Ten days of Taglit : How emotions work on a Birthright trip in Israel
Abstract: Taglit Birthright is an organization that provides free ten-day diaspora-heritage trips to Israel for young Jewish adults between 18 and 26 years old. Taglit is Hebrew for discovery and this is the ambition of the organization: providing young Jewish people with an opportunity to discover their socio-cultural Jewish heritage. Taglit Birthright aims at ensuring the future of the Jewish people by strengthening the Jewish identity via an educational trip and pursues to foster the understanding and identification of the participants with Israel, its people and the culture. Since its foundation in 1999, over 500.000 young people have partaken in a Birthright trip. This case-study presents empirical data from one particular Taglit Birthright trip to Israel. The objective of this study is to provide insights in how emotions shaped a Taglit group and which emotions are constructed during a ten-day Taglit trip. Theoretically, this study is informed by the work of the post-colonial and feminist scholar Ahmed (2004 and 2013). Emotions are considered as ‘doing things’: collectives, such as a Taglit Birthright group, are constructed through shared emotions. Methodologically, emotional reflexivity will be applied in this research. Related to this positioning, hermeneutic circle informs this research in order to emphasize how temporal distance results in ‘understanding in multiple ways’. Besides, hermeneutic circle embraces reflexivity as it stresses the importance of self-understanding and pre-understanding as informing our understanding. The presented findings are based on participant observation during a Taglit Birthright trip in the summer of 2016. The empirical data consists of audio recordings of group activities, recorded personal reflections and diary entries. Based on this data, the following conclusions are drawn: strong feelings of connectiveness to and with the group derive from an intense ten-day trip in which embodied experiences, embedded in emotions, are shared. Sharing activities, such as circulizing (forming a circle with a large group of people), are tools which provoke strong feelings of ‘being part of something’. On a personal level, it can be argued that expressed emotions, which create feelings of connectiveness within a group, do not necessarily need to be personally felt simultaneously. When personal feelings do not align with the collectively expressed emotions, feelings of ‘not fitting in’ might arise. This study wishes to contribute to the ‘emotionalization of tourism’, which aims at foregrounding the role of emotions in tourism encounters and social relations.
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