Expanding Frontiers and Affirming Belonging: Youth Travel to Israel - A View from Latin America


Source: Hagira – Israel Journal of Migration vol. 5, 2016 pages 122-158


This paper analyzes educational trips as part of the cultural and institutional practices for which Israel is conceived to be a site for the symbolic encoding of meanings and the formation of a sense of belonging, while the awareness of an interconnected Jewish world is strengthened. It does so from the regional perspective of Latin American Jewish communities. The relationship between world Jewish communities and Israel can be conceptually approached as spanning diverse meaning systems, which in turn leads to varied structures of relations between them that build differentiated, modified and strong links with Israel. These relations evolve and manifest along a national axis that interacts with transnational ideational motives. It is in this context that the growing visibility and prominence of youth trips rouses the need for a systematic discussion on their role, scope and reach. Educational trips may be conceptualized as a praxis that reveals the unique convergence of a longstanding modern nationalism and the growing practical and conceptual presence of transnationalism in the Jewish world, thus showcasing the changing place and role held by the idea of a Jewish center or Homeland as a guarantee for the continuity of the Diaspora.

By looking at the different youth trips as part of the educational system and organizational order of Jewish life, this article sheds light on the significance that factors such as institutional density, social capital and communal legacy have on the nature and scope of these trips, their character, time extent and goals. It incorporates a regional perspective in order to examine the varying array of youth trips amidst an increasingly interconnected Jewish world. For this purpose, several characteristics of Jewish life in Latin America are underscored in a comparative perspective; highlighting the role Zionism and Israel have played as identity referents and community builders, in order to approach the differentiated nature of the trips. The related cognitive and existential dimensions associated with the trips’ experiences are central factors in the socializing process of youth. Israel becomes the territorial and symbolic space in which strong and durable collective bonds are expected to develop, though the goals and natures of the various trips themselves may vary.

Updated: Sep. 08, 2016