In an exclusive story, Haaretz News has learned that religious Israeli politicians have recently allocated NIS 10 million in public funds to grant free trips to young Chareidim to visit the Zionist state. The funds would build a Chareidi alternative to the largely secular Taglit-birthright Israel trips.
The money is earmarked for ultra-Orthodox programs within the Education Ministry. Among other politicians, Shas Minister for education and welfare matters in the Finance Ministry Meshulam Nahari aided in securing the funding.
It was Taglits success that prompted philanthropist Zev Wolfson to begin efforts toward establishing a Taglit-like Chareidi program to introduce participants to various yeshivas in the Zionist state.
Wolfson is expected to match the funding Nahari had secured. The initial capital is meant to fund a three-week tour in Israel for some 900 Orthodox students. The upcoming tour will be twice as long as in the Taglit program.
Participants will visit both religious and Israeli heritage sites. The former will include Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem and Ammunition Hill, the site of one of the toughest battles in the Six Day War.
This is not the first time a religious Birthright program has been launched. About four years ago, some religious Jews convinced the secular Birthright to organize gender-segregated tours for religious Jews with a more religious agenda. These tours targeted yeshiva boys and Bais Yaakov (religious school) girls. There were even Talmudic study sessions set up for the boys trips. Each participant was interviewed and checked by religious volunteers, to make sure the trips would have a Torah atmosphere. Many religious Jewish teens whose parents could have never afforded sending their kids to the Zionist state got a free chance to live out their dreams.
But when rumors spread about some girls from the trip posing in pictures with Israeli solders, some rabbis banned the trips. They took out full page ads in the religious Jewish newspapers, condemning the trips and their organizers. When Birthright found out that rabbis were banning the religious versions of their trips, they were so insulted and offended that they put an end to religious trips.
Let us hope that the rabbis ban the current "chareidi" Birthright trips as well.
Without proper education on the subject of Zionism and its fundamental deviation from the Jewish faith, the young generation of Orthodox Jews is growing up with a profound ignorance on this subject. Trips to the Zionist state, even if they include a religious agenda, contribute greatly to their confusion.
And if, as the article states, "participants will visit both religious and Israeli heritage sites," including famous Zionist battlegrounds, they will surely be indoctrinated with Zionism and pride in the Zionist army.