Birthright Israel: As Political As Chopped Liver

Published: 
July 19, 2011

Source: The Jewish Week

 

In an opinion piece in the Jewish Week, Leonard Saxe and Jeffrey Solomon address questions about the political nature of Birthright Israel - Taglit's trip content which have been raised recently. They write: "Taglit is unabashed in its focus on promoting Jewish identity, Peoplehood and love of Israel. By regulation, and voluminous guidelines, its educators are required to offer apolitical “balanced messages.” To identify with and love Israel does not mean support of a specific political position about Israel."

They describe the educational approach of Birthright thus:

"The content of Taglit programs is fixed in terms of core themes, but the specifics of what is taught vary. Although this suggests that the door is open to politicization, in fact, it gives participants more influence in what and how they learn. In educational philosophy terms, Birthright Israel is John Dewey-inspired experiential education. The program teaches by allowing participants to experience Israel and to get to know the country and their heritage through interaction with others. It engages participants’ “heart, mind and body” and the teachers are peers, as well as formal educators….

 

Taglit-Birthright Israel is counter-cultural. It is particularistic in a universalistic world and its programming tackles issues of identity and group commitment that many contemporary young adults seek to avoid. The program has created a new paradigm — a new way for diaspora Jews to relate to Israel — that emphasizes the connections among people, not mythology or ideology. In an era where political diversions are ever sharper and destructive, it is a breath of fresh air and sign of hope for the future."

Updated: Jul. 26, 2011
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