The UPZ Birthright Program offered a wide spectrum of topics, speakers and outings that inspired the participants to not only experience the beauty of Israel and its people, but also grapple with the challenges facing Israel, and the Jewish people as a whole.
Some of the trip?s highlights included:
An Israel Advocacy Workshop with former UPZ director Ari Brochin, former UPZ activist Joe Gindi (both currently living and studying in Jerusalem) and former Shaliach to the USD Hagshama Department, Shachar Yanai. Each panelist provided a different perspective on what it means to be an advocate for Israel on North American campuses. This workshop asked the participants to define their own Zinoism, and to question the difference between being a cheerleader for Israel, and being an educated, responsible activist on Israel.
A visit to Givat Haviva and a tour of the Wadi Ara with Lydia Eisenberg that included a discussion on the concept of Palestinian identity, the difference between being a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and being a non-citizen resident, and the territorial disputes that afflict the Wadi Ara triangle.
A visit to Ma’ale, a religious film school in Jerusalem. We watched two short films and discussed them with the student directors. One film dealt with the disengagement from Gaza, and the other dealt with the dilemma facing young Israelis as they go into the army.
Other highlights included: A visit to the Museum of the Seam and a music and dance evening with three musicians from the Galilee. Meetings with Anat Hoffman of the Relgious Action Center; Eve Harou, a settler from Efrat and Naomi Chazan of the Meretz Party.
“I grew in ways I don’t know I can yet put into words. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” -Allyson Gerber, California
“This is a trip for the critical, connected, less informed and alienated. I think the trip accommodated this whole spectrum. What impressed and surprised me most is that I left Israel feeling like I was leaving home. The sense of community we were able to establish was so powerful.” -Jordan Dunn, NYU
“I don’t think I can express in words how amazing the trip was. We truly experience a slice of Israel that would not have been possible on any other birthright.” Stephanie Hertz, Washington, DC
“I was only interested in applying for the UPZ trip. I wanted to see the ‘real’ Israel, and thought I would have to sacrifice fun for knowledge. After having been on the trip, I can say that I don’t think I could possibly have had more fun.” -Henry Churchill, University of Connecticut
“I had an amazing time on the trip. I learned so much and made some really close friendships. I think the UPZ program is special and unique. I now hold a special place for Israel in my heart and I can’t wait for a return trip.” -Heather Zeiden, New York
“Something within me has changed.” -Sara Koven, Kansas State University