(It’s just come to my attention that clearly, this post is in honor of Tu B’Av, every Jew’s favorite hookup holiday. In that spirit, I’m going to a party with 800 Jews. Wish me luck!)

If you look at our most commented posts on Jewlicious, you’ll see two themes emerge: Zionism and sex. Look, we’re young, and pro-Israel, and live in a world where we’re bombarded with sexual messages. Sometimes we become a little centered on hooking up with other Jews. It happens.

Now, finally, according to the Forward, there’s a new type of Zionism in town, and this time, it’s sexual. [Audio FX: Cue Barry White music for remainder of article reading.]

[Sexual Zionism], rooted in the belief that love leads to aliya, has been floating around for a few years now on the Jewish singles scene. But the term itself is nebulous, and not even the youth travel representatives who spin it can pin down its exact genesis. “Somewhere along the line, major Israel providers figured this was a good way to appeal to the youth market,” said Alex Sharone, the 24-year-old national director of Habonim Dror, a progressive Zionist youth movement sponsoring a wide array of summer and year-round programs. Habonim Dror doesn’t overtly promote Sexual Zionism through its itineraries, but given the target demographic the message is all but inescapable. “It’s about sexualizing a love for Israel,” Sharone continued. “You’re 15, going through puberty and visiting Israel for the first time. While you’re learning the history and culture of the land, you’re simultaneously scoping out potential mates. It’s about forging a positive association with Israel, and for teens and young adults that often means sex.”

First of all, I was seventeen, it was my second time in Israel (the first time was with my family), and never did I consider my connection to the land sexual. (Although maybe I should have…and there was something in the air over there…)

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, director of the National Ramah Commission, which oversees Conservative Jewish travel and study opportunities in Israel, is pretty skeptical about puppy love’s lasting impact on a person’s long-term commitment to Israel. “Our mission is to focus on friendship,” he said. “Friendship is what fosters a strong relationship to Israel. That is what keeps the spirit of our people alive.”

Friendship keeps the spirit alive. That was certainly my experience when I went to Israel with Ramah. But unless I missed a few health classes in high school, while friendship may reinforce the Jewish nation, platonic relationships don’t propagate the people.

Momo [Shlomo “Momo” Lifschitz, the hard-charging president of Oranim Educational Initiatives], who describes himself as an “old-fashioned Zionist,” said that to mistake his encouragement of the propagation of the Jewish people, culture and community for satiating carnal cravings is to miss the point entirely. “I love sex,” he said in his characteristically blunt fashion. “I love Zionism. Are the two combined with [each other]? Not necessarily. You can easily form a love of Israel without falling in love with a particular person.” In response to the concept of Sexual Zionism, Momo offers his own phrase: Emotional Zionism.

“You have to bring Zionism through emotions,” he pleaded, advocating Zionism not as a politicized JDate but as a poignant, powerful, impassioned call for scattered Jews everywhere to explore and discover their souls’ true landing strip. He’s delighted to hear the story of Oranim alumna Jessi, an infectiously vibrant 21-year-old bohemian type from Jersey who came to Israel seeking spiritual guidance following the tragic death of a friend. Bowled over by all the beautiful sites featured in Birthright’s neck-whipping itinerary, she found a sense of inner peace. “I’m moving here,” she proclaimed. “Israel is the greatest place on Earth.”

My brother felt the same way. He moved to Israel, found a wonderful woman, got married, and moved back to the States to go to school and so that their kids could be closer to both sets of parents. (It’s not that they won’t go back, but it’s not in the immediate plan. Which you kind of have to understand.)

“Zionism opens up a mountain of emotions,” Momo explained. “Emotion is what makes someone feel at home when they come to Israel. Sex might sell, sure. It might land the girl. But an open heart is what is going to make that relationship, and one to Israel, last forever.”

“Soul’s landing strip”…”an open heart makes a relationship with Israel last forever.” These poignant phrases point to a resonant truth that for some people constitutes a draw, and for others a deterrent: in order to move to Israel, you have to be willing to leave what you know behind–everything from career to family. Not that those things cannot exist in Israel (and there are few among us who could not find a relative or thirty already in Israel and willing to serve in loco parentis), but to an extent, each oleh is a pioneer-as-of-old, draining metaphorical swamps to prevent professional or personal malaria, building a home from scratch in earth that can be hostile and less-than-arable.

I understand why young men and women in their twenties, fresh off a birthright trip, make the choice: apart from their parents, surrounded by peers, their eyes are open to a place that pulses with the modern and the ancient, a place where religion (and therefore emotion) reigns. They go because their hearts are open, not just to sexual or romantic opportunity, but to romance, idealism, and working for something you can call your own in a way that becomes more difficult as we age.

But in considering the possibility of emotional/sexual Zionism as a movement, one has to acknowledge the logic of the biological urge, at any age. Forgive the analogy, but like salmon that return to the waters whence they came to spawn, a pull toward the land of Jewish ancestry makes perfect sense. Once there, the desire to plant something–whether it’s a literal tree at a JNF ceremony, or investing in the economy (the purchase of an Israel bond, or the latest Harry Potter book in Hebrew), or deciding to put down roots for a future–is only natural.

Note to self:

Potential slogans to promote “sexual Zionism” movement
“Come on, baby. You know you want it.”
“Israel: We’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden.”
“You’ve got your sexuality in my Zionism!” “No, you’ve got your Zionism in my sexuality…”
“Water your camels at our wells.”
“Here, the drinking age is 18.”

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.


  • Childish. Nothing new her. Years ago, my cousin was on one of those trips and I went to visit her at the Goldstein Village. I didn’t see her around. So I asked this guy where she was and he said laconically, Balling. THat’s a term used to be used for sexual intercourse. Now she’s a BT of course, black hat sons and all.

