The Triumph and Tragedy of Birthright Israel
The organization, despite its fantastic mission, has fallen well short of its tremendous potential.
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Birthright Israel, the free trip to Israel for young adult Jews around the world, is failing to keep Jews around the world engaged with Israel, as well as across several other areas.
Make no mistake: I am among Birthright’s biggest champions — because it inextricably changed my life. In June 2012, at the age of 23, I conjured up my two best friends to sign up for the same Birthright trip.
We left Los Angeles for Ben Gurion Airport on January 2, 2013, when my mom dropped me off at LAX with a duffle bag packed for three weeks’ worth of traveling: 10 days on Birthright, a week in Turkey, and a few more days in Israel, where my free return flight to L.A. awaited me.
Long story short: I didn’t get on that return flight. I instantly fell in love with Israel during my Birthright trip and was craving more of it, so I found some distant cousins in Tel Aviv who were previously unbeknownst to me, shacked up at their house for six weeks until I moved into an apartment in the city, and became an Israeli citizen just a few months later.
Birthright has become part of my identity, because it introduced me to my new home, a place I feel the most alive and energetic, the most purposeful.
And I’m not sure you’ll find a bigger Birthright “brand ambassador” than me; every time Birthright has asked something of me — like to use my photo in their advertising campaigns, or to participate in a radio campaign — I’ve unconditionally replied with the affirmative because of the gift-that-keeps-on-giving this organization gave me.