I was so glad to see someone had written about this, as it sums up a lot of my feelings about the matter. I have not and cannot go on Birthright, as I was on the March of the Living last year- and it embodies all of your criticisms of Birthright, and more. The purpose of the trip, of course, is education and a stronger connection to the community. Obviously, with a segment in Poland, the trip is intended to be a bit more sombre than Birthright, but the same techniques of music and dancing and partying to "connect" with the attendees were used in the place education and reflection- I would hazard a guess that at least 40% of the 2010 MotL alumni could not tell you in what year Kristallnacht happened, or what role the Soviet Union played in liberating the concentration camps. They could, I suspect, perform for you most of the songs on the official March of the Living 2010 CD. The Israel portion of the trip was nearly identical to what you've described of Birthright, indulging us with parties and markets shopping and, yes, a big pop concert on our last night there. Those of us who were awake to listen to our tour guide as he lectured on Israel's history were the few to learn anything, and it was all quite rudimentary. I agree that there needs to be an alternative. If the attendees of Birthright and the March of the Living are Israel's future [and present] advocate, they need to have something to say, not sing. I have been appalled in the past when, at Israel Apartheid events, my peers respond with accusations by shouting "Am Yisroel Chai" or singing and dancing in circles and refusing to address any major issues through dialogue or even speech. There must be some sort of intellectual Birthright- one that examines academic records, has requirements beyond Jewishness, interview questions that extend past "would you be okay with missing school?" If Israel has any hope of intelligent advocacy and decent representation in the future, it needs to begin by grooming intelligent and decent advocates today - "Am Yisroel Chai!" does not quite cut it.
from the article: Birthright Israel tours are insulting young Jews' intelligence