Why Birthright’s Funding Problems Should Worry American Jews

Due to rising costs and a reported decrease in donations, Birthright Israel—a program that gives young American Jews free trips to the Jewish state—declared that it will only be sponsoring 23,500 participants in 2023, as opposed to 35,000 this year. Jonathan Tobin comments on the program’s successes, and what might be lost by its decline:

In an era when assimilation and intermarriage have taken a huge toll on the Jewish community, the ten-day Birthright visit has proven to be a life-changing event for many participants. [A study conducted by Brandeis University] showed that nearly half of those eligible took advantage of Birthright. Even more important, those who did so were far more likely to be somewhat, or very, attached to Israel; feel a sense of belonging to the Jewish people; and feel they had a lot in common with Israeli Jews. The most startling statistic was that participants were 160-percent more likely to end up with a Jewish partner or spouse.

[T]he strong connection to the Jewish state and the Jewish people that is engendered by these trips is needed more than ever. While schools and camps are still vital, there is simply no substitute for what Birthright has accomplished.

While interfaith outreach groups and anti-Zionists may not be upset about a decline in the number of Birthright participants, no one who cares about perpetuating Jewish life in North America should be under illusions that their community doesn’t need to look to Israel as a spiritual center and a source of inspiration. Birthright is too important to be allowed to be just one more victim of a bad economy or the decisions of individual foundations to shift their priorities.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Birthright Israel, Israel and the Diaspora

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy