J Street’s first ‘Birthright’ alternative trip arrives in Israel

The nine-day trip allows young American Jews to experience the landmarks of Israel, while going in-depth into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

JStreet (photo credit: screenshot)
(photo credit: screenshot)
"Let Our People Know" arrived in Israel on Tuesday, for the first of its kind ‘Birthright’ alternative trip. Sponsored by J Street, it is free for 40 American Jewish students.
The students will visit the Galilee, Yad Vashem, the Dead Sea and the typical heritage sites of Jerusalem – just like normal Taglit groups. But they will also have the chance to meet with Israeli settlers and Israeli/Palestinian peace activists while visiting Ramallah and Hebron.
“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 on its website. “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.”
Back in March, J Street U asked its members to sign a pledge to only participate in 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," according to a statement on the group's website. 
The organization says that it hopes this trip will serve as a model for other educational trips in the future.
Birthright said in response that its trips are not political in nature and that it respects young people’s choice, "to visit Israel in any way that suits their needs and interests.”
The organization added: "Our educational trips are non-partisan and have enabled more than 700,000 Jewish young adults to experience Israel over the past 19 years. We appreciate all organizations that aim to connect the Jewish Diaspora to Israel and provide the gift of experiencing Israel first hand.”
J Street is an American progressive movement that “organizes and mobilizes pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who want Israel to be secure, democratic and the national home of the Jewish people,” according to its mission statement.
The organization now has chapters on 95 campuses across the US and an active lobbying group in Washington. 
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.