Some three thousand young Jews from around the world, visiting Israel this week as part of the Taglit- Birthright program, got together Monday evening for a so-called “mega-event” - a gigantic high volume party-cum-Israel-pep-rally in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center
Such mega events, which take place twice a year, cap off the free Birthright ten-day trip to Israel which is, for many of its 18-26 year old participants, their first taste of this country. Since inception 13 years ago, Birthright has brought over 330,000 young Jews from 60 countries around the world to Israel.
This year, celebrating their “Bar Mitzvah” year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the energetic mega crowd of Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Argentineans, Germans, Uruguayans and Russians, and welcomed them to their “homethe eternal capital of Israel.”
“You come from different countries and speak different languages, but you have one thing in common: Israel is your birthright,” he told them, to such wild applause, cheers and stomping that the prime minister then had to tell everyone to calm down.
Touching quickly on the favorite themes of threats of nuclear weapons in Iran and chemical weapons in Syria, Netanyahu then went on to talk about Israel’s contributions to the world in arenas of medicine, technology and science - and to stress Israel’s desire for a “real” peace.
“Make sure when you go back home youtell them the truth about this remarkable country,” he urged the raucous crowds as he stepped down from the stage to the sounds of the chabbad tune “Messiah, Messiah, Messiah,” - with clicking iphone photos trained on his every step out of the auditorium and youngsters falling over each other and the seats to shake his hand.
A DJ and hip hop dancers soon did a rap version of “Taglit Forever,” an anthem with such lyrics as “I got freedom, I’m in Zion,” and a chorus filled with “We are coming back, ohhh ohhh, we are coming back.” Singer Sarit Hadad - wrapped in a massive blue and white Israeli flag - rocked out to her version of “Sh’ma Yisrael,” blue and green disco lights flashed and confetti rained down on the crowds.
In between shouting matches between the U.S. (“USA! USA!) and Brazilian delegations (BRAZIL! BRAZIL!), the Argentinean delegation doing the wave move, and mad musical medleys of Gangnam Style and Yevarech’cha that had the crowds dancing in the isles, jumping up and down and waving Israeli flags, philanthropist founder and Birthright CEO Michael Steinhardt promised that in this coming year Taglit-Birthright will bring even more Jews from even more countries around the world to Israel. “You are our future,” Steinhardt told the Birthrighters, “ the future of the Jewish people.”