Rachel Marcuse spent 10 days in Israel as part of the Taglit-Birthright program — a fully sponsored trip for young North American Jews to learn more about the country. She went to bear witness and ask questions about the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians, and to learn about other complex issues in Israel today. After the program, she spent another 10 days elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank of Palestine talking to Israeli Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, international activists, and Palestinians in the occupied territories. . This series first appeared in rabble.ca .
“Birthright” trips are a major tool employed in an effort to influence how young Jews feel about Israel.
In addition to reading Rachel Marcuse’s account of her experiences on the trip, I got to hear in the last couple of years from a few trip participants.
What struck me as particularly interesting in all these accounts is that the way the trips are structured and planned creates conditions that keep participants constantly tired and when there is free time – it’s spent in bars, in what seems like an attempt to minimize opportunities to debrief and engage in introspection.
Due to her level of political awareness and willingness to stick her neck out, Marcuse’s trip was characterized by a level of engagement with the reality of the Israel/Palestine conflict – which, while small and fleeting, still stands out as unusual. My impression based on other stories is that for the most part
anything to do with these issue is completely hidden from view.
In all, participants are encouraged to form emotional attachments to each other and to the country, while their critical faculties are kept in a more or less constant haze.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com