Elon Glickman knew something wasn't right while on his tour of Israel.

On July 18, Glickman and a handful of young Jewish Americans were participating in a guided heritage tour sponsored by an organization called Birthright Israel. As part of the tour, they were given maps — but those maps were alarming to Glickman: They had erased Palestine completely.

Glickman asked the guide why Gaza and the West Bank — both Palestinian territories — were missing from the map. The guide said the state of Israel believes those areas are part of Israel.


But that didn't sit right with Glickman.

"It’s not fair," Glickman said to the guide, as shown in a video of the encounter. "The people who live [in Palestine] can’t vote, they’re under military occupation, their water is being controlled by someone else, and they can’t get access to it. And their lives are like a living hell because they can’t even see their families in Jerusalem … the roads are constantly controlled, they have to go through all these checkpoints."

As Glickman and the others found out, Birthright Israel doesn't allow participants to visit Palestinian land or openly discuss their occupation. This refusal to acknowledge or expose the harsh realities of Palestinians living under occupation is a problem Glickman felt he had to give voice to: "It feels like the equivalent of going to the Jim Crow South during segregation and not talking about segregation."

After speaking out, he and seven others chose to walk off their tour and instead meet and learn from Palestinian families facing eviction.

There's no getting around it: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a polarizing issue.

While the Holy Land is significant to the three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), thousands of years of violent conflict has raised the question of who is the rightful owner of the land. In 1967, Israel gained control and occupied Palestinian land. Since then, Israel has built more than 500,000 illegal settlements and forced 7 million Palestinians to flee their homes.

In order to strengthen the connection between the Jewish identity and Israel, Birthright Israel offers free trips to young Jewish people worldwide. But a sizable portion of Birthright Israel's funding comes from the Israeli government with substantial donations coming from private donors, like Sheldon Adelson, an American casino magnate and an influential right-wing financier.

But as young Jewish people are discovering, these Birthright tours aren't painting a complete picture. Essentially, they're erasing Palestinians altogether.

Glickman's group in July is not the only example of young Jewish people taking a stand on the occupation of Palestine.

On June 28, five Birthright participants walked off their trips to meet with Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation group of former IDF soldiers, and then they went to Hebron to meet with Palestinian families living under occupation. They live-streamed their encounters.

Birthright has refused to show us the truth about the occupation’s impact on Palestinians, instead asking us to visit a site operated by a far-right settlement organization. We’ve decided instead to go meet with the Sumarin family, a family that has lived in East Jerusalem under threat of eviction for years to learn from them and hear their story.

Posted by Hal Rose on Sunday, July 15, 2018

IfNotNow, an American Jewish progressive group, launched a campaign this summer called #NotJustAFreeTrip. The campaign encourages young Jewish Americans on their Birthright Israel tours to demand that the group educate participants on the occupation of Palestine. In addition to having participants walk off the tours, IfNotNow activists hand out educational materials about the occupation to people heading on Birthright Israel trips.

"Our generation will no longer allow ourselves to be manipulated by right-wing donors and the radical Israeli government who tell us a story about Israel and Judaism that legitimizes, justifies, or simply ignores the Occupation," the campaign website read. "We demand the truth."

But walking off trips and speaking out against occupation does come at a cost — quite literally.

Participants who protested have reported that they lost their deposits for the trip and had their flights back home canceled.

In response, IfNotNow has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finance these costs. Some of the proceeds will also go to help Palestinian families in the West Bank and Jerusalem. At the time of this post, they'd raised over $15,000.

And while the money certainly helps, the most impactful thing these Jewish Americans have done is set a powerful example: We must stand against any forms injustice, even if we're its benefactors.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

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