In the late 1990's, the State of Israel, along with wealthy Jewish benefactors, established the Birthright Israel program. The program allows young Jews living in the Diaspora (the world outside of Israel) to have a 10 day all-expenses paid trip to Israel. There are various preconditions that one must meet to qualify - one must be between the ages of 18 and 26, have at least one parent who is Jewish, and not have traveled to Israel before, with some minor exceptions. The purpose is to create a connection between Jewish youth around the world and the State of Israel. The young people are accompanied by an armed guard/tour leader, and travel to historic sites throughout Israel. Two of our children went to Israel on Birthright, the third did not qualify as he had studied for a year in Israel.
Not every Jew seems to agree that the program is a good idea. How could that be, you ask? Well, leftist Jews side with the Palestinians, and as such, oppose not only the Birthright program, but the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. The group "Jewish Voice for Peace," which I would argue is actually a Jewish group against Israel, has a "Manifesto" that was issued by some of their young adherents.
The Manifesto states: "In 1948, Zionist militias expelled over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages, an act of ethnic cleansing, known by Palestinians as the Nakba or 'catastrophe' in Arabic, that cleared the land for the creation of the modern-day state of Israel." I do not know if this Manifesto was indeed issued by young Jews, but if it was it reflects the anti-Israel bias and propaganda one might see in a Palestinian publication.
To clarify, Jews did not just decide to expel Palestinians in 1948. The UN voted to partition the land of the British Mandate in 1947, establishing both a Jewish state and an Arab state. However, the Arabs refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state, and the day after the new State of Israel declared their independence in May, 1948, the Arab world attacked, and tried to annihilate the Jews. Were hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced? Yes, but many left on the advice of Arab leaders saying they could return after the Jews were destroyed. Others left voluntarily. But some were, indeed, forced out. But none of it would have happened but for the Arabs refusal to accept a Jewish state. And, no mention is ever made by leftists of the hundreds of thousands of Jews displaced from the surrounding Arab countries following the establishment of Israel.
More from the Manifesto: "But today, we must acknowledge that the modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of the Palestinians." Ironic, as Hamas vows to get control of all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, promising to drive the Jews into the sea. Ironic, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that not one single Jew may live in a future Palestinian state. Ironic, as the Palestinians in the form of Hamas now control the Gaza Strip. Ironic, as the PA controls much of the land in the West Bank. And further ironic, as the Palestinians already have a state of their own - it's called Jordan.
The key, however, is their implication that the modern state of Israel, being founded on the 'erasure' of Palestinians, is not and cannot be a legitimate state. I trust they would feel the same about the USA being founded on the 'erasure' of Native Americans; although I doubt they would feel the same about Mexico, settled by the Spanish on the 'erasure' of the native Mayan, Incan and Aztec peoples.
The Manifesto "implore(s) other young Jews on our campuses and in our communities: don't go on a Birthright trip to Israel. Don't take a trip sponsored by conservative donors and the Israeli government, where the ongoing oppression and occupation of Palestinians will be hidden from you, just because it's free." By imploring Jewish youth not to experience the miracle that is Israel, by referring to "conservative" donors, and by using the Palestinian terms of "oppression and occupation" they ignore history and simply repeat Palestinian propaganda - which is the same as left-wing propaganda. This Manifesto is actually nothing other than another manifestation of the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement against Israel.
So, I would implore Jewish youth - go to Israel. Visit the homeland of the Jewish people. Go to the Kotel (Western Wall) and pray, where our ancestors prayed thousands of years ago, and where all Jews in the Diaspora have always turned to pray - towards the City of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). Go see a country that against all odds has not only survived but thrived. Surrounded by hostile neighbors who have launched war after war trying to annihilate them, a country without the natural resource (oil) that has made their neighbors fabulously wealthy, and occupying the smallest land mass of any of the Arab countries that surround them - Israel has become an economic and technological powerhouse. And, as the only democracy in the area, its Arab citizens vote and serve in the government. Ignore the never-ending anti-Israel propaganda - and go!