American Jews ditch Birthright trip to join anti-occupation Hebron tour

Activists are encouraging Birthright participants to question their tour guides about Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

By Emma Fiala | Mint Press News | Jun 30, 2018

“Like a lot of you, I came on this trip to be in a community with fellow Jewish youth and to learn. I really valued a lot of the experiences I’ve had. We have not been able to do that and as a result, the five of us will be leaving as we get off the bus and will be going on a trip with Breaking the Silence to learn about the occupation from the perspectives of Palestinians and IDF soldiers.”
— Birthright participant Bethany Zaiman

Five American Jews, who were visiting Israel as part of the Birthright Israel program, ditched the trip yesterday in protest. Instead of continuing on with the trip’s planned itinerary, on the eighth day of their trip the five Americans joined Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation army veteran’s group, on a tour of Hebron.

One of the five Americans who walked off the trip, Sophie Lasoff, 24, insisted they did not know each other prior to their trip to Israel and had not planned to join Breaking the Silence. Instead, the five “wanted to give Birthright a chance,” says Lasoff. “We didn’t want to do something like that, but we felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Birthright Israel brings young Jewish adults to Israel on a free 10-day trip to tour the country and learn about its history. The program has brought more than 650,000 young Jewish adults to Israel since 1999. One of the five who left the trip contends that Birthright “is not providing the kind of education that we really need . . . and is telling a one-sided story. This is not fair, and we deserve the truth.” Lasoff explained the five became disappointed with the Birthright program’s treatment of the occupation of Palestine and, as a result, sought out Breaking the Silence, to join their tour.

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