Any experiences with Birthright?

By , January 29, 2010 12:06 am

I have a complicated relationship with Judaism, at best. I don’t need to get into my whole life experience . . . but (briefly) I really enjoy the cultural aspects of Judaism and appreciate its long history, yet have serious problems with Judaism as a religion and integrating the less-positive parts of Jewish history into the modern functioning of the religion.

Expanding on that, slightly, I have moved from being ambivalent to how I feel about Israel to being specifically anti-Israel. To wit, the ends don’t (shouldn’t) justify the means: The (sort of) peaceful (mostly) democratic State of Israel as a beacon of Western Civilization to the rest of the Middle East can’t, to me, excuse its horribly colonialist founding or head-in-the-sand attitude toward the idea of a Palestinian state. (I know things are much more complicated than that, and the obvious fact that Israel does exist today means grumblings over how things came to be this way are somewhat moot. Nevertheless…)

All of which means I’m not sure how I feel about Birthright Israel.

So I have some ideological issues about participating in a program which aims to create a connection to Israel among the world’s youth, and further Jewish identity.

On top of that, I’ll need to get a new passport. I managed to get a drivers license that says ‘F’ but don’t know what documents they check for a passport, or how closely they examine birth certificates if they don’t quite match with licenses . . . And even if they do issue me a passport with ‘F,’ I’m still not excited about going through Israeli security while smuggling a penis.

Ugh.

My friend is trying to push Israel Outdoors, which does seem like a fun organization. I have another friend who went on Birthright through them and really enjoyed it; he said they weren’t at all preachy or acting like they wanted to indoctrinate their participants.

Thinking that honesty is the best policy, I emailed Israel Outdoors about my concerns with traveling and got this reply:

I am not concerned about the rooming issue however you will need to get a new passport since this will create a problem with security at the airport as we had similar issues with many transgender participants in the past.

So maybe it won’t be a big deal. It looks like getting a replacement passport doesn’t require a new birth certificate or anything, according to the State Department. (If I did need a replacement birth certificate, I probably couldn’t manage to go at all. According to Illinois, new birth certificates take 4-5 months. Put that on top of the time it’ll take for a new passport, and I definitely couldn’t get all that done before July or August, which is when I’d be able to travel.)

I need to get a new passport anyway, so I think I’ll definitely do that. But has anyone had experience with a Birthright trip, and want to share their experiences? (Whether or not it relates to issues with documentation.) Likewise, anyone have any experiences traveling abroad as a trans person in general? (Whether or not it has to do with Israel, specifically.) Thanks!

4 Responses to “Any experiences with Birthright?”

  1. Jonah says:

    I went through Israeli customs with a passport that said M with a female presentation (long story) and it was fine. I didn’t know Illinois takes that long on birth certificates; I haven’t gotten new ones so I don’t have ones with my name on ‘em. And I’m looking for my old passport in the hopes that I can keep the M marker when I get a new passport. We’ll see.
    My trips to Israel have not been through birthright; but it is my impression that a lot of anti-Israel people do go through birthright.

  2. Juliana says:

    My partner (who is Israeli) is of the opinion that airport security shouldn’t be too bad, especially if you’re with a group like this. I can ask him more questions or introduce you if you want ideas for places to go.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thanks! The general impression I’m getting seems to be that, with a passport (and, y’know, not attempting to smuggle anything), I shouldn’t have a problem.

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