(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The Taglit-Birthright Israel program celebrated 15 years of bringing young Jews (ages 18-26) on free 10-day trips to Israel on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.
The speakers and crowd at the event observed a moment of silence in remembrance of the 17 people killed in three terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
One of the victims, Yoav Hattab, had visited Israel on a Birthright trip just two weeks before he was killed. He was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Tuesday in a funeral attended by thousands of mourners.
“I saw there (in Paris) masses of French people marching and rightfully proclaiming ‘Je suis Charlie’ (in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack),” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Birthright event, “and I thought to myself that we Jews have another question: Can Jews in other countries march in the street and declare ‘Je suis Juif, I am Jewish?’”
“In Israel, every Jew can say, ‘I am a Jew, Je suis Juif,’ out loud and proudly, without fear,” the prime minister said. Netanyahu urged the Birthright participants, “Come to Israel. Come visit Israel. Come stay in Israel. Come make aliyah to Israel. This is your land.”