First Birthright participant, now an LA community leader, returns to Israel
Gamal Jason Yakov Palmer from Los Angeles, 34, who was the first participant in Taglit-Birthright groups in 1999, returned to Israel this month for the first time, leading a group of Jewish students from Los Angeles, where he serves as senior director of Leadership Development of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles.
On Aug. 12, Palmer took part in activities with the students from Los Angeles at the first ever Taglit Village to be established in the Negev, where overseas Jewish students meet with their counterparts from the region.
“Before Taglit-Birthright was established, only about 2,000 Jewish students came to Israel every year”, noted Taglit-Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark. “This year, we have reached 44,000 participants.”
The contribution that Taglit-Birthright has made to Israel is best expressed by Palmer, born to a Christian Afro-American father and a Jewish mother:
“That short visit in 1999 changed my life. As a result, I dedicate my life to grooming leaders for the future. Only here, in Israel, can many American Jews really feel at home. My greatest hope is we impact the one Jew who will lead us all to peace.”