But organizers are aware that a growing number sneak off afterwards into the occupied territories to discover first-hand a history their elders have kept from them. It can have a profound effect. Many get involved in protests in the occupied territories or become leaders of boycott activism against Israel on campuses back home.
Tellingly, when Israel announced earlier this year it was banning entry to foreigners who support the boycott movement, hundreds coming on this year's Birthright signed a petition asking whether they would be allowed in.
Signs of Israel's troubles with the next generation of American Jews are already apparent. They are at the heart of a new project near Hebron in the West Bank of non-violent direct action against the occupation. Sumud Freedom Camp -- "sumud" is Arabic for steadfastness -- is a project between Palestinians, Israelis and foreign Jews who refuse to turn a blind eye to Palestinian suffering. It offers a new model of joint protest.
These young Jews hope their presence will protect Palestinians trying to reclaim lands stolen by Israel. But the army has repeatedly torn down the camp. One American Jewish participant wrote in the Israeli media of how her experiences had disabused her of the image of Israeli soldiers as "superheroes who'd protect me from harm."
Increasingly, American Jewry is becoming polarized, between an older generation whose ignorance allows them to advocate unthinkingly for Israel and a young generation whose greater knowledge has brought with it a sense of responsibility. In an ever-more globalized world, this trend is going to intensify.
Young American Jews will have to choose. Will they conspire, if only through their silence, in the erasure of the Palestinians carried out by Israel in their name? Or will they stand and fight, in the occupied territories, on campus, in their communities and, soon enough, in the corridors of power in Washington?
A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).