Things I learned, observed, noted or was surprised about on BirthRight

This past week, I returned from a BirthRight trip. I led a tour along with another Hillels of Georgia staff member and a qualified tour guide. We took almost 40 student throughout Israel, to its north, east and west borders and everywhere in the middle. Tons happened, but this is not a diary; it’s just an arbitrary list of observations and novelties that spoke to me on the trip. Hope you enjoy!

Bus 584
1. Sing it with me:
Yo I’m talking bout my man Ron, what a guy
Blue patches sick glasses, he so fly
They told him to serve for 3 years, so he did 9
A physicist with the sideburns of a god, he so fine
Tech’s gonna take off now that my mans here
Nuclear bombs runnin on hummus so stand clear
Driving tanks and playin guitar he’s about to get bigger
I’m talkin about Ron he’s my muhfuckin friend
I said rrrrroooonnn
Look at those bi’s they’ll make you sweat
I said rrrrooooonnnn
With this gracious hunk, there’s no need to fret
Did you also hear Michael’s voice singing it?
2. Roooooon
3. Sadly, I can’t arrive at any new place ever again without singing the mappah mappah song.
4. There might be scorpions in the desert, but at least we didn’t leave anyone behind.
5. Where’s a photo of a sleeping Dana in her FB montage
6. Rooooooon
7 watermelon is good on all occasions
8. Types of sleeping arrangements: a. Get out of the room b. Share a bed c. FB to be continued
8.5. Ron sleeps by day, parties by night.
9. How many snapchats does Yuri send us in one day
10. Rooooon.
11. How long til I get a Rosemarin shirt?
12. Who’s 23?
13. You can only have 3 meatballs and one drumstick
14. It’s perfectly acceptable that cinema city should bring on seizures
15. First drink is free … For you, you and you
16. Did he just buy a crossbow?
17. How come Rachel is immune to hot peppers.
18. If you don’t know someone’s name, just assume it is Rachel or Alex
19. Robby might seem quiet, bet get him alone with 40 birthrighters from another bus at a Bedouin tent and watch out
20. A big America at McDonald’s has nothing to do with america
21. You can pretty much put sesame seeds on anything
22. If it looks like schnitzel, that’s good enough
23. A whole bus cannot spontaneously beatbox
24. projectile missiles may be shot out from Gaza or taglit buses
25. Denial is not only a river in Egypt but a way to drop a wine bottle onto someone’s head
26. Hookahs should be brought from the US
27. Don’t try counting people after predrinks
28. Sometimes it’s so hot, you cannot see in front of you
29. Phones need not be returned at the airport
30. Fear us. Fear him. Fear her. Fear me.
31. Mazal tov!!
32. Cereal is best on a bus
33. Drugs. Get your drugs.
34. Naor….. Yes, that is your name!
35. If you don’t know anything about someone, buy them pretzels; if you can’t find pretzels, buy a lighter, and if you really care for someone, buy them a date
36. Some people might like country music, but not many
37. Cucumbers: for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for hiding behind your back and taking large bites
38. Achim…….achim, achim, achim, achim
39. iDFwu… What does that have to do with our trip?
40. We only do bat mitzvahs, not bar mitzvahs
41. I hate albatross. No, I love albatross
42. That’s a Selfie pole, not a stick
43. The Jordan river is for baptisms, and tremendous violence
44. Rachel can shoot someone from 2000 meters away
45. Rachel is not really Ethiopian.
46. The vomit hit the seat, bounced forward, hit my shirt, turned, splashed on the new bus, and landed on four others
47. In Israel, vegetarians eat meat…. Adam
48. “I said something nice about the Israelis, but I was lying”
49. Yes, you need another survey
50. Snapchats are not snapchats
51. Duran Duran
52. That’s not a cheap chair, Evan always falls through all chairs
53. Gil knows everything; gilgool
54. our shirts should have an O that’s blank in the middle
55. Sometimes strip club stories should be reserved for special occasions
56. Similarly, stories about blowing up port a potties should be reserved for special occasions
57. Can you say hamburger…… No
58. Apparently rubbing alcohol is 5 shekels a shot
59. No confidence cause English no good
60. Bocks game
61. Or or whore?
62. You can still get burnt using spf 100
63. Who the hell is Ashley?
64. Hair-ties are not bracelets #taglit
65. Why would you think wifi should work with more than 3 people connected?
66. Lauren hates pigeons, cats and bad ice coffees
67. I’m not drunk, just one eighth Asian
68. You can make alcohol out of any fruit
69. Of course we have a frisbee
70. The plot-line of Kingsmen enjoys several serious holes
71. Sunrise, sunset. That song is talking about our day at the Dead Sea and then Tel Aviv
72. Why is the music at the Dead Sea Russian? And on a loop?
73. Riddle: where are the gals not girls, the hens not chickens, and the C’s not consonants?
74. Ice coffee
75. Bananas are better in candy form, but cannot be juiced
76. Rooooon

general info about birthright

1. Israelis tolerate Taglit-BirthRight Americans as one would tolerate immigrant relatives. You try to help them out, direct them in the right direction, sometimes feed them, sometimes scold them, but you always have in the back of your mind a certain sympathy and understanding that they don’t quite belong where there are and you take that into account in all your dealings.

