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July 2, 2015 2:05 pm

Lower the Age for Birthright Israel to Build a Pro-Israel Army on Campus

avatar by Robert I. Lappin

Email a copy of "Lower the Age for Birthright Israel to Build a Pro-Israel Army on Campus" to a friend
A Taglit-Birthright group. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A Taglit-Birthright group. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Sheldon Adelson’s goal to “put more boots on the ground” to fight BDS on college campuses is right on, and his recommendation to form an army of college students, dubbed “Campus Maccabees,” is essential.  However, the only way to rapidly recruit and train an army of Campus Maccabees is for Birthright Israel to lower its age of eligibility to 16, thereby attracting teens, en masse, to go to Israel.

Just as an army needs boot camp to prepare for active duty, so too will Adelson’s Campus Maccabees. Providing teens with an Israel experience and Israel advocacy training before they go to college is essential for Campus Maccabees to be prepared to fight BDS on campus.

Fighting BDS on campus is of little interest to Jewish students who have not had an Israel experience. Thus, Birthright Israel’s role is critical in the anti-BDS fight. When Birthright Israel lowers its age of eligibility to 16, Adelson’s Campus Maccabees idea will flourish. Tens of thousands of Jewish boots on the ground will arrive on college campuses prepared, equipped, and willing to fight BDS.

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The plan is simple to implement. Birthright Israel can serve as the funding source for Jewish communities to organize 10-12 day teen trips to Israel, and for vouchers for the equivalent of the 10-12 day trip for longer Israel experiences run by Jewish youth groups, camps, synagogues, and schools. This will make longer trips more affordable. When tens of thousands of pre-college age teens return from Israel every year, Jewish communities can provide Israel advocacy training, using any of the high-quality curricula produced by Jerusalem U, Stand With Us, CAMERA, Honest Reporting, The David Project, and others – as we are currently doing with great success.

Training pre-college age students to fight BDS is an effective strategy because waiting until students arrive on campus to recruit and train them is too late. Recent social scientific studies conducted by Professor Steven M. Cohen prove the effectiveness of the teen Israel experience. My community is proof that the teen trip to Israel followed by Israel advocacy training is working.

The funding infrastructure is in place, using Birthright Israel, to attract teens en masse to go to Israel. High-quality Israel advocacy programs for high school students are ready to go. All that is needed is for Sheldon Adelson and other funders, who attended the Campus Maccabees Summit, to see what is readily available and to persuade Birthright Israel to lower the age of eligibility to 16.

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  • KENNETH C WILLIAMS

    RIGHT ON!!! 🙂

  • Ben Gonsher

    Thank you Mr. Lappin for so succinctly and courageously suggesting such a drastic and necessary next step. I whole heartedly believe this is ALMOST the exact right approach to addressing the issues; we need to do much more than JUST send high schoolers to Israel, including, as you suggested, ensuring proper follow up training. But it all starts with the incentive of encouraging our teenagers to visit their Homeland. Kol Hakavod to you for bringing this to light and for forcing the conversation. I’m ready to develop this further and bring this to fruition when you are!

  • Brent Riley

    old testament policies are against the grain today

  • Daniel MacDonald

    I suspect that Zuckerberg’s good fortune has gone to his head. He should learn that G-d’s blessings can be withdrawn as quickly as they are given.

  • steven L

    They should all learn Krav Maga. That will boost their confidence.

  • Never again. Never again. Train your young ones to defend themselves from the enemies if the Jews.

  • Never again. Never again. Be ready to face the enemies.

  • Yale

    The problem doesn’t lie exclusively with the age threshhold for partipating in Birthright. Lowering that thereshhold may actually reinforce the other hurdle: wanting to see Israel in the first place because there is basically no way a 16-year old can go on trip like this without parental approval. Parents who approve would mainly be Zionist to start with, and their kids would likely already have a positive outlook on Israel.

    The real nut to crack is getting young Jews, without a prior pro-Israel life experience, to want to go on an adventure like this.

  • Al Berg

    I think your ideas and article are excellent!!!!

  • Jack Halpern

    This is a wonderful idea To lower the age to 16. They are more than old enough to appreciate Israel and the birthright program. Thank you Sheldon.

  • barbara ansel

    Fabulous idea– hope it gets the funding and approval necessary to move it forward. BA

  • Wm. J. Levy

    Jews should never have to feel terrorized or prone to attack especially on a college campus.

    Jews have to stop being so weak and be strong and act tough and war their haters that they will harm them and mean it.

    Judaism did not begin with the Holocaust and Jews don’t know their heritage, much less their religion other than being food Jews.

    Every Jew should be angry and ashamed that Mark Zuckerberg can declare to the world. “I am no longer a Jew. I am an agnostic.”

    What the hell is wrong with him. He would probably love being black and he wouldn’t say “I’m no longer black. I am white”.

    There is absolutely no Jewish Unity so we are the targets from the blacks, the Muslim and the Jew haters who are white.

    How many Holocausts have to happen before the Jews fight back?

  • It is far to late and they will need to know Kav Magav, just to protect themselves. But the cops and the universities will side with the Arabs. So, the Jews will be expelled.

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