Free College in Israel Could Be the Key to Improving Relations with the Diaspora

October 30, 2019 | Liel Leibovitz
About the author: Liel Leibovitz, a journalist, media critic, and video-game scholar, is a senior writer for the online magazine Tablet.

With universities becoming increasingly hostile to Israel, Liel Leibovitz suggests that American Jewish philanthropists should offer to pay the tuitions of young American Jews willing to attend college in the Jewish state. After demonstrating the economic sense of his proposition—tuition at Israeli universities runs about $3,000 a year—he touts its potential benefits:

What could better appeal to young American Jews of all political leanings and persuasions [than a free education]? . . . It should also appeal to parents who are paying upward of $70,000 a year to send their children to universities where they are being turned into progressive piñatas in a bankrupt system in which ideological indoctrination has largely replaced the teaching of history, literature, and political philosophy.

For about $60 million a year, paid for by whatever combination of generous American benefactors and the Israeli government, we can send a cadre of about 1,000 American Jewish students to Israel each year, each one of whom can serve as a human bridge that will help bring our two worlds closer together. Some of them may want to undertake aliyah, serve in the army, and marry an Israeli, and [thus] strengthen the interfamilial bonds between the two Jewish communities in the most direct ways possible. A majority will hopefully return to America after four years of college in Israel, speaking fluent Hebrew and able to form a powerful core for the next generation of American Jewish communal leadership.

Some may return after a year or two, or four, and continue their education in an American college, equipped to face whatever awaits them there. But all of them will get to know Israel as few young American Jews know it now—and, just as important, introduce American Judaism to an Israeli society largely ignorant of its beauty and richness.

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