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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Australian Birthright group visits Hebron

An Australian Birthright group visited Hebron - specifically Me'arat HaMachpeila (the Cave of the Patriarchs) earlier this month.

Let's go to the videotape.

At Coteret, a site deemed 'indispensable for following the 'progressive' view of Israel' according to some of the Leftists I follow on Twitter, Didi Remez objects to Jews visiting Hebron.
What’s the problem?

Well, for starters, in its Safety and Security rules, Birthright makes an explicit commitment to participants, parents and, presumably, insurers:
Our tours do not travel to or through areas of the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem, other than the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
In addition, Birthright has been repeatedly criticized for providing young Jewish-Americans a skewed perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the most scathing criticism has come from within the Jewish-American community. For example, here is a remarkable piece of soul-searching from a Hillel campus organizer:
So what am I doing behind this Birthright table, trying to rally Jews and only Jews to go to Israel with a program whose agenda is to make them rabid, unquestioning supporters of its actions?
Birthright has a response to this kind of criticism, which is particularly interesting in the context of the Hebron visit video:
“The conflict bubbles up,” said Barry Chazan, a professor emeritus of education at Hebrew University and education director for Birthright Israel.

“But it’s not a seminar in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. … The fact that they don’t meet the head of the Palestinian Authority doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing issues of the conflict.”
A few points.

First, while the participants are definitely kids, they all look to be over 18. Regardless of what the rules say, they are therefore consenting adults who had the right to decide to go (or not to go) to Hebron.

Does Remez object to the anti-Birthright groups that take people to meet the 'Palestinians'? I'm sure he does not. (I do because the sponsors aren't paying to bring these kids to Israel for that purpose).

Second, the people who run Birthright have an agenda and they pay a lot of money to promote it. Their agenda is to make unaffiliated (for the most part) Jewish kids feel a connection to Israel and the Jewish people. If that Hillel representative or anyone else isn't comfortable with that agenda, they shouldn't be promoting Birthright. But Birthright certainly has the right to promote the agenda for which they pay. And that agenda can be as skewed in Israel's favor as they want it to be.

I suspect that we're going to find out that the tour guide violated Birthright's rules by taking the kids there (for which he may unfortunately be disciplined or fired), but I'm in favor of anything that makes these kids feel a connection to Israel and the Jewish people.


At 5:50 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I see nothing wrong with taking kids to places to which Jews have a connection. If they do not know Jews have roots in the Land Of Israel, they will not understand why Israel exists. The Birthright Group should change its rules. To pretend Jews have no connection to Hebron and other places in Yesha is an affront to the historical truth and an insult to the memory of the Jewish people. This has nothing to do with security or politics. It has to do with events described in the Torah.

And if Birthright is incapable or unwilling to present to young Jews the full story of how Israel came to be, then its not doing its job. Its that simple.


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