Despite the whine of bomb sirens and feelings of uneasiness huddling in bomb shelters, the young people signed up for Birthright Israel are still flooding into the country. For most of us Americans, it might seem that plunging into a study of Israel during such a time of conflict would be insane, but the young people, and their consenting parents, consider it a learning experience about daily life in Israel.
Taglit-Birthright Israel, known here as simply Birthright Israel, is the brainchild of Charles R. Bronfman, a Canadian / American businessman and philanthropist who inherited Seagram spirits empire (sold to Vivendi for $34 billion) and today is the father of a family of charitable foundations including Taglit-Birthright Israel that sends Jewish youth from all over the world on free educational tours of Israel.
Philanthropy is part of the Bronfman DNA. As children, Charles and his siblings knitted squares for blankets to be sent to the troops overseas during WWII. At 17, he began to solicit money for the United Jewish Appeal. From a poor Jewish neighborhood in Montreal, he collected 50 cents from 20 friends, even though he could have donated the $10 himself and simply written their names on the donation. He did it because he wanted the donors to experience how good it feels to participate in helping others.
The Bronfman DNA is evident in Birthright Israel today, even with Hamas rockets raining down on Israel. In late July, the website reports that “fewer than 10 of the 6,000+ participants that came to Israel in the past 15 days have left trips earlier than planned.”
Birthright Israel is the first Jewish educational program with a waiting list bigger than the number of applicants who actually are able to participate in the 10-day, all expense paid live and learn experience. Over 400,000 young adults from around the world, ages 18 – 26, have taken this journey.
The Bronfman family wants young Jewish people to come to Israel to see it, experience it, talk about it, and think about what Israel means for them and the Jewish people. The New York Times published an article August 1 that recounts the personal experiences of participants who have just recently returned from their trip to the Middle East with the Taglit-Birthright Israel organization.
We live in a passionate world and our hearts go out to all those who are suffering on both sides of this conflict. We pray for quick and permanent solution and ask you to join us in this petition for peace and religious freedom.