Birthright backers look for more funding

Bronfman said the time is coming when the Jewish community would have to address the question of "when does [the philanthropists'] responsibility end and somebody else's responsibility start."

The comments were made as 5,000 Jewish students from 21 countries traveled around Israel in the first round of this year's Birthright project. A total of 14,000 students will participate in Birthright programs through this summer, compared with 8,000 last year.

The sudden influx of visitors gave a temporary boost to Israel's tourism industry, which has been undergoing a crisis since the violent conflict with the Palestinians began in late September.

Bronfman said getting the program off the ground amid the current crisis was a far more complicated task than last year, when the program debuted.

"It wasn't easy," he said. "This year, it's in a way a sort of a miracle" that there will be a "full house" of Birthright participants.

An official said the program has increased security in reaction to the crisis. Every Birthright bus must check in daily with the program's situation room. The program also gets formal approval from the Israeli army and police for all field trips.