  • Actually,
    there’s a third recurring theme of most posted messages – muffti initiates them.

  • My two favorite topics so of course I have to comment…
    When I was 24 and in Israel for the first time it was all about learning about the relgion, the land, the history, the people etc. I was on a co-ed program and I didn’t “hook-up” with anyone and I didn’t think twice about my celibacy.
    Flash forward 13 years & I’m having an affair with a U.S. Soldier. I was telling my girlfriend how it was so exciting because I had never been with anyone in a uniform with a gun. She said “but you lived in Israel for over 2 years”
    “So?” I asked.
    She said “you are telling me you didn’t sleep with any soldiers?”
    “No!” I exclaimed. “It’s the Holy Land, I was spiritual! I wasn’t gonna have sex near where the Bais Hamikdash stood!”
    She couldn’t believe it. “That was the main reason to go back then, gorgeous men on every bus & corner! That’s all I did while I was there, smoke pot & screw soldiers. If you can’t get laid in Israel, you can’t get laid anywhere!”
    So I thought that might make a good tag line to add to your list and I’m thinking I could make a good business running Israeli tours for 40 year old divorced Jewish women and advertise that there is no lack of Jewish penis over there like we have here.

  • Josh,

    Is that praise, criticism or mere comment? 🙂

    Sex is great and all, but if it is what grounds your love of Israel, you are a messed up little dude/chick. As you shouldn’t stay with a mate (too long) solely for the sex, you probably shouldn’t move rest your zionism on how much action you get on trips.

    Having said all this, Chutzpah’s friend is right. If you can’t get laid in Israel, you probably can’t even get laid in a brothel.

  • Chutzpah – actually – you did the right thing when you were in Israel! And – well, any age over 18 or 19, and it’s just plain prostituting oneself.

    What a lovely picture of your friend we now have: She at 22 or so – letting herself be VIOLATED by every Israeli soldier on EVERY corner…

    Then calling Daddy at home for more money to give to the soldiers as gifts. Yum. The mother of someone’s kids out there.

    Not that everyone has to grow up pure…but how wonderful to think of your wife as having shtupped have the Israeli army….

    Ohmygodohmygodomygod Do it to me again Yossi, Yes. Yes! YEeeeeeessssss! Uhhhhhh…Hmmmmmm….whew!

    I never knew my FIRST TIME could be so powerful, Dani – I mean, Yossi! Hmmmm…God YOU ARE GREAT! I’m so glad Oral Sex is allowed by the Torah!

    Cut to 15 years later – after having married DaniYossiUriShmulikArik….DIVORCED, 2 semi-Israel kids, 13 year old half slut daughter saying:

    Mommy, tell me about how you met Abba in Israel….Can I GO, TOO Next Year?????

  • Apparently shtupping the Israeli Army is one of their biggest tourist attractions.
    Why is it that a woman enjoying sex is prostituting herself or being violated?
    You’ve got issues dude.

  • Plus, Chutzpeleh, I am SO SORRY – BUT Jsirpicco has been at his HILARIOUS BEST TODAY! And I don’t see you cracking not even one little smile, woman!

    It’s been a LOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGG Time, Honey, I know. Cucumber, anyone?

  • I am surprised to find out that this is real. I guess if it gets people to Israel it is a good thing. Hopefully when they get to Israel they will find out what Israel represents. They will understand that Israel is the land of the Jewish people and that our roots are much deeper than a sexual / zionism fad.

  • Because you are not funny. Not even a little. Not at all. I don’t like the word slut and I prefer vibrators to cucumbers, but thanks anyway.

  • See, there you go again, Chutzpeleh!
    How many Chutzpha’s does it take to change a lightbulb?

    2! 1 Chutzpah to stand on the chair, and one random GOY to make himself comfortable under her skirt!

    Why don’t you lighten up just a smidgen? Hmmm? You are the most bitter chick I know on the blogs!
    Bitter bitter bitter. Yes. And not an ounce of humor, unless it’s to say how outrageous your sex fantasies are!

  • You tell ’em, Middle!

    (BTW, did you note Papa Ratzi’s visit to the Cologne synagogue today?)

  • I just read the article in the NY Times about his visit. I’m about to lose Internet access again so I can’t blog it but will somebody please post the Pope’s comments about antisemitism today. He is only the second Pope om history to visit a synagogue, and this former Hitler Youth member entered a re-built synagogue today and as leader of the Catholic Church denounced anti-semitism and its recent growth.

  • themiddle wrote – *AHEM* Josh, I have initiated 4 of the top 7 most commented discussions.

    and that is a testament to what an argumentative git you are. In the 673 comment Conservative post you commented 97 times. Your comments there alone on their own would qualify the post as in the top 20 most commented posts! I am not certain that that is neccesarily something to be proud of.

  • muffti,
    it’s appreciation. Honest. I’ve specifically remember saying it before. You have that touch.

    Sorry if my usual cynicism and sarcasm clouds otherwise ‘regular’ comments.

  • Sirpico, you are dumb and useless. You like the word slut because you can shout it at the strippers you go and see, and they smile and winkle their ass right up close to your face. This is depraved behavior and not everybody digs it.

  • Wait, why is the word “slut” automatically associated with strippers and, uh, “ass-winkling”? Is this some weird projection thing?

  • I don’t know, usually they pass out cards if they can. At least the ones at the ba-da-bing place I went to about 10 years ago. Haven’t been to one since, maybe it’s time for a revisit?

  • Michael, at the strip club I went to about 10 years ago, I noticed many of the guys enjoyed saying some nasty things like to the girls. Me I asked one to marry me, but that’s me. Another one asked me if I wanted to take her to Europe. I considered it for a second too long cause she was shimmied over to the next dope.

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