This chapter examines the historical evolution of Zionism's mobilization of tourism, the first American Jewish forays into this field, and the developments in American Jewish communal institutions in the 1990s that moved the issue of tourism to the center of the diaspora-state agenda. It explores the creation of Taglit-Birthright Israel and its implications for understanding this particular moment in American Jewish history. Taglit took shape in the 1990s in the context of an American Jewish leadership increasingly concerned that its community was in decline and searching for ways to restore its vitality. One of their solutions was to offer youths a free trip to Israel as a universal rite of American Jewish passage. Recruitment began in autumn 1999 and the first planeload of Taglit participants touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv in the final week of 1999. The remainder of the chapter discusses how the Taglit viewed by its sponsors as a strategic investment in the Jewish future.
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