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The New Arab

Birthright trips to Israel cancelled over coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus has hit Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2020

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Birthright trips have stopped as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Taglit-Birthright scheme - also known as the Birthright programme - is cancelling its trips to Israel for the rest of the winter season in a bid to contain the deadly coronavirus disease.

Birthright is a programme that aims to strengthen "Jewish identity", and connect young non-Israeli Jews to their "roots" through organising a free ten-day trip across the occupied West Bank and within Israel.

All upcoming schedule trips for the rest of this season will be cancelled until late March according to a Birthright spokesperson.

The cancellations will affect 500 visitors who had signed up for trips from the US, Germany, and a number of Eastern European countries.

The spokesperson said that the decision would affect "only a handful of remaining scheduled trips".

Israel, which so far has 21 confirmed cases, has imposed stringent measures on many European nations in a bid to contain the virus.

Local media reported that the government was likely to soon begin placing restrictions on flights arriving from some parts of the US.

#ReturnTheBirthright

Birthright has been condemned widely condemned for propagating an uncritical utopic view of Israel at the expense of Palestinians by denying how they have been displaced by Israel.

"Since 1999, the Birthright Israel program has sent over 500,000 Jewish young adults on a free ten-day trip to Israel, in the name of strengthening Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish state," Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement.

"As young Jews, we recognise that Israel is not our birthright. In 1948, Zionist militias expelled over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages, an act of ethnic cleansing, known by Palestinians as the Nakba or 'catastrophe' in Arabic, that cleared the land for the creation of the modern-day state of Israel," they added.

Young Jews have sustained a three-year-long ongoing campaign to spread awareness for the Palestinian plight under the #ReturnTheBirthright hashtag.

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