More Massada!

dead sea oranimDay 6 of the trip started off at 3 am when we left the Bedouin camp in order to climb Massada. With daytime temperatures in the high 90’s, it’s usually best to make the climb (and very difficult descent) early in the morning. Thankfully, everyone made it in one piece and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise and detailed history of the fortress from our guide Offer. Afterwards we headed for a nice float in the Dead Sea and a therapeutic Mud Bath.

dead sea mud bath

dead sea army boys

We then scrambled to Jerusalem for Shabbat. (I missed this morning’s activities in order to attend my Uncle Mordechai’s funeral in Rishon – I thank everyone for all the kind words and sentiment). Our Hotel in Jerusalem was the Novotel, which straddles the Green Line on the West side. Despite everyone’s exhaustion, we all got dressed and headed to the Old City of Jerusalem for Kabbalat Shabbat – the welcoming of the Sabbath. First stop was our friend Rabbi Ezra‘s pad where we went to his roof for a little singing and candle lighting. From the roof we were able to see the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, as well as various minarets and church steeples. We then headed off to the Kotel (Western Wall) where we joined literally tens of thousands of people welcoming the Sabbath. It was a moving and spiritual experience, to say the least! We then walked back to the hotel for a late but much appreciated dinner where we were joined again by Ezra and his friends, who led kiddush and then informally chatted with group members about all kinds of sabbath/Jerusalem related stuff. Many trip participants told me that the Sabbath program was one of the most moving things they had ever experienced.

The next day we had a home hospitality program where we were invited to a traditional sabbath lunch by Orthodox families who live near the hotel. Most were young American families not much older than the trip participants who lived and studied at the Mir Yeshivah in Jerusalem. We owe a big thanks to Malkki Leibovitz and Jeff Seidel for helping make this all happen. Our hosts let us know that we were welcome back any time! Jeff Seidel is a veritable institution in Jerusalem and anyone thinking of returning to Israel may want to check out his Web site.

Later that evening, we sanctified the end of the Sabbath with a Havdalah service at the hotel terrace. We then packed up the bus and headed off to Tel Aviv for a private Oranim party at a club. Our hard Tel-Aviv partying was the perfect antidote to our otherwise restful Jerusalem Sabbath. I’m pretty sure everyone slept really well that evening.






Oh and one other thing: כל הכבוד לצה”ל

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • Boo! Hiss! Supporting Jeff Seidel’s cultish activities is wrong! Boo! Hiss! Oh why oh why did Hebrew University ban him from campus? Please share that for the uninformed!

    Don’t drink the kool aid kids. There are better ways to learn about Judaism than indoctrination and shabbos meals in the Old City! When did Jewlicious become a kiruv organization?

  • Wow. If Jeff Seidel is running a cult it’s got to be the worst cult ever. I call the dude a week before I need home hospitality in Jerusalem for 40 kids, 8 soldiers and 5 staff. Jeff got right on it and set us up with all these nice people who fed us all for free. We chatted about where we had been, what we had done, played a little Jewish geography and that was that. No Kool Aid in sight. If we had been indoctrinated it was extremely subtle. And if kindness and friendliness towards others and unquestioned hospitality is what you consider indoctrination, then what the hell… sign me up!

    Oh wait. I’m already signed up to this cult. It’s called Judaism. oh well.

    And what did Jeff Seidel ask for in return? Nothing. Literally nothing at all. Nadda. Zippo. Zilch. Stupidest cult ever.

  • Besides, when was the last time Tommy Lapid or any other “Europen gentleman” ever invited me over for anything? Face it, when it comes to hospitality, Orthodox Jews are the biggest game in town.

  • Oh yes, orthodox Jews are the best! I almost forgot! You mean to tell me that there is nothing controversial about Jeff Seidel or his involvement with birthright? Tell me CK, why is he banned from the Hebrew University campus? Now when will the birthright kids be staying at heritage house? perhaps siedel will offer a few 500 hundred bucks to study in yeshiva for three weeks…

  • And it’s easy enough to pull the Tommy Lapid card. Just as Tommy Lapid doesn’t represent the secular in Israel, Seidel doesn’t represent the orthodox. Nice try though.

  • Harry, he isn’t banned from Hebrew U anymore. Not to say I’m a huge fan (though his wife is very nice).

  • I’m not saying that Jeff Seidel is not a nice person. I just question birthright’s affiliation with an organization whose purpose is hardcore missionary work. As an investor in birthright (I pay taxes to the Israeli government) this is something that concerns me greatly.

  • Harry…I’ve listened to your radio show. If swearing and bad Israeli punk is your idea of Judaism/Zionism, well, hip hipster horray.

