WASHINGTON, DC — J Street U today unveiled the next phase of its “Let Our People Know” campaign, asking American Jewish students to sign a pledge to only participate in organized trips to Israel that include meetings with both Israelis and Palestinians and that show participants how the occupation impacts daily life in the West Bank. The student arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement also announced that it will lead a free “model trip” to Israel and the West Bank for 40 American Jewish college students in July 2019.
The campaign emphasizes that it is important for American Jewish students to receive a full and nuanced picture of the challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians today, including the threat that the occupation presents to Palestinian human rights and to Israel’s long-term future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. Throughout the school year, hundreds of students across the country have called on Birthright to include Palestinian speakers and discussion of the occupation on its organized trips to Israel this summer.
With Birthright still unwilling to make any such changes, pro-Israel, anti-occupation students are now sending a clear message that they will only join organized education trips that do not further the omission and erasure of Palestinian voices.
“By taking this pledge, American Jewish students are calling for Israel education that is honest, nuanced and consistent with our Jewish and progressive values,” said J Street U President Eva Borgwardt, a senior at Stanford University. “Organized Israel trips that omit and exclude Palestinian perspectives provide political cover for policies that entrench the occupation and undermine the two-state solution. We can’t accept that.”
To model the type of robust and balanced organized trip that progressive Jewish students are looking for, J Street U has organized its own “Let Our People Know” summer trip to Israel and the West Bank, which will take place from July 1-10, 2019. The free trip for 40 American Jewish students will include visits to major tourism and heritage sites in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Galilee and other parts of Israel as well as meetings with Israeli social justice activists, West Bank Palestinian communities and settler leaders. The group expects to receive hundreds of applications.
“American Jews want to visit Israel — and we want to develop a deeper understanding of what life is like there. That means meeting with both Israelis and Palestinians — and learning what life is like for those living under occupation,” said J Street U board member Zachary Spitz, a senior at the University of Chicago. “While Birthright and similar organized trips currently fail to provide these important experiences, we want to provide a model for the kind of truly educational Israel trip that our generation needs.”