Birthright-style program proposed for non-Jews

Participants could "influence the haters and enlighten them."

Taglit-Birthright Israel 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Taglit-Birthright Israel 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
European leaders should send university students to Israel as part of efforts to combat rising levels of anti-Semitism and xenophobia, Foreign Ministry director general for public diplomacy Gideon Meir declared on Thursday. He was speaking at the close of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem.
“I believe we can do something about this if we work together,” Meir said. “Governments of countries and communities which suffer from anti-Semitism and rabid anti-Zionism, working together with the state of Israel... can bring large numbers of young Christians and Muslims, students, trade unionists and athletes... to become personal witnesses of who the Jews really are, and what the state of Israel is really all about.”
Meir said that he is proposing “a Birthright-type program for non-Jews” which could bring 100,000 “relevant individuals” here for a “journey of discovery” program within the space of half a decade.
Such visitors, he told conference attendees, would then be able to “influence the haters and help enlighten them.”
Meir explained that among the causes of anti-Semitism is “simple ignorance” that can be combated best through allowing people to get to know Israel and the Jewish people directly.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post immediately prior to his address, Meir said the idea is that even after a good amount of deliberation at the conference “statements are not enough,” and there is a need for action especially on the side of education.
As part of efforts by Israel’s European allies to combat xenophobia, that he believed posed a danger to European society as a whole, it would be beneficial to engage in the process of bringing the young generation, aged 20 and up, to Israel.
“If they want to fight anti-Semitism, which is also a problem for them, it must be their initiative to partner with us,” he told the Post.
“This is [our] call for action.
It is important to the governments which are combating anti-Semitism, it’s important for the Jewish people and it’s important for the Jewish state.”
Program participants would return home as “ambassadors and explain what Judaism, Jews and Israel are all about,” Meir said.
During their stay, which would last from Sunday to Friday, visitors would attend a seminar at Yad Vashem and tour the country, learning about Jewish life post- Holocaust.
According to Meir, the trips will, like Birthright, be run by private organizations and will cover “contemporary Israel” and include meeting with Israelis, taking in the sights and learning about Israel’s commitment to tikkun olam, a Jewish doctrine of repairing the world.
Acceptance of his proposal by foreign governments would constitute “a big step forward in combating anti- Semitism,” Meir said.