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Birthright

  • In these dark times, young American Jews are a ray of hope

    The recent campaigns taking aim at Birthright and the American political establishment are more than symbolic — they are sowing the seeds of a powerful resistance movement against Israel's occupation. By Oren Kroll-Zeldin Passover is a celebration of freedom, justice, and liberation. In Hebrew it is referred to as zman heruteynu, the season of our freedom. As I reflected during my Passover seder this year on what it means for Jews today to be free, I thought back to an oft-cited quotation from Jewish American poet and social activist Emma Lazarus that says: “Until we are all free, we are none…

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  • When Israel planned 'fantasy' tours to Arab villages under martial law

    New documents reveal how Israel's leaders prepared to celebrate the country's 10-year anniversary: by bringing tourists to participate in orientalist 'fantasy' tours to Arab villages, then under military rule. If you’re a young Jewish person, chances are you or someone you know has gone on a Birthright trip. If you have gone on Birthright, chances are that as part of the program’s attempt to provide an “authentic” and pluralistic “Israel experience” you spent the night in a Bedouin tent and posed on a camel in the Negev Desert. In short, young Jews are sold a fantasy. [tmwinpost] That fantasy did not…

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  • Birthright walk-offs get a taste of settler violence in Hebron

    Eight Birthright participants who walked off of their trip earlier this week to learn about the occupation were on a tour with Breaking the Silence when settlers began harassing them, culminating with paint thrown on their guide's head. If the settlers of Hebron were trying to show a group of Birthright participants who had walked off their trip earlier this week that their views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are skewed, it's safe to say that they failed miserably. Halfway through a tour of occupied Hebron that the eight Birthright participants were taking with Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence on…

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  • Jewish education’s sin of omission

    Despite years of Jewish education, much of which focused on Israel, this young American Zionist was still ignorant of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. By David Sarna Galdi The Israeli occupation of the West Bank will mark its 50-year anniversary next year. For five decades, since 1967, that occupation has been a central theme in any discussion of Israel’s politics, history, current events and obviously, conflict with the Palestinians — except, apparently, if you’re young and Jewish in America. [tmwinpost] While recently reading a critique of the absence of any discussion of the occupation (or any criticism of Israel,…

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  • Why do LGBT Israelis leave the country?

    Whether because of growing homophobia or their criticism of the occupation, some queer Israelis are leaving and say they're not coming back. By Hila Amit Most academic literature on the issue of emigration from Israel is written from a Zionist perspective, thus telling a one-sided story. According to the story, Israeli emigrants feel a strong connection to Israel; they left the country mainly for economic reasons; they are sad to have left; and they wish to return to their homeland. The literature on the topic addresses a very narrow group of participants, who seem to pop up in most studies.…

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  • The American occupation of West Jerusalem

    A group of activists attempts to show Israelis and American tourists the occupation that's taking place just a few blocks away, by simulating an American occupation of West Jerusalem. By Moriel Rothman What do you do when rammed by a man in an electric wheelchair who’s fundraising for needy Holocaust survivors? Just walk away. OK, um, guys, seriously we need to just walk away. It is hot. I am confused. My shins pre-hurt. My stomach feels twisted and odd. Over the last three years of activism and direct actions I’ve been yelled at, shoved, spit on, detained, whacked with a…

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  • Birthright now offering skateboarding, hip hop-themed trips to Israel

    As if it wasn't enough to offer Jews around the world a trip to Israel totally free of charge, the Birthright industry is now marketing "the only skateboarding trip to Israel" and a "hip hop" trip. This is in addition to the already popular "niche" tours that include those catering to the LGBT community, food enthusiasts and wheelchair-bound Jews. The American Zionist youth movement Young Judea hosting these flyers on its website explains the skateboarding trip as "Based on the core Israel Now itinerary,  this program is specially offered to people who board. No posers. No pushers. Go to explore and to…

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  • Breaking the Silence marketing tours to Birthrighters

    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…

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  • VIDEO: Birthright's "Take back Zionism" is an embarrassment

    Following the cancellation of the J Street U-Birthright trip I reported on here, I discovered a campaign called "Take Back Zionism" initiated by Birthright alumni who feel the need to reclaim the term. From their website: Contemporary discourse seeks to narrowly define Zionism and attack it by limiting its scope. We refuse to accept others' definitions and misrepresentations. We seek to Take Back Zionism and define it in our own terms, as a young generation who loves Israel. Here is their introductory promotional video: There are many problems with this campaign, aside from the fact that it is an invested…

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  • J-street under attack - Birthright trip canceled

    J Street was in the headlines recently for two incidents that reporters are deeming to be indicative of the self-declared "pro-Israel pro-peace" lobby's inability to gain acceptance in the mainstream American Jewish establishment. The first incident was Congressman (Jewish and democratic) Gary Ackerman's public disassociation with J Street over its urging the US not to veto a UN security council resolution calling for a halt to settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The second was the announcement that a J Street U trip to Israel through Birthright was a no-go. J Street U, the student arm of J Street,…

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