Birthright ends trips to Israel — ‘American Jews are better off imagining Israel than seeing it’

In a shocking move, Birthright Israel announced today, April 1, that the well known travel-program-cum-dating-service will no longer be offering trips to Israel for Jewish young people. In an exclusive interview with Mondoweiss Birthright CEO Gidi Mark explained, “Given the rightward, and frankly racist, turn in Israel we could no longer conduct a trip that would present the country in the most flattering light. We determined that in order to build support for Israel, young people are best off leaving it to their imagination.”

Even though trips will not be continuing, Birthright Israel plans to continue going strong. A new New York City-based program will offer participants an immersive exploration of Israeli history, politics and culture through screenings of the films Exodus and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

Mark said the change was a stroke of genius. “We found that many young Jewish Americans had a better opinion of Israel before coming to the country. Years of exposure to Jewish educational programs led them to believe Israel was one thing, but time and time again we found participants were turned off by actually seeing the country.”

Mark says the idea for the change first came to him while watching the US presidential race. “I just kept thinking to myself as I watched the debates, why can’t we show people the Israel these politicians seem to see?” The Birthright head soon determined that the reason US politicians laud Israel is because they know so little about it. So, rather than giving participants a firsthand experience with Israel itself, he figures it’s more important to give them a firsthand experience with the idea of Israel.

Mark described the ah-ha moment, “We finally figured it out, the best way to build support for Israel is to have as little contact with Israel as possible.”

What went wrong?

Mark described how itineraries had been curtailed in the past several years due to Jewish violence. “First we stopped going to Jerusalem, given the tension and violence of the Jewish community there. Then we stopped going to the Galilee as Jews stepped up attacks there as well. Soon, we were left with about a three block radius in Tel Aviv that was worth seeing. Most participants just stayed in the hotel.”

Racism in Israel has been on the rise and Mark said it was hurting the program. “Truth be told, Israelis have always been kind of dicks,” Mark explained. “Birthright participants were so taken with the trip there were able to see past the dickishness. But I guess Israelis have just become even bigger dicks.”

Birthright, coming to a theater near you?

Mark says the program already has the AMC Empire 25 near Times Square reserved for the next Birthright trip, and he’s clearly excited. “I think we’ll have a great lineup for the new Birthright, Schindler’s List and World War Z are already on the schedule.” And while it won’t be the same as the old trip, Mark hopes some things will stay the same. “Sure, we will no longer have the Bedouin tent, but trust me, there will still be plenty of handjobs in the new Birthright as well.”

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