Press for Not Just a Free Trip
“Jewish Currents spoke with more than 50 Birthright Israel participants and staffers about their experiences with the often-fraught sexual and gender dynamics on the famous free trip to Israel.”
“Michael Steinhardt, the co-founder and major funder of Birthright Israel, flashed his middle finger at protesters outside a gala dinner in honor of the 18th anniversary of the free trip to Israel for young Jewish men and women.”
“As tens of thousands of Jewish young adults from all over the world prepare to go on their Birthright trips to Israel this summer, one has to wonder about the impact of this May's events in Gaza.”
“On Monday, five American Jews went to JFK Airport to see off several dozen young adults embarking on Birthright trips. Jewishly engaged millennials, they had lived in Israeli kibbutzim, worked for Hillel and grown up in other Jewish-American spaces.
At the airport check in, however, where participants meet and engage in ubiquitous “Jewish geography,” the Birthright trip leaders were not too happy to see them.”
“Establishment patriarchs used to not talk like this to reporters. Among American Jews, the ground rules were clear: Like members of a contentious family, the leaders of Jewish organizations may have had their disputes with Israel, but, also like family, they were expected to air those grievances in private.”
“Claiming the program was “hiding the realities of the occupation,” a group of five Birthright participants staged a walkout on the final day of their trip on Thursday in order to attend a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron run by the left-wing Breaking the Silence organization.”
“Katie Fenster says that she wasn’t planning on walking out on her Birthright Israel tour when she arrived. But during the free 10-day trip, she grew increasingly frustrated that the answers to her questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “all came from one perspective” and did not include Palestinian views. “We felt like we weren’t being engaged with honestly,” she told the Forward.”
A group of five American Jews visiting Israel as part of the Birthright Israel program left the trip Thursday in protest of the program's treatment of the occupation and joined a tour of Hebron led by anti-occupation army veterans' group Breaking the Silence.
“Five people who were taking part on a Birthright tour of Israel abandoned the programme in protest calling it “one sided” and visited the Palestinian Occupied Territories instead.”
“Five young Jewish American women staged a walkout Thursday on a trip organized by Taglit-Birthright Israel, claiming they did not receive real education about the "occupation," and instead joined a Breaking the Silence tour in Hebron.”
“It is laudable to give young Jews on their first trip to Israel a strong dose of the many positives of a flourishing Jewish state. But trying to insulate participants from issues such as the treatment of Palestinians and growth of West Bank settlements — issues that generate vigorous debate among Israel’s citizens — undercuts the important Birthright mission.”
“On June 28, five program participants on the 10th and final day of their Birthright trip decided to take a stand. They walked off their bus and met up with the group Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation group run by former Israeli soldiers. From there, they went to occupied Hebron, where they met Palestinians living under occupation. Before they walked off the bus, they read a statement to fellow participants.”
“A group of Jewish youth walked off of a Birthright Israel tour to get a firsthand look at the occupied territories of Palestine. The group joined a tour by Breaking the Silence, a nonprofit created by Israeli military veterans, and traveled to the West Bank to learn about the occupation.”