2. Whoever thought of the idea of mud being therapeutic, beneficial and healthy is a genius. To a straight person, when s/he visits the Dead Sea, it appears like a bunch of crazy people are piling on mud, all over their body, because they happen to be crazy. And then the mud lovers travel to the nearby Ahava factory and get to buy expensive samples of that substance you’ve been trying your whole life to adequately wash off. Whoever thought of this can sell ice to an Eskimo.


3. There is some guy in a glass case at Mazada who is writing a Torah scroll. First, why? Why is here there? Isn’t that weird? Why a glass case? Nonetheless, many students had not ever seen a scribe writing a Torah scroll, so we deemed it to be an educational opportunity for the students to catch a glimpse of this immensely weird, yet novel experience. One student surprisingly comments: Is he doing that letter by letter? Another student, before she enters the room: Oh, is he typing it (the Torah) in there?


4. Most Jews do not know what an Orthodox Jew is. I am an Orthodox Rabbi. Nonetheless, I was told repeatedly by many students that no one on the trip knows that I am Orthodox (even though I wore a kippah and tzitzit throughout the trip). Why not? Because Orthodox people have ear locks and dress in Polish garb, I learned. It was a massive surprise for many to discover that there is such a thing as Modern Orthodox, and we’re normalish. And I was equally surprised that so many Jews didn’t know Jews like me existed, all over the place.

5. Buying deli meat in Israel is not like buying meat in America. All the meat seems a bit off. Of course, you accept that because you are hungry, but probably would abstain from it given different circumstances. From the Hebrew I was able to gather that I was eating shoulder meat, but it didn’t quite taste like any meat I have ever had.

6. Hiking is not universal. I regularly take my children on hikes, and I enjoyed many throughout my youth. But for some, hikes are an exotic thing that rural people do because they either have nothing better to do, need to access water, or are aborigines.

7. All alcoholic drinks purchased at a bar, that do not come in a bottle, are watered down for Americans. Israelis feel that is just OK. A sad truth, but it keeps students a bit less inebriated.

8. Gaza is a bad word. Just ten years ago, about 9000 Jews lived in Gaza and some Jews would drive into Gaza every week to do their shopping at the Arab market. Today: students were scared to be close to Gaza, to see Gaza, and even to mention the word Gaza.

9. The Bedoiun tent experience is a bit like the country of France at Epcot. Sure, the employees are French, you got a mini Eiffel Tower and all the food seems authentic, but something is just wrong. Similarly, everything seemed reasonably authentic at the Bedouin tent (except maybe the mashgiach), but something was just not right…. Everywhere.

10. Never mess with the guys at the Tel Aviv market. I misunderstood a vendor. He wanted 30 shkalim for a necklace and not seven. When I reiterated the price, he grabbed the necklace out of my hand and shoed me away. The necklace could be found at several other vendors within 50 feet of that guy, but that did not stop him from denying me.

11. Never mess with the guys at the Tel Aviv market II. I walked around with a student. As he never tasted a Turkish gold sweet before, he wanted to buy just one. But that is weird at the market. Usually, you buy a small bag of candies. I chose to intervene. I dropped a half-shekel piece by the vendor and informed him in my best American Hebrew that I was going to take a piece from the mountainish pile he had. He decided to offer me a Mussar Speech by starting: so you think we’re in Egypt. You don’t give me a half shekel piece! You want one. You ask me!

12. Israelis are very proud of the fact that they have unlimited info and wifi on their cell phones. That pride comes from the fact that Americans do not so they can pretend that Americans are still in the 3rd century despite the fact that everything in the universe says otherwise.

13. The quality of the potential picture will generally dictate the audacity of a crowd to engage with freezing water or extended uncomfortable poses. It is interesting how pictures have become one of the most important aspects of an event. Sometimes it is hard to appreciate the beauty or the significance of a place because of the plethora of cameras blocking the view. At weddings you can experience a similar problem: four hour wedding and four hours of pictures, and a videographer hanging on every dance move.

14. The most prominent Hebrew words used in Israel are Arabic. Sababa, Yalla, etc.

15. Animals like cows and camels that are deemed disgusting and dirty in our regular lives are fun and exciting in Israel.

