Taglit-Birthright Israel has brought hundreds of thousands of diaspora Jewish young adults on tours of Israel. Drawing on data from a large-scale program evaluation, we ask how the program affects participants’ feelings of homeland attachment and political views on contentious homeland issues. North Americans who traveled to Israel with Taglit between 2010 and 2012 were surveyed together with a comparison group of applicants to the program who did not participate. In multivariate analysis, Taglit sharply increases feelings of connection to Israel but has no effect on attitudes concerning the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The program modestly increases scores on a “favorability” scale and modestly increases opposition to a possible division of Jerusalem in a future peace deal. In contrast to Benedict Anderson’s theory of long-distance nationalism, the findings suggest that feelings of homeland connection can be fostered without triggering ethnonationalist attitudes associated with the political right.
By analyzing the constitutive role of tour guides narratives, this article addresses the recruitment of tourism as a means of forging transnational ties between diasporans and their ethnic homeland. Combining theoretical frameworks from linguistic anthropology and the sociology of tourism, it examines the narratives told to American Jewish youth at three graves at a military cemetery in Israel and analyzes the discursive, linguistic, and rhetorical strategies in the narratives, including stancetaking, reported speech, and pronominal usage. Attending to the growing phenomenon of diaspora homeland tourism, it analyzes how tour guide narratives about the past work as a form of social action in constituting present day transnational identifications.