Religion & Beliefs

Blogging Birthright: Day 2, or Is This Really My Homeland?

It’s day two and we’re at the “Mega Event,” which is a show and dance party held for every Birthright group currently in Israel. (They come from all over: Argentina, Brazil, Australia, the UK. Not every Birthright group attends a … Read More

By / January 30, 2008

It’s day two and we’re at the “Mega Event,” which is a show and dance party held for every Birthright group currently in Israel. (They come from all over: Argentina, Brazil, Australia, the UK. Not every Birthright group attends a Mega Event, but we were one of the lucky ones to be in town for this one). It’s like the Jewish version of Jesus camp and it’s freaking the shit out of me. The show itself is a mixture of propagandist speeches and wannabe Cirque du Soleil performers, like drum bangers and net crawlers. The singers are apparently famous Israelis. One looks like Fabio, and I can’t say I enjoy his Hebrew wailing. Emceed by an MTV Europe VJ, the entire show is an assault on the senses: Flashing, neon Stars of David illuminate the faces of Israeli stars as they lead the entire group in Hebrew songs. Innumerable Birthrighters follow along with the aid of transliterated captions projected onto huge screens, and everyone dances and cheers with a terrifying, ferocious passion for all things Jew.
After a while, Israel’s Minister of the Interior speaks, and it feels like he’s trying to convince us all to move here. Afterwards, Lynne Schusterman takes the stage. She’s one of Birthright’s biggest donors, and she wants us to believe that Israel is our homeland. She tells us about bringing her kids here because she wanted them to feel connected to Israel in this very way. But the purpose of this can’t be that they want us to move here after the trip, right? I certainly don’t feel like this is my homeland. And I certainly don’t feel like I want to move here. In fact I feel no connection to this place at all. I feel more connected to London, simply because I so loved drinking Guinness at picnic tables at 11:30 a.m., and cheap shopping during July sale season. Israel doesn’t have beer or shopping like that, and it looks decrepit and third worldish. The scary Hebrew variety show finally ends, and we’re invited to a dance party. Now, give me some flashing lights, good house music, a touch of video art, and a sea of hot foreign men and I’m a happy gal. We dance and mingle with aggressive, swarthy Jews for as long as we can bear, and the whole event lasts about two hours too long.
Truth be told, the dancing is a welcome distraction from how anxious and guilty the show made me feel. Two of my gal pals, Ashley and Lynn, tell me that the stage performance inspired them and that they were almost moved to tears by certain songs. The show reminded me that I’m supposed to be here to explore my Jewish identity, but that’s not why I came. I’m here simply because I love to travel and this is a free trip halfway around the world. Israeli tax dollars and money from rich people like Schusterman are being spent for me to do this, but their efforts and resources only make me feel more disconnected, because the whole religious element of this trip scares and turns me off so much. Maybe if they played hard to get I’d be more susceptible to their efforts. I feel like a fraud.

Previously: Day 1, or Orthodox Hippies and Badass Babes

Next Up: The Wall Between Us