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
“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.”
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
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.
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
Program participants would return home as “ambassadors and
explain what Judaism, Jews and Israel are all about,” Meir said.
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-
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.