Our World is Also Flat

Last night I engaged in my usual Motzei Shabbat stroll through downtown Jerusalem. While Israel may be in the midst of an unusual cold snap and most of the winter break tourists have departed, Birthright still rules the Midrachov. With a minimum of six bus loads filling every single eatery around Kikar Zion, these laughing, hugging, and generally just enjoying themselves, young (mostly) American college students could not be missed.

Hillel alone is bringing approximately 3,500 students to Israel during these few weeks, through Birthright, the Charles Schusterman International Leaders Assembly, and an alternative break program emphasizing social justice. In addition, the Israel on Campus Coalition, a partnership of Hillel and the Schusterman Family Foundation, brought 43 students selected by the umbrella group’s 31 ideologically-diverse member organizations to the country on an Israel@60 mission.

And it is good these young students came, meeting their counterparts face to face, and appreciating their place in our global Jewish community. For as Wayne Firestone, Hillel’s prez, writes:

THIS IS the age of Facebook, when young people share intimate details of their personal lives and create individual one-to-one links on on-line social networking sites. They filter mass-media images through the experience and recommendations of their peers. By providing them with direct connections to one another we are cutting through their cynicism and putting a human face on the global Jewish people. And we are not only influencing these students, we are affecting their social networks as well.

The Internet is one factor that has contributed to “the flattening of the Earth,” in the words of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. On this flattened Earth, borders recede and people are interconnected through commerce and communication. The Jewish people – no strangers to international connections – exemplifies this global trend.

THE CHALLENGE that we face in working with young people on this flattened Earth is helping them to balance being distinctively Jewish and universally human.

By meeting their counterparts from around the world they can appreciate their place in the global Jewish community; they are given Jewish ideas from a variety of sources with which to formulate their own answers; and they are given contacts around the globe – their all-important Facebook friends – with whom to share the challenges of Jewish life today and tomorrow. We are helping them to navigate their journey on our flattened earth and have a meaningful, prideful Jewish homecoming…”

The age of facebook.

I could not have said it any better: changes constantly taking place as lightning-swift advances in technology and communications put people all over the globe in touch as never before.