bad news can reach her, Ora sets out on an epic hike in the Galilee. She is joined by an unlikely companion—Avram, a former friend and lover with a troubled past—and as they sleep out in the hills, Ora begins to conjure her son. Ofer’s story, as told by Ora, becomes a surprising balm both for her and for Avram—and a mother’s haunting meditation on war and family.

Start Reading

Start Eating

Israeli cuisine has adopted, and continues to adapt, elements of various styles of diaspora Jewish cuisine, particularly the Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of cooking. It incorporates many foods traditionally included in other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Israel is know for spices like za'atar and foods such as falafel, hummus, shakshouka and couscous.

Bring the Homeland into your home with some classic Israeli recipes.

Israeli Recipes

Start Watching

Watching movies about Israel is a great way to vividly understand people's day-to-day lives, the complexities of the State, and the rich history. You may learn a little Hebrew along the way, too! Get started with your Israel movie journey with this list below.

Bethlehem

Bethlehem tells the story of the complex relationship between an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant. Shuttling back and forth between conflicting points of view, the film is a raw portrayal of characters torn apart by competing loyalties and impossible moral dilemmas, giving an unparalleled glimpse into the dark and fascinating world of human intelligence.

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Fill the Void

Fill the Voice focuses on life among the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel. Hadas Yaron stars as Shira Mendelman, an 18-year-old girl who is pressured to marry her older sister's husband following the death of her sister in childbirth.

Start Watching

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

After a lukewarm marriage of over twenty years, a woman appeals to her husband's compassion to obtain the desirable divorce document in front of a court, which proves to be more challenging than she would expect.

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Late Marriage

The film centers on Zaza (Lior Ashkenazi), the 31-year-old child of tradition-minded Georgian Jewish immigrants who are anxiously trying to arrange a marriage for him. Unbeknownst to them, he is secretly dating a 34-year-old divorcée, Judith (Ronit Elkabetz). When his parents discover the relationship and violently intervene, Zaza must choose between his family traditions and his love.

Start Watching

Mivtza Savta (Operation Grandma)

Mivtza Savta (Operation Grandma) is a satirical Israeli comedy about three very different brothers trying to get around many obstacles to bury their grandmother on her kibbutz.

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Sand Storm

When their entire lives shatter, two Bedouin women struggle to change the unchangeable rules, each in her own individual way.

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The Green Prince

The Green Prince exposes a world of betrayals, impossible choices, and deadly secrets amidst the chaos in the Middle East, detailing the extraordinary true story of a Palestinian born Israeli informant and his Israeli Shin Bet handler.

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The Red Sea Diving Resort

Inspired by remarkable rescue missions, this is the incredible story of a group of Mossad agents and brave Ethiopians who in the early 80s used a deserted holiday retreat center in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of refugees to Israel. The undercover team carrying out this mission is led by the charismatic Ari Kidron and courageous local Kabede Bimro.

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Waltz with Bashir

Inspired by actual events, Waltz with Bashir chronicles one man's descent into his own half-forgotten past. Filmmaker Ari Folman, an Israeli veteran of the First Lebanon War, encounters an old friend suffering from nightmares of the conflict. Ari begins to wonder why his own memories are full of gaps.

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Yossi and Jagger

YOSSI & JAGGER is based on a true story about two men, both Israeli army officers serving in Lebanon. The two have a secret love affair that adds further complication to life in the remote base in which they serve. Directed by Eytan Fox and starring Israeli heartthrob, Yehuda Levi.

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Zero Motivation

Zero Motivation is a unique, sharply observed, sometimes dark and often hilarious portrait of everyday life for a unit of young, female soldiers in a remote Israeli desert outpost

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Start Listening

The music of Israel is a combination of Jewish and non-Jewish music traditions that have come together to create a distinctive musical culture. Israel's musicians have made significant contributions to classical, jazz, pop rock and other international music genres.

Music in Israel is an integral part of national identity. Beginning in the days of the pioneers, Hebrew songs and public singalongs (Shira beTsibur) were encouraged and supported by the establishment. Jewish immigrants from across continents brought their musical traditions, melding and molding them into a new Israeli sound.

Start Exploring

BBYO runs dozens of trips to Israel over the summer where you can get to know our Homeland. Explore Israel through history tours, breathtaking hikes, connecting with Israelis, enjoying the food, and much more. Find yourself in Israel next summer.

Explore Trips

Start Binging

Many shows produced in Israel or about Israel have become internationally recognized and viewed. If you're looking for your next TV binge, definitely add one of these shows to your list.

A Touch Away

A Romeo and Juliet story, focusing on the relationship of a young non-religious male Jewish immigrant from Russia who falls in love with a young woman who is part of the city's ultra-orthodox community.

Start Watching

Avoda Aravit (Arab Labor)

Amjad is an Arab-Israeli journalist whose problems with cultural identity drive himself and all around him crazy especially his wife, Bushra.

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Fauda

Fauda is an Israeli television series developed by Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff drawing on their experiences in the Israel Defense Forces. The series premiered on February 15, 2015. It tells the story of Doron, a commander in the Mista'arvim unit and his team as they pursue a Hamas arch-terrorist known as "The Panther."

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Mossad 101

The series revolves around a secret Mossad compound called 'HaMidrasha', which is surrounded by surveillance cameras and is equipped with technological devices. The compound operates a training course in which 13 trainees are sent to complicated missions in order to test their suitability for the occupation, and their improvisation, seduction and impersonation abilities. Yonna, the commander, criticizes the mediocrity of Mossad's agents and demands from the new trainees a higher level of execution. He decides to create a new training program to test his trainees via unusual and radical situations, in which, apart from excellence, Yonna demands a creative "out of the box" thinking.

