Israelity Tour teases trips with an Israeli beat


” vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ border = ‘0’ align = ‘right’ alt=”Michelle Citrin”>a decade ago as a student at Rutgers University. Her experience traveling to Israel on one of the first Birthright trips at the start of the second Intifada inspired her to write “Dark Refrain,” a song about looking for a time of peace.

Shai Haddad, a.k.a. SHI 360, was also stirred musically, turning to hip-hop to express his feelings. After making aliyah in 2006, he wrote what has become the Birthright Israel theme song, “Home.”

Haddad now performs the song in front of thousands of people at Birthright’s “Mega Event” concerts.

In a move that echoes this fusion of cultural exposure and music, the Taglit-Birthright Israel Alumni Association, recently rebranded as Birthright Israel Next, has launched the Israelity Tour — a seven-city West Coast concert extravaganza aimed at exposing young American Jews to Israeli culture, promoting the free 10-day educational trips to Israel for 18- to 26-year-olds, as well as cultivating the connections alumni of the trip have already made to the Holy Land and one another.

Israelity kicked off in Seattle on Feb. 6 and focuses primarily on major Jewish communities where Birthright trip registration rates are significantly lower when compared with those from East Coast communities. The goal is to make Birthright a household name, said Sydney Henning, the group’s national initiatives director.

Birthright says Los Angeles registration rates for trips are fairly high among West Coast cities. Still the organization considers Los Angeles an important destination to augment its alumni programming. The Los Angeles leg of the tour will play the Avalon in Hollywood on Feb. 16.

Flipping the Birthright model on its head, the Israelity Tour is “Where West Coast Meets Middle East.” Instead of bringing Americans to Israel, the tour brings Israel to America, with music performances by Israeli hip-hop luminary Subliminal a.k.a. Kobi Shimoni and his seven-member crew — the T.A.C.T. Family (Tel Aviv City Team) — funk/hip-hop band Coolooloosh and folk singer Citrin.

“I really believe in what Birthright is doing,” Shimoni said in a telephone interview from Seattle. “I respect their efforts, and I want to help in any way that I can.”

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