The second thought I had, and the reason I am writing this post, is to show solidarity with one of the greatest things to happen to world Jewry in the last 65 years. I am writing in defense and recognition of Taglit- Birthright.
It is no secret that I love Birthright. I have taken this 10-day trip as a staff twelve times. This means I have had the pleasure of sharing the land of Israel with my young American Jewish brothers and sisters to the tune of about 450 participants! Add to that the 100 or so soldiers I've had the pleasure to meet, and the various co-staff, tour guides, medics and bus drivers with whom I've had the pleasure of sharing a cramped bus. I have seen more of Israel than most, and I've loved (almost) every minute of it. But that's just me. One rabidly- Zionist Orthodox girl's experience. Except I am not Birthright's target demo. Most of my participants had never been to Israel. Most are non-practicing Jews. Most are not particularly Zionist. Most have predominantly non-Jewish social circles. For many, without Birthright, these Jewish kids would have zero Jewish experiences and maybe even not know any other Jewish people! (I'm talking to you, Jews in Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, etc). Birthright gives Jewish kids an opportunity not only to connect with Israel, but other Jewish kids! And Israeli Jews! And Orthodox Jews (hiiiii guys!) It is a way to build a community in a world they never even knew they could belong.
Honestly, unless you really dislike Israel or Jews, I don't see the problem. All I see is an organization who saw a need in the world Jewish community and filled it, pouring money and love and dedication into a diaspora Jewish nation who desperately needed something to connect to. I am so grateful for the time I've spent on Birthright- the places I've seen and the people I've met. Quite honestly, some of my closest friends are former participants and staff. So I thank you for reading this and allowing me to share my appreciation with Taglit- Birthright, and I urge you all to do the same if you can.