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Monday, December 24, 2018

Adventure Time and Free Puppies

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  As I sit here in my office I have a dear friend, a good chaver waiting to board a jet that will take him to Tel Aviv. It's a big trip, and he's just starting out the gate into the wide weird world. 

  It's a Birthright sponsored trip and despite all the baggage a rare privilege. Birthright is to a free trip, what the USAF was to free college. This isn't to say that Birthright is a militant group, but that they have their own agenda and it's only fair to get that bit of reality out of the way up front. The Air Force spends a lot of money on looking for emotional reasons you might want to enlist and plays the carrot and stick game of preying on people who might otherwise not have the means to get training or education by any other way. I can't help but feel that Taglit-Birthright has some similarity to our military in this regard. Likewise I can't help but wonder what preparation for the the experience is like. 

  My father had a choice. Go now or go later, but you're going to Vietnam. The draft was happening and he had no prospects for college let alone the money for it. He chose to enlist rather than getting drafted to maintain some control over his future. His brother ended up drafted into the Army.

  A generation later when I couldn't afford college the military was brought up as an option and it was spelled out and drilled into me what to expect, how to act, what to look for, what to say and what not to say. This wasn't because my family had some honor to uphold but that loosing sight of why you enlisted could be dangerous. I had soul but I wasn't a soldier. I made the most of it, and by knowing what temptations the recruiters might offer and not loosing sight of why I was there I did alright. 

  It is without reason that we cannot have a frank discussion about what Birthright wants in return for the "free" trip to Israel. And if Birthright can't be mature about this it seems time that parents, and friends and mentors start to prep the young adults on this reality before they take up Birthright on their offer. 

  My brother enlisted in the USAF after he has been laid off several times. Our home area has some industry and keeps wages very low and talk of unions is an absolute heresy. While none of us wanted this, we understood that being frank about it and making sure that he was prepared for the song and dance the enlistment officers would preform. He needed to know this to be active in getting the most out of them. They don't enlist people out of a sense of national pride or historic duty, its a job and they get paid for it! 

  I'm not here to conjecture about what Birthright wants. It seems a shame that this is something that I'm finding myself writing at all. I feel my friend was given all we could give him to try and prepare. He's sharp as a tack and a born diplomat and is going to have a blast, he's also not a teenager.

  I've missed my chance twice with Birthright. I was just too old when I learned about it and I was just too old when they raised the age limit. Folks my age have asked, "if kids aren't signing up, how about us?" I think we all know that answer. Much like with Jewish mysticism's age restriction there is little point in Birthright spending any money on us older folks as we've already got a firm sense of identity. 

  This speaks to the agenda of Birthright best. What's the return on investment? 
Young minds are easier to shape.
So what's the product, Birthright, and let's be honest, teenagers are sharper than they ever were in the past. They can feel that there is something dishonest from a mile away. The world abhors a phoney as Salinger wrote. 

  Israel, like America or any nation will have to answer for itself against history. Trying to plant crops of apologists in the diaspora is not a solution. Now is the time to be frank about what's worked and what hasn't, success and failures. The American experiment has hidden it's dirty laundry so long it's become a police state in protecting the narrative. And to what end. How can we move forward if we spend so much time and effort in defending the past.   
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