Pro-Israel student tour offers meeting with ‘Palestinian leaders’ between beer and settlements

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All those free trips to Israel that the country’s promoters offer young American Jews are coming under a lot of pressure this summer from participants who say they’re being lied to; and Northwestern University Hillel has responded by offering a “leadership tour” for students later this month that looks like old wine in a new bottle.

The draft itinerary, which I got from a friend, makes it clear that student leaders — apparently from all backgrounds– are to be propagandized to love Israel, but with a little more realism thrown in. Like a flyby in Ramallah with “Palestinian leaders,” on the same day that the students drink beer at Taybeh brewery in the West Bank and do three other events. Also they’ll meet an Arab-Israeli journalist. In between learning about the thriving LGBTQ culture in Tel Aviv, startup nation, and co-existence projects.

So there’s no real doubt about the thrust of this tour. The student leaders are going to visit the illegal Efrat settlement and meet the mayor, and tour the occupied Golan Heights too. This is a propaganda tour with a new veneer.

Here’s the draft itinerary, with my highlights.

Sunday, August 26, 2018
• Depart from JFK Airport in New York…. (Participants should be at JFK [more than four hours ahead of the flight].

Monday, August 27
• Arrive in Ben Gurion Airport…
• Welcome at ancient Caesarea Aqueduct on the Mediterranean Sea
Overnight at IYHA Guest House, Haifa

Tuesday, August 28
• Visit Baha’i Gardens in Haifa
• Visit Achmadiya Mosque in Haifa
• Encounter Druze culture in Carmel village of Ussafiya
Explore history and terrain of Golan Heights on a jeep tour
• Geopolitical introduction to Israel’s neighbors at Mt. Ben-Tal
• Evening Cruise on the Sea of Galilee (time permitting)
• Meet a panel of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish students
Overnight at Kibbutz Amiad Guest House, Galilee

Wednesday, August 29
Visit Ziv Hospital in Tsfat, a leader in emergency medicine and treating Syrian refugees
• Visit ancient Tsfat, the historic center of Jewish mysticism
Travel along the [occupied] Jordan River valley
• Float in the Dead Sea
• Nature walk in Ein Gedi National Park
• Dinner at Jerusalem hotel
Overnight at Montefiore Hotel, Jerusalem

Thursday, August 30
• Visit Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif
• Visit [occupied] Bethlehem, including a visit to the Church of the Nativity and meeting with the mayor of Bethlehem
Travel to Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion and meet mayor of Efrat
• Meet with an Israeli negotiator involved in Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinian [sic]
Overnight at Montefiore Hotel, Jerusalem

Friday, August 31
• Visit Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center
• Experience Machane Yehuda open air marketplace for lunch
• Geopolitical tour of Jerusalem
• Friday night Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner and group reflection at hotel
Overnight at Montefiore Hotel, Jerusalem

Saturday, September 1
• Rampart Walls tour of the Old City of Jerusalem
• Explore Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City
Meet with an Arab-Israeli journalist
• Graffiti art tour of Machane Yehuda market at night
Overnight at Montefiore Hotel, Jerusalem

Sunday, September 2
Tour of Ramallah and meet with Palestinian leaders
• Continue to Tybeh Brewery for tour and tastings in one of the first Palestinian breweries
• Stop by Hebrew University Mt. Scopus
• Visit Kids4Peace, a nonprofit organization promoting coexistence among all of Jerusalem’s youth
• Speaker event in conjunction with Northwestern Hillel’s Birthright group (visiting Israel at the same time as the NU Perspectives trip)
Overnight at Montefiore Hotel, Jerusalem

Monday, September 3
• Guided tour of the Israeli Supreme Court
• Visit to Save a Child’s Heart to learn of this organization’s work providing lifesaving treatment to children from around the world
• Explore the ancient port city of Jaffa and browse the Jaffa flea market
Overnight at ArtPlus Hotel, Tel Aviv

Tuesday, September 4
Visit Netiv HaAsara near the Gaza border and take part in a peace project on the border wall
Visit the border town of Sderot
Learn about Tel Aviv’s thriving LGBTQ culture on the Rainbow TLV Tour
• Dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, where we’ll hear the personal story of the restaurant’s owner.
Overnight at ArtPlus Hotel, Tel Aviv

Wednesday, September 5
• Visit the mixed Arab and Jewish city of Lod and learn about the social justice work of Yahel
Tap into Israel’s start-up revolution at the Tel Aviv Innovation Center
• Enjoy Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean beach
Overnight at ArtPlus Hotel, Tel Aviv

Thursday, September 6
• Meet with leader of the Peres Peace Center
• Visit Carmel Market in Tel Aviv
• Explore models of coexistence with a Muslim cleric and peace activist in Jaffa
• Closing dinner in Jaffa
• Leave for Ben Gurion Airport
• Depart from TLV ….

Birthright is of course the Sheldon Adelson gift trip for Jews 26 and under. Yahel is another Israel promotion organization for young people, chiefly American Jews.

As for the Netiv HaAsara “border wall” peace project, that would seem to refer to a mosaic promoting peace that Israelis have made on a security wall in that community near the Gaza Strip. The wall was apparently built to protect people in Israel from the Strip.

Here is Northwestern Hillel’s public promotion of the trip.

NU Perspectives: A Leadership Journey to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

NU Perspectives is Northwestern Hillel’s new leadership journey to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The purpose of this program is to educate emerging and current Northwestern undergraduate student leaders about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, shining an intentional light on complexities and nuances in an immersive and experiential way.

Visit Ramallah, the current capital of the Palestinian Authority, and other areas of the Palestinian Territories to hear from Palestinian leaders and locals.

Learn from, and engage with, a variety of voices and perspectives from the religious, secular, Druze, Christian, Jewish-Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, and other communities.

Meet journalists, politicians, artists, intellectuals, activists, and other leaders.

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What’s the problem?

The students tour Ramallah and drink Palestinian beer. They visit mixed cities, like Lod and Haifa (where Jews and Arabs get along famously). They visit kids in need and Syrian refugees in hospital. etc, etc.

God, your shrill complaints know no end.