Travel to Israel has been a central feature of Jewish and Zionist education yet it is time for this educational travel to be examined in the context of current cultural trends of travel and transnational experiences. The Jewish educational community has not yet internalized the impact of global trends on the field of travel to Israel from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives. This article lays out the underlying assumptions of Jewish travel to Israel in the context of globalization and related cultural developments. The article refers primarily to the North American Jewish community, the largest demographic source of travelers.
All these insights into youth culture and new modes of learning should apply to Israel travel. Educational travel programs will continue and hopefully thrive. But the mode of operation needs to shift. I would like to argue that the time has come to construct Israel education and particularly Israel travel in a new way. We need to rethink the previous model of narrative-based group experiences.
This doesn’t mean that the era of deliberate educational experiences are over, nor that the peer group is no longer a crucial framework for growth and character development. Yes, there are numerous good practical reasons to design travel modules that place participants in groups, led by trained guides with preset site visits and staged meetings. But the question is if these methods are necessary steps for effective practice or more a reflection of our desire as educators to perpetuate the narrative that has weakened and shifted.
The time has come to promote Israel experiences that include: individualized self-discovery, time for reflection and sharing, multiple entry points into Israeli places and times, openness to diverse narratives, and a basic trust in the next generation’s capacity to find their way home.