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Shtisel

The story of a haredi family in Jerusalem. Shulem Schtisel the father of a large family is dealing with his younger son who he wants to see married soon. His daughter, Giti is dealing in secret with marital problems while his other son Zvi Arie tries to patch everything up.

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Srugim

Srugim is a drama series which deals with the life of religious bachelors from Jerusalem. The series offers a glance into the lives of intelligent and educated young males and females which can't find their place in the existing religious frames.

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The Spy

This drama tells the astonishing true story of Israel's most prominent spy, Eli Cohen, who infiltrated the Syrian government in the 1960s.

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When Heroes Fly

This dramatic thriller centers on four friends—Israeli military veterans—who reunite for a final, deeply personal rescue mission 11 years after having a bitter falling out. They travel to the Colombian jungle in search of Yaeli—the former lover of one man and sister of another—who they had presumed was dead. The Hebrew-language series, a story of fighting for life and overcoming personal demons to find peace, is based on a book of the same name.

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Yellow Peppers

Based on Israel series Yellow Peppers by Keren Margalit, The A Word is a BBC drama which follows the family of a five-year-old boy struggling to come to terms with their young son’s autism.

Start Watching

Ask Nitzan

Have questions about Israel? Need help planning your next big Explore Israel program? Reach out to BBYO's Central Sh'licha, Nitzan Ben Shaya. Be sure to also follow her Instagram account for special Israel updates.

Explore Israel Interactive Map

Whether you're planning a trip to or program about Israel, we've got you covered. On the interactive map below, you can explore and learn about Israel's historical sites, major cities, favorite activities, best hikes, beaches, places to eat, and more. This map will be updated regularly so you know all of the best things to do all the time.

Plan Ahead

There are important dates to keep in mind when prioritizing Explore Israel. These dates include hands-on training opportunities, Movement mobilization moments, registration dates, and relevant programs that tie to Israel. Check back for calls with and activities from the Israel Task Force (ITF) and more.

Fall Semester 2019

Israel National Elections

September 17

Israel is going into an election this Spring. Any citizen older than 18 can vote.

IC and Summit Registration Opens

September 26

Experience Judaism like you've never seen it before.

J Street National Conference

October 27-29

Learn about politics and current issues facing Israel.

AIPAC HS Summit

November 3-5

Learn about politics and current issues facing Israel.

Summer Registration Opens

November 7

Jewish enrichment is a component of all summer experiences.

Global Shabbat

December 13-14

Celebrate the magic of Shabbat alongside hundreds of communities worldwide.

Spring Semester 2020

IC and Summit

February 12-17

Experience Judaism like you've never seen it before.

AIPAC Policy Conference

March 1-3

Hear from top leaders about the issues facing Israel today.

March of the Living

April 19-May 3

A journey through Poland and Israel exploring our dark past and celebrating Jewish vitality.

Yom HaShoah

April 20-21

Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom Hazikaron

April 27-28

Israeli Memorial Day

Yom Ha'atzmaut

April 28-29

Israeli Independence Day

Yom Yerushalayim

May 21-22

Jerusalem Day commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem after the June 1967 Six-Day War. The day is marked by state ceremonies and memorial services.

Toolbox

Want to keep learning? Find more Explore Israel tools below!

Israel In 2048

What will the State of Israel look like in 2048? Imagine it’s 100 years after the establishment of Israel, and you’re creating a poster to celebrate. Dive into topics of inclusion, religion, pluralism, and acceptance as you look at winning entries from Israel’s poster competition and have the opportunity to create your own.

Explore

Jerusalem Now

The city of Jerusalem is very complex, and so too can be our relationship with the State of Israel. We have the opportunity to look further and explore the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem: its borders, holiness, democracy, and its standing on a global stage. We invite you to take an experiential tour of Jerusalem and learn more about the issues facing Israel.

Explore

Travelers' Prayer Cards

This prayer is recited when we travel, by air, sea, and even on long car trips. Print and cut out these cards to give to your board, your chapter, or any of your brothers and sisters. It's always a beautiful gift.

Explore

Values Dictionary

We do what we do because of our values—our Jewish values. Use these terms to guide conversations, create convention themes, and integrate into programming in any service moment.

Explore

Zikaron BaSalon

Zikaron BaSalon (Hebrew for "Living Room Memories") is an innovative, meaningful, and personal way to commemorate Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) at home with family and friends. Zikaron BaSalon gathers people together to bear witness to the testimonies of survivors, and to think, sing, talk, and most importantly, listen together.

Explore

You've Worked Hard. Let's Celebrate. 🎉

For participating in our Explore Israel initiative—we want to celebrate you. By starting conversations about Israel and facilitating Israel programming in your community, you may be eligible for a number of highly esteemed AZA and BBG International Awards including the Arevut Speak UP, Henry Monsky Chapter Excellence, Miriam Albert Chapter Excellence, and Maurice Bisgyer Chapter Excellence Awards. If you know an Aleph or BBG who deserves to be recognized for their work strengthening our priorities, consider nominating them for the Menorah Pledge and Cardinal Principles Awards.

Learn more about your eligibility by exploring these awards below:

Explore Awards
Explore Israel
Get Started
Plan Ahead
Live It
Toolbox
Celebrate