    However many folks are looking for something to counter their Gap/Ipod existence. Now…

    I’ve had nothing but good times with Aish/Ohr/Heritage/Isralight/Seidel during my stay overs in Jersualem. Great, super folks. Didn’t wear a black velvet kippah then, and still don’t. But those mighty Yids left me with a taste of what creative, intelligent Judaism looks like.

  • Cheer up, kids, and mellow out. There’s room in contemporary Jewish life for Harry’s cantankerous swearing and questionable taste in music, Jeff Seidel’s wacky and disputed form of often-banned outreach, and even CK and his last-minute planning (although if he ever calls me a week before and tells me he needs NYC home hospitality for 40 kids, he’s what we call SOOM–sh*t out of Mazel).

  • Shtreimel, your brief stays are not indicative of the lifestyles these places are actually in fact advocating and succeeding many to join.

    Harry has a point. CK, are you kidding me with your dismissive, “Oh wait. I’m already signed up to this cult. It’s called Judaism. oh well.”

    You want to give a traditional shabbat dinners to the kids, no problem. But if you really can’t tell the difference between Ohr Somayach, Aish HaTorah, and normative Judaism, then you simply either haven’t done your homework, or simply deny quiescent Fundamentalism within Judaism.

    If Ohr Somayach and Aish are, in fact, normative Judaism, glad you like it, but drop me off now.

  • Nice Streimel. Judge me by my radio show. Listen to the next one. I might have a special message for you. Oh, and at 31, I’m way too old to be a hipster. And GAP quality sucks, so I shop at Filenes Basement and Marshalls and I don’t own one ironic hipster Jewish t-shirt. So watch who you are labeling.

    My idea of Zionism is living in the Jewish state, serving my country in the IDF and celebrating all holidays on a cultural level, just like most Israelis do.

  • Lets see, whats not to like about a guy who comes to the wall (not to the courtyard, but the wall) and practices some wallus interuptus to ask if i have a place to eat. Who walks up to groups obvious in prayer on the courtyard to find out if they have a place to stay?

    I don’t think Jeff is supported by birthright only by ck and laya. what i like about this post is now we know what the real Jewlicious readers look like.

  • in the meantime, are all of your jewlicious birthrighters OK with their mud-slathered boobies going out on your blog like that? i mean, i know you guys are all about the boobage, but, like what is this, jewschool or somethin’?

  • You better like Red
    You better like Dry
    You better drink Cab I’m tellin you why
    Wine Guy is coming to town ;’ )

    Just wanted to give you a heads up Im coming to Israel next month to work the harvest in da holy land. We’ll deffinately have to get together!!!

  • Esther

    I’m in NY till mid June it would be really nice to see you while I’m here but I dont have you e-mail :'(

  • Wow…wineguy in Israel next month too? Some mystical convergence of energy around Jerusalem, to be sure.

    WineGuy, my email to you with my contact info should be on its way.

    And for the general record, I will not be wearing a bikini during my upcoming Jewlicious trip. Because I don’t want to start any riots.

  • I would like to say that while Esther may not be wearing a bikini during this upcoming Jewlicious birthright season, I certainly may.

    I mean, hey, it gets hot in Israel in the summer…

  • You know Michael, if you had gone on that trip, you could have helped some of those cute girls with the spots they missed with the Dead Sea mud.

  • Kelsey, I would have, but I was afraid that my touch, combined with the sun and the Dead Sea mud, would have just created too powerful of an argument for the merits of Zionism. I just thought, “What would David Kelsey do?” (I wear WWDKD? on a bracelet, you see) and decided I would abstain from blowing the minds of the young ladies and making them love the Zionist Entity TOO much. I mean, all that yummy falafel for ten days and they were probably Zionist enough already.

  • If you think David Kelsey would refrain from applying mud to a woman, ‘specially ones that hot, you are gravely mistaken…

  • BUT, would David Kelsey refrain from slathering a fine young lady up with mud if he knew it might make her a Zionist? Therein lies the question, my esteemed Muff!

    The answer? Probably not.

  • Muffti would wager Kelsey’s lustiness over his desire not to make her a zionist. You can always work on overcoming zionism; but slathering a hot girl? THose opportunities only come to kelsey like once a year.

  • Enough bickering about what I would or would not do. I will tell you.

    I would indeed slather, but would make clear that this is in no way an expression of Zionism, or a commitment.

  • i unfortunately did not get to go on birthright, but i did go on an 8th grade trip from my school to israel. it was alot of fun, and i had david as one of the guides, and reuben as the other. they were amazing