Originally I was going to call this post “Birthright” so I looked up the definition.
Birthright has special meaning if you’re a young Jewish adult. If you haven’t heard of it, Birthright Israel is an incredible program that
provides the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. Taglit-Birthright Israel’s founders created this program to send thousands of young Jewish adults from all over the world to Israel as a gift in order to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people. (from Birthright Israel website.)
Thousands of young Jewish adults come from all over the world to Israel for 10 days—each day jammed with new people, new sights, new insights. It’s completely free, all expenses paid, even the airfare—a gift that creates ties and memories that last a lifetime.
That’s one reason I’m writing at the end of Birthright Israel month. And there’s another reason.
This month– and this day– marks a time for other memories, that also refer back to that definition of birthright:
Any right or privilege to which a person is entitled by bith. Democracy maintains that freedom is a birthright.
That birthright—freedom– applies to us in the United States. And it’s one most of us take for granted. Memorial Day typically means a day off and barbecues and the beginning of summer.
On every Israel birthright trip, the group is joined by a few Israeli soldiers—who travel with them for a few days, and take part in the activities. For the soldiers, the time off is a privilege they earn while serving in the army.
For the kids on the trip, the opportunity to get to know the soldiers provides a different perspective and a window into a part of life they won’t experience close up.
For most young adults, our military is as far from their experience as the one in Israel. It’s the same for many Americans—our military is an unknown, a parallel universe. They have no personal knowledge of what it means and what it’s like
Recently I was describing the Birthright trip to a friend, when it struck me that a version of this program closer to home might be equally valuable—giving American kids exposure to our military people and military life. How wonderful it would be to provide that connection, that window into a different perspective.
Not only would it add meaning to days like Memorial Day, I think it would give a lifelong appreciation for those who serve us —and for our own birthright.