Breaking the Silence — the organization of former IDF soldiers who talk about their experiences serving in the Occupied Territories in an effort to expose the everyday reality of Israeli control of the West Bank — is now marketing its tours of the West Bank to participants of the Birthright-Israel trip while here in Israel. Anyone who extends their stay in Israel beyond the free 10-day trip is offered a free tour to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills that allow an “unmediated encounter with the reality of military occupation.”
Below is a video of Breaking the Silence volunteers walking around the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem handing out flyers and talking to Birthright participants, in an effort to get them interested and informed.
Ironically, the initiative by BTS responds to what MK Danny Danon, chairman of the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, has recently demanded (Hebrew): that Birthright trips, which are partially funded by the State of Israel, should stop “boycotting Judea and Samaria” and begin taking their participants there, otherwise he threatened to cut their government funding. Indeed Birthright-Israel has a policy of not entering “the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem” (except the Old City, and they sometimes make an exception for the “City of David” located in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan).
Somehow I’m certain Danny Danon will not applaud this specific initiative, even though it does fulfill his wish that Diaspora Jews coming on free trips to Israel get a chance to see “all of Israel.”