Today we spent the day in the Golan. Here we see Ofer showing us how close we are to Syria and Lebanon on a hill overlooking the border region. The strategic importance of the region was underscored by stories of battles that took place here in 1967 and 1973. Below are some of our trip participants. Afterwards we took a hike up a hill to a waterfall – no pics cuz no way was I going to risk getting my camera wet. Same thing when we went rafting down the mighty, mighty Jordan river – big fun, but no pics, sorry.




Above are pics from the mall we went to for lunch. Our reform kids ate a McDonalds whereas everyone else had felafel and shwarma. Israel is the only country with surly McDonalds employees. As for that store sign, I think the unfortunately named store speaks for itself. Tomorrow we will be joined by 8 members of the IDF for the next 5 days. That ought to be fun. The trip is starting to gel – people are asking more questions and are hanging out with people they didn’t know from before. The mission of Taglit birthright-israel and Oranim will be accomplished, oh yes it will. And yes, I am already exhausted…

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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.


  • “Israel is the only country with surly McDonalds employees.”

    Surely you jest . . . .

  • Seriously. Stand over a deep frier all sweltering summer long, forever reeking of oil, and see how sunshiny you feel. While less physically repulsive, dealing with customers at the register is not much more fun. Nor is cleaning up after them. I’d say surliness might be the one (completely justifiable) common trait among all McDonald’s employees of the world.

  • I find the “HOