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Why is Birthright organizing skateboarding and hip hopping-themed trips to Israel?

on 11 Comments

Is there anything wrong with sponsored trips to Israel tailor-made for a specific group of Jews? It’s only natural that Israel trips would be organized around interest groups so that the experience can be more meaningful for them. Some of the niche markets that Birthright has organized trips around in recent years include foodies, techies and queer and queer-allied Jews. But now Birthright is venturing into new territory, launching skateboarding and hip hop-themed trips to Israel. What does this say about the values of the organized Jewish community and the way that it interprets the State of Israel?


To be sure, there is an Israeli skateboarding subculture and there is an Israeli hip hop scene. Since I haven’t seen their itineraries, I have no idea how much of the 10-day trips are devoted to heel flipping, nose stalling and bombing and tagging. But 10 days is an awfully short amount of time for a first-time trip to a place with as rich a history as Israel’s. Is it right to visit the skate park in Kfar Saba or hear a rap battle in Hebrew at the expense of a trip to Safed or the Dead Sea? Of course there’s nothing wrong with making those options available for those who wouldn’t otherwise be inclined to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

But what does it say about the organized Jewish community when the Israel trip experience it throws massive support behind is willing to organize skateboarding and hip hopping trips to Israel, but not one that is co-sponsored with J Street? That organization is far from leftist – it publicly supported Israel’s recent assault on Gaza and refuses to condemn Israel’s concentration camps for African refugees. But its meek criticism of Israel’s continued expropriation of Palestinian lands has rendered it off-the-spectrum untouchable for Birthright’s ultra-nationalist funders. For Birthright, Jay-Z is Jewish, but racial justice is Gentile.

Birthright refuses to send young Jews to Israel on a trip that will allow them to learn about the inequalities that plague Israeli society, so that they can apply themselves to erasing those inequalities, thereby improving that society. Its planned skateboarding and hip hopping-themed trips are revealed for the insulting exercise that they are: a marketing gimmick to reel in more ‘genetic’ Jews, getting them high on hormones and Ziojuana. All the better to brainwash them into accepting the political premises of Birthright’s paymasters: only mate with other Jews, never criticize Israel’s actions.

Goth Birthright? (Image: David Sheen)

Birthright dilutes the Israel experience to exclude the struggle for social justice for everyone living in the territories Israel controls, but tries to make it funky-fresh by co-branding it with cool. My response to Birthright’s skateboarding and hip hopping Israel trips is to ridicule them. I invite readers of Mondoweiss to make this a meme and create adverts for fictional Birthright trips that target only a tiny fraction of the Jewish community and have only negligible connection to Israel itself. I have provided you with the first five. What’s next? Steampunk Israel? Goth Israel? Trekkie Israel? Juggalo Israel? Planking Israel?!

Juggalo Birthright? (Image: David Sheen)

Maybe what the Jewish people needs right now is not more Jewish people coming on trips to Israel, but more Israeli people going on trips abroad. Not a trip to Israel for Jews living in the Diaspora to make them realize that they are connected to this land and these people, but a trip for Israeli Jews to other parts of the world, to make them realize that they are connected to everyone else on the planet. Maybe if more Israelis realized that we are all equally human, equally deserving of life and liberty, health and happiness, we’d be less likely to choose politicians who pursue policies that oppress other peoples. Instead of Birthright trips, maybe what the Jewish people really need is Earthright trips.

Steampunk Birthright? (Image: David Sheen)
Planking Birthright? (Image: David Sheen)
Trekkie Birthright? (Image: David Sheen)
David Sheen
About David Sheen

David Sheen is an independent journalist and film maker who lives in Dimona. His website is

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11 Responses

  1. OlegR
    February 18, 2013, 10:33 am

    You are all free to put a suggestion in front of the Birthright to add
    a Join Anarchists against the wall field trip or something of the sort.
    Or better yet organize an alternative birthright funded by the PA.
    That should be a hoot.

    • Cliff
      February 18, 2013, 11:42 am

      This coming from a Russian Jew (LOL).

      Why would it be a hoot? The Palestinian birthright is based on tangible connections to the land.

      Yours is pure mythology and abstraction.

  2. pabelmont
    February 18, 2013, 10:44 am

    Love the satire. But, really, the “birthright” trips mentioned (if real, are they really real?) have about as much (or as little) to do with being Jewish (or with Israel AS a Jewish state) as invited trips to Disneyland.

