I’ve been waiting for this to happen. As young American Jews begin to question the Jewish state, the lobby must reach out to non-Jews. The former president of the University of Pennsylvania’s lobby group has raised about half the $110,000 he needs to bring 20 non-Jewish student leaders to Israel.
But not a word about Palestine.
Here’s part of Noah Feit’s pitch at the Penn Hillel site. The trip is called the Ivy Plus Leadership Mission to Israel. (Ivy Plus signifies West Point). And notice the word “influence.” That’s the game, to influence policymakers.
I realize that it’s difficult to reach out to many neutral, non-Jewish student leaders because they have difficulty imagining what Israel, or the Middle East at large, is actually like…
While there are Birthright trips and many other opportunities for Jews to go to Israel, there are very few such opportunities for non-Jews. Thus I am hoping to bring 20 non-Jewish students on an intensive 7-day exploration of Israel’s political, business, security, and religious circles. We will be including Yale, Columbia, Penn, and West Point students.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker (the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Kuwait, and Lebanon) has agreed to join us and act as a trip leader, along with Lt. Colonel Charles Faint (a senior intelligence analyst), who will be accompanying the West Point cadets. Chosen students will include presidents of College Republicans and Democrats; editors-in-chief of campus newspapers; and other campus leaders. As these students will soon have tremendous influence both in the US and on the world stage, it is important to expose them to a more nuanced view of the region than they would otherwise get on campus.
This trip will occupy a unique niche. It will focus on instilling an intellectual connection to the region in participants who would never have otherwise had the opportunity to see the Middle East as we have seen it.
The trip has 3 primary objectives:
1. To convey a nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region as a whole;
2. To help students formulate a coherent strategy for the US’s role in the region;
3. To provide an incisive look into Israeli society, culture, and politics while simultaneously grappling with the unique security challenges facing both the US and her allies in the region.
We have so far raised $60,000 (of the total $110,000 budget) from the Schusterman Foundation. Additionally, the Israeli Embassy has also committed to supporting this initiative substantively.
Schusterman is involved in funding of the original Birthright.
Thanks to Amy Kaplan.