More Herzl! Get the shirt today!Just got back from the Hadag Nachash (pardon the double ‘the’) show at Webster Hall. It was odd being at a Birthright event in New York, and a bit disappointing to exit not into Tel Aviv but my hometown, and essentially what is my university’s campus, i.e. somewhere not super exotic at this point. It was less bizarre to see American college students dressed as American college students at a club in America than it was to see the same in Tel Aviv. My boyfriend and I enjoyed singing along to Kamti and that song about Jerusalem, in what was, if anyone heard, amazingly botched Hebrew. We were both struck by Hadag Nachash’s choice of song when the one they sang in English went, “I want to live in New York City! I want to live in New York City!” Hearing this repeated again and again in an Israeli accent reminded me of the many Israelis I know in New York who share the sentiment. It’s depressing, but the brain drain to America that brings our universities (and, apparently, rock arenas) the best of other countries affects Israel along with the rest. It made me think of how Birthright itself seems more or less resigned to the fact that American Jews are inclined to stay put, and encourages solidarity with Israel, perhaps a youthful hookup with a sexy IDF soldier, but focuses its attentions on the Jewish life and Jewish babies that will surface in Skokie and New Rochelle. Obviously as an American Jew for the time being, I’m not the best one to be saying this, but maybe Birthright could be nudged a bit in the aliyah-promoting direction rather than trying to make marrying in and socializing with other Jews ‘fun’. I wonder if Taglit from other countries, ones less economically appealing than America, is more aimed at encouraging participants to turn a 10-day visit into a permanent move, and less at providing a Cancun-esque experience in what happens to be the Jewish state. Before Hadag Nachash came on, one of the people running the program thanked one of the people behind “Israel,” then corrected herself (she’d meant “Taglit-Birthright Israel”), but before she corrected herself I immediately said, “Herzl!” She was referring to one of the philanthropists behind Birthright, whom it’s certainly fair to acknowledge, but how about tossing in a little more Herzl along the way?

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  • I didn’t go on Birthright but from what I’ve heard from program providers, Zionism simply isn’t one of the educational goals; it’s just as you say, as legend goes, for people to strengthen their Jewish identities and eventually “have Jewish babies”. The itinerary’s about Masada, not 1948 (or 2007). Focusing on aliyah’s putting the cart before the horse; anybody want to talk to Mr. Steinhardt about putting a little more Israel in these Israel trips? I’m all for it.

    By the way, the party on this end of the world (Tel Aviv) was fun. Rock star Ivri Lider showed up to light the candles.

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