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February 19, 2016 5:57 am

Birthright Israel Should Fund Teen Trips to Israel Immediately

avatar by Robert I. Lappin

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A Taglit-Birthright group. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A Taglit-Birthright group. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The rise of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities in academia begs for an effective strategy to prepare Jewish students to fight BDS on college campuses before they go to college.

Getting Jewish teens to Israel en masse, combined with Israel advocacy training in local communities before they go to college, is the only shot we have to build an army of “boots on the ground” on college campuses.

On this account, the American Jewish community fails our youth miserably.

Birthright Israel is in a position to help fund the most practical solution to this most pressing, urgent need facing the Jewish people. Word on the street is that Birthright Israel has unfilled seats and registration is open-ended, implying that registration is down. If Birthright Israel is not filling empty seats, they should do the responsible thing and serve as a funding source to run teen trips to Israel.

Birthright Israel’s funding of teen trips does not have to be all-or-nothing. It can do something by designating funds for communities to organize teen trips to Israel.

Birthright Israel should step up to the plate, lead the way, and fulfill its divine purpose and stated vision to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel by providing a 10-day trip to Israel for young Jewish people.”

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  • Not only must we fund and begin trips to Israel in high school, but we also must allow for itineraries that are authentic and present Israel with all of its diversity,complexities, and nuances. Only then can we begin to create meaningful discussions and arm teens with the proper tools to be Israel advocates on college campuses. And the conversation should extend beyond self identified Jewish teens. What would college campuses look like if all teens had an opportunity to participate in a high school summer Israel experience? We at Israel Teen Fellowship think that that’s a pretty important question and have framed our program with the aforementioned in mind. Learn more at

  • Prof. Steven M. Cohen

    The urgent call by Robert Lappin for supporting teen trips to Israel is well-founded. At one time, Israel evoked almost uncontested pride and support among Jewish students and their non-Jewish peers. That is certainly no longer the case and most Jewish undergraduates — certainly those who have never been to Israel — have no way of contending with the controversial discourse on today’s campus. Only by going to Israel at age 16 or 17 — before the current Birthright entry-level age — will young people learn of Israel first-hand, and, indeed begin a life-long relationship with Israel. Bob Lappin is to be commended for having been generous and prescient in funding teen trips to Israel for his hometown teenagers since 1971. His experience and all the available research argue powerfully for extending opportunities for teen experiences in Israel to all of North American Jewry.