Tomorrow morning, registration opens up for this summer's birthright trips. For those of you who don't know, birthright is a program that allows American Jews to go to Israel for free for 10 days. What do I mean by "free"? Well, they give you a plane ticket, a hotel, meals--and they also pay for tours. The idea, I suppose, is that rich American Jews will go on this trip and feel a "connection" with Israel, as a result of which they will invest in the Israeli government, support neoconservatives at home, move to Israel, etc. Plus, the rumor is that if you get engaged on the trip, they pay for your honeymoon in Israel. In short, it's hard to imagine anything more nauseating than birthright Israel.
But nevertheless, I will be one of the people signing up tomorrow. Why? I do not consider myself a "Jew." Let me make sure not to qualify that: not only am I not a "practicing" Jew, but I don't believe there is any other kind. In other words, I don't believe one can be "culturally" or "ethnically" Jewish, and I think people who do sound very silly when they try to explain it; "oh, you can tell he's a jew because he's so hardworking," or "he's definitely Jewish, because he's so neurotic." how preposterous, and racist too! What's so astonishing about the zionist movement in this country it has little to do with religion, and, as little as I understand the religious, I have an even harder time trying to understanding those who see themselves as having some sort of metaphysical connection to Israel. It's astonishing how many people say things like, "but your ancestors are from Israel," which, for one thing, may not be true (many russian jews descend from converts) and even if it is, couldn't be more irrelevant. Indeed, I don't think I'm the first person to be offended at the notion that, now that we know some people in Ethiopia are Jewish, all of the sudden Israel considers these suffering people worth helping. I also want to stress that I am not only allowed to say these things because I am 'actually' Jewish; my whole point is that I'm not Jewish--so please don't interpret it that way!! But I digress.
So back to my question: why go to Israel if you are so offended by all this stuff. But to me, the more fitting question is, Why not? After all, I hear Israel is amazing, and if some sucker wants to pay for me to go check out the Roman ruins, by all means. Plus, by taking up the space, perhaps I'm saving some impressionable youth from being converted to zionism. One less person will have a "life changing" experience in Israel (translation: they come home at talk about how the middle east is trying to destroy Israel, and so we'd better destroy them first). Unless, of course, I become that transformed child...? Well, if that does happen, it'll make for an interesting book. And perhaps I'll blog on my trip while I'm there, so, if a transformation does come, you all can feel the power of the homeland along with me.