20,000 Birthrighters in Israel last summer – but why?

I’m always heartened to read about the ever-growing numbers of young people the Taglit-birthright program has brought to Israel. In the latest report, appearing today on Ynet, last summer nearly 20,000 young adults (including 10,000 from 712 colleges across North …

I’m always heartened to read about the ever-growing numbers of young people the Taglit-birthright program has brought to Israel. In the latest report, appearing today on Ynet, last summer nearly 20,000 young adults (including 10,000 from 712 colleges across North America) participated. Leading the pack were universities in Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Maryland and Pennsylvania. More than twice as many young people applied than there were places and Taglit has set an not unreasonable target of 51,000 annually by 2013. I wonder, however, how many of those students were coming to see the country and how many for the promise of sex and drugs (and a little rock and roll clubbing to boot)? Take a look at the Jewlicious blog’s “Unofficial Guide to Sex on Birthright Israel,” a primer for pre-trip safe sex that appeared earlier this year and, based on comments I’ve heard from those who’ve participated on a Taglit trip, is pretty spot on. Among the revelations: while making it with an Israeli soldier is tres sexy, watch out – despite their macho demeanor, male soldiers can form surprisingly emotional attachments from what a Taglit gal may have thought was a quickie. As for the women soldiers, compared to the army men they’ve had to deal with, Taglit participates are “soft in the middle and tremendously immature,” writes “Wendy in Furs,” the author of the Jewlicious blog post. Sex with counselors, tour guides and bus drivers are a definite no-no, Wendy adds, but if you can figure out how to be alone in a shared room, other participants are fair game. There are also some forthright tips, such as an exhortation to buy condoms only from the large pharmacies rather than the cheap ones sold at the local makolet (grocery store) that are more likely to, um, malfunction. Wendy ends by adding some sobriety to her irreverent primer. “The vast majority of people participating in Birthright do not have sex on the trip,” she writes. But that headline sure makes for guaranteed reading. P.S. – there’s now also an unofficial guide to drugs on Birthright on the Jewlicious site. Among its takeaways: there is no right against unreasonable search and seizure in Israel; marijuana in Israel sucks; hashish comes mostly from terrorists in Lebanon; and drug transactions involving tourists don’t usually end well. Stick with the sex, I say.

About Brian Blum

Brian has been a journalist and high-tech entrepreneur for over 20 years. He combines this expertise for ISRAEL21c and Israelity as he writes about hot new local startups, pharmaceutical advances, scientific discoveries, culture, the arts and daily life in Israel. He loves hiking the country with his family (and blogging about it). Originally from California, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
  • http://www.nyccantor.com Judi Rowland

    As long as those 20,000 college students come home and say, “Israel was awesome,” I say, that’s great. They will always have fond memories about their time in Israel and will, hopefully, want to go back.

  • Crinedel Ethel

    Still yet another reason not to support Taglit–Birthright. You get what you pay for and since it is free–an entitlement if you will–the participants don’t value it as much as if they had worked for it.
    Leave this nonsense, typical of Jewlicious which mistakes immaturity for hipness, for spring break in Florida or wherever. Or your year abroad in Italy. (And looked how that worked out for Amanda Knox–and the unfortunate Meredith Kercher.)
    Yes, any trip with young single people, (and yeah, unfortunately with older not so single) even the college/post college Israel tours, are bound to have a few behave irresponsibly, a few who do not appreciate the underelying serious purpose of the trip even if paid for by the participant or mommy and daddy. And true romance and/or long lasting friendships can develop from these trips–they certainly did for me.
    So it is not surprising to find this on Birthright–hormones are hormones. But why glamorize it?
    As the title of the post ends–but why? Until birthright supporters realize that Jewish identity is not made in 10 days of “free” entitlements, nonsense such as this will pop up.
    And maybe it will force birthright officials to soberly assess the meaning of birthright.

  • http://www.lookisrael.com Maui Pete
  • http://www.livnot.com Laurie

    I stumbled on the Jewlicious post a few days ago and also couldn’t help wondering what Adelson, Steinhardt, Bronfman and other donors thought.

    Maybe they think that it’s cute, encouraging Jewish identity through anything that captures the interest of young Jewish adults.

    What’s sad is that it so thoroughly underestimates the curiosity, interest and potential of these young participants. OK, any group of 42 people is going to include some hormone-driven (or controlled substance) seekers. But I meet these Taglit participants on a regular basis. So many of them are seriously seeking what Judaism and Israel means to them.

    Birthright providers, organizers, supporters and leaders are failing these young people by underestimating them. If the leadership panders to the lowest element, that’s what the participants will get — a watered down version (sexy Israelis) of what Israel, and their own heritage, is all about.