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What Birthright Trip Brochures Don’t Tell You
It is that time of year when many young adults will board planes for a free trip known as "Birthright Israel". Birthright is a free 10-day trip offered to young Jews 18 to 32 years old to visit Israel and the Golan Heights.
A free trip to Israel might sound like good innocent fun, right? Wrong. It is a part of a harmful propaganda campaign. Birthright trips perpetuate the occupation of Palestine by manufacturing a sense of ownership and entitlement over Palestinian land and erasing the history of the indigenous Palestinians that have lived on that land for generations. However, the trip presents to young Jewish adults as a visit to the “homeland” and a return to their birthright country. It does this through outright lies and manipulation.
The brochures used to entice these young adults into taking the free trip describe a majestic and breathtaking land. They emphasize how they will immerse themselves in their deep prideful Jewish history. And while that word-smithing in the brochure attracts many to take the trip, it is what the brochure does not mention that matters the most.
For instance, they begin their marketing by offering a trip “home.” With that one simple line, “Welcome home!” or “Come home!,” the trip erases the whole history of the Palestinian people. They say ‘home” as if Israel's establishment in 1948 was the beginning of time. They say “home” without acknowledging the indigenous people who lived there before 1948 who were forced out and cannot return.
They describe how trip-goers will explore the breathtaking Hanging Gardens of Haifa, creating a false sense of pride in the gardens. It was indigenous Palestinians who grew the Hanging Gardens decades ago. Haifa is a Palestinian homeland. Israeli history in Haifa is not one of the breathtaking gardens but rather of depopulation and occupation. Zionist militias invaded, ethnically cleansed, and seized Haifa in 1948. While young Jewish adults can tour Haifa for free, the Palestinians who lived there before 1948 can never return.
The sample itinerary from the Taglit Birthright website also describes a visit to Golan Heights. Brochures boast about a trip to see Mt. Bental and where they can take in the magnificent view. The trip promotes this beautiful area as part of their history, but that history is a lie. The Golan Heights was once a part of Syria but was illegally occupied by Israel in 1967 and then illegally annexed by Israel in 1981. And while the beauty of the Golan Heights is nothing to condemn, the annexation of the land was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council because it is stolen land.
Any brochure selling young Jewish adults on a trip to Israel would not be complete without selling them on a historical experience in Jerusalem. But while hundreds of “birthright” tourists can move freely in and out of Jerusalem - Palestinians face near-impossible obstacles to seeing a doctor inside the “holy’ city. They are not permitted to come and go like the young Birthright tourists - they must first apply for a permit that can take months to get approved. If they just so happen to get approval, then it is up to chance whether the heavily guarded entry points are open on the days they can go for much-needed medical care.
The trip also offers a visit to Al Haram Al Sharif or Temple Mount. The compound is the location of Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. What potential trip-goers are carefully not exposed to at Al-Aqsa is the annual violence inflicted on worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan usually occurs around two months before the Birthright trip season - just in time to sanitize away the often deadly attacks that ritually happen before the tip.
These are just a few examples of how Birthright trips create a false illusion of a historical journey to “homeland.” While it is billed as a free trip to young Jewish adults it is actually a trip that has cost everything to the Palestinian people. The trips deliberately fail to mention the crimes that Israel committed throughout history and still commit daily. Israel wants to put forward an idealized view of the country by intentionally leaving out the history of ethnic cleansing and using these trips to fortify that false history. They are a part of the multi-faceted propaganda campaign to erase Palestinian existence and history from the minds of young Jewish adults and the population in general for generations to come.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WHY WE CALL FOR A BOYCOTT OF BIRTHRIGHT, CHECK OUT OUR LATEST WEBINAR, NOT JUST A FREE TRIP: HOW BIRTHRIGHT PERPETUATES THE OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE.
Nour is CODEPINK's Palestine and Iran Campaigner. Nour graduated from DePaul University with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies in June 2022. She has been advocating for Palestinian liberation for over 5 years, including organizing within her university. She also organizes around related issues, such as abolition.