    These ads seem to say.

    Want a FREE vacation doing what you like best? Come to Israel to do it! Friends of Israel are sponsoring your FREE vacation doing what you want to do. We’re only inviting Jews on this FREE vacation, but no need to do/think/be anything Jewish on this FREE vacation. Enjoy!

    • Hostage
      February 18, 2013, 10:38 pm

      Love the satire. But, really, the “birthright” trips mentioned (if real, are they really real?)

      Yes, the JNF has spammed my inbox with announcements that registration for the skateboarding Birthright tour is now open.

    • kayq
      February 19, 2013, 12:52 am

      You’re right. They have absolutely zero to do with being Jewish. It is more of a hasbara trip, if anything.

      Israel needs to feed propaganda to the youth so they will uphold its “honour” and join the IOF. Israel will do anything to survive.

  3. Xpat
    February 18, 2013, 9:51 pm

    Nice graphics.
    The next step from “Skate Israel” and “Hip Hop Israel” is whatever balances the old with cutting edge new.
    The thing about all these belabored attempts to appear hip as that they seize on what was new decades ago. What could be more mainstream than White people who are into hip hop?

    • Accentitude
      February 19, 2013, 5:19 am

      Actually Jews and Hip-Hop have always have had some kind of connection. Lest we forget that Rick Rubin, founder of Def Jam Records…and the man behind Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and others was a White Jew.

  4. Accentitude
    February 19, 2013, 5:17 am

    My suggestions:

    FURRIES Birthright Israel
    Cosplay Birthright Israel
    S&M Birthright Israel
    Submissives Birthright Israel
    Dominatrix’ Birthright Israel
    Jedi Birthright Israel
    Dudes Who Like to Carve Twigs with Pocket Knives Birthright Israel
    Detained African Migrants Birthright Israel
    Fans of Dungeons & Dragons and other Lame-O Role Playing Games Birthright Israel
    Gravediggers Birthright Israel
    Zombie Crawl Birthright Israel
    Self-Hating Jews Birthright Israel
    Emo Birthright Israel
    Dubstep Birthright Israel
    Pornstars Birthright Israel
    Hobbits Birthright Israel
    R/C Car Hobbyists Birthright Israel
    Cross Dressing Fashionistas and Divas Birthright Israel
    Import Tuners Birthright Israel
    Retro Gamer Birthright Israel
    Collectors of Cool Looking Rocks Birthright Israel
    Parkour Birthright Israel
    BYOBirthright Israel
    Satanic Birthright Israel
    Socialist Birthright Israel
    All You Can Eat Birthright Israel
    B-Boys Birthright Israel
    Dance Crews Birthright Israel
    Pirates vs Ninjas Birthright Israel
    Angry Disgruntled Jewish Cabbies Birthright Israel
    Yo Mamma Jokers Birthright Israel
    Unicyclists Birthright Israel
    Clown Aficionados Birthright Israel
    Angry Birds Birthright Israel
    Phallic Birthright Israel
    Mildly Offensive Birthright Israel
    Funny Jewish Comics Birthright Israel
    Looking at Clouds and Saying They Look Like Other Things Birthright Israel
    Eaters of Strawberry Pop Tarts with Pink Frosting and Rainbow Sprinkles on Saturday Mornings while wearing a Heather Grey faux distressed 80s Retro Pac-Man T-Shirt and watching Tivoed episodes of Meeting the Kardashians in Albuquerque, New Mexico Birthright Israel

    Y’know…just incase they need some more help coaxing people who ordinarily don’t care to come to Israel to come to Israel.

  5. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    February 19, 2013, 11:30 am

    Want to bet that Birthright will take up at least some of your ideas? You think you’re being satirical. Actually you’re acting as unpaid advertising consultants for them.

  6. DC Red
    DC Red
    February 19, 2013, 4:07 pm

    No Bronies Birthright Israel?

    Ah well. My own Birthright trip was more bizarre than anything else – physically it was grueling and every interaction we had with an Israeli who was not our official tour guide was unpleasant and mildly disturbing.

  7. tear-stained uzi
    tear-stained uzi
    February 20, 2013, 3:04 pm

    This thread had me LMF(A-Z)AO! Excellent graphics, David Sheen!

    Now you just need to make a viral video. How about… The Hebron Shake!

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