J Street, the left-wing Israel policy group which advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state, will compete with Birthright by launching its own free trip to Israel for college students.
The trip will aim to introduce students firsthand to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lives of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Organized by J Street U, the group’s college arm, it will take 40 students to Israel and the West Bank for 10 days in July. Along with visiting sites in Israel, the group will meet Palestinian Arab activists, Israeli social justice activists and Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.
“American Jews want to visit Israel — and we want to develop a deeper understanding of what life is like there,” said Zachary Spitz, a senior at the University of Chicago and a J Street U board member, in a press release Wednesday. “That means meeting with both Israelis and Palestinians — and learning what life is like for those living under occupation.”
Birthright, the free 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish young adults, has included more than half a million participants over two decades. Birthright does not visit Judea and Samaria.
J Street was set to run a trip through Birthright in 2011, but plans fell through, with Birthright claiming that the trip had never been approved.
Last year, groups of Birthright participants associated with the anti-occupation group IfNotNow walked off their trips in protest of its curriculum.