16. Three things we only saw or experienced in Tel Aviv: (1) some Israeli artist whispered to some students as they walk by: So, you’re on Taglit. Don’t believe anything they tell you about Israel. (2) I saw a Meretz Party flag on some ladies windowsill. (3) Last, as the students frolic about Rabin square asking Israelis where they were when PM Rabin was assassinated, one Israeli answered: I didn’t like him. He was bad for the country, without exhibiting the smallest hint of care that he was assassinated. Only in Tel Aviv.

17. If you smoke a ton of weed, leave Detroit, move to Tzefat, grow out your beard and ear locks, use your Hebrew name, study Kabbalah and paint all day, you’re a reasonably successful individual in Israel. In fact, you’re so successful that we’ll send tons of people from your home country to learn from your ways.

18. If you hear a price and you pay it, then you screwed up.

19. People think they cannot wake up early. Given a good reason, anyone can wake up at any time. Dealing with a bunch of sleep deprived college students, who probably drink too much, they are able to wake up around 6 AM every day given the right impetus.

20. McDonalds is really good. Appreciate it!

21. Israeli soldiers are really, really in their early twenties…. Really. And, the IDF only offers Taglit attractive ones.

22. There were hardly any campaign ads throughout Israel. As Israel is insane about elections, I really found this hard to believe.

23. In America, we have never seen Tzipi Livni smile. While flipping through the channels in Israel, I got a glimpse of her smile as she was being interviewed for a comedy show. Really, it turns out I wasn’t missing much. But, on the tenu’ah party ads, it was interesting to note that many of them had two pictures: one of Peretz smiling next to a stoic Livni. Apparently, the tenu’ah campaign agrees that her smile should be held in check.

24. Sderot is beautiful, but the missile proof bus stops smell like urine. Next step, Israel needs to make missile proof and urine proof bus stops.


25. Things taste better when you pull them out of the ground yourself. I don’t remember the last time I ate a whole carrot, and I definitely have not desired one recently. Nonetheless, when I pulled that dirty monster out of the ground, I knew, then and there, it was my duty in life to consume that whole thing.


26. When traveling throughout Israel in the winter, don’t’ bring lots of clothes, but bring lots of socks. Your socks will always be wet, and no one likes wet socks.

27. I follow Israeli politics. I generally know everything that is happening there, but when you’re in Israel, everything becomes a blur. There are no sports, no Sunday football, no current events, just where are we going and where are we anyway?

28. Of the six Israeli that I asked who they are voting for in the upcoming elections, I got six different answers. Likud, Jewish Home, Green, Labor, Yesh Atid and undecided.

Facts, Opinions and Observations more pertinent to Bus 380

1. There is such a thing in Netanya, Israel as a 2 star hotel in 4 star garb.

2. For a quality Kabbalat Shabbat, you need two factors: first, someone must know the tune or words, and second, someone must have a reasonably good voice.

3. Haifa, apparently, is not worth visiting

4. Even without knowing Hebrew, you can pick up the important Hebrew words in songs through massive amounts of repetition.

5. Chabad are everywhere

6. People who are not accustomed to hearing Aggadatahs will make up great names for Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, like Rabbi Laser eyes.


7. Cats are more numerous than sand.

8. Sometimes it is reasonably hard to differentiate between breakfast and dinner menus.

9. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are for peoples of all ages.

10. It is easier getting a small gun shaped lighter through security than a bottle of wine or a bottle opener.

11. A night out in Tel Aviv only makes sense once the club opens.

12. Sometimes people cannot differentiate between their aunts and their mother’s friends.

13. Mevushal (cooked) wine is only for people without a country says the Yarden factory.

14. When you’re drunk, on a bus traveling towards the West Bank, listening to musical numbers sung somewhat in tune, Israeli cereal is awesome.

15. Everyone knows Journey!

16. Given the right conditions, you can pee almost anywhere

17. The f-bomb can be used very comically. For example, after watching a video of the horrors that Sderot experienced, and travelling throughout the city, one ought to say: let’s get the f*&^ out of here! Similarly, if someone does not think you’re Jewish enough, one ought to say: I don’t give a f*&^ what they think.

18. For some people, the ultimate goal of the world, is to get another person drunk.

19. Eventually, you can eat Humous every meal and come to think that is completely normal.

20. If a Krav Mega teacher starts explaining how to evacuate a family quietly in the night, without waking any other family members, do not mess with him. He will probably kill you, quickly, without much thought.


21. Eventually sleep deprived people have no clue what day of the week it is

22. There is always someone with a better camera

23. There’s really no good reason why certain things are where they are in Israel. Two lions and a Temple Menorah in the old city…. Because.

menor kkkkkkk

24. There is Ruggalach and then there is Ruggalach.

25. It doesn’t matter if it is raining. In Jerusalem and Tzefat it was raining hard. Nonetheless, you still love the city. You just love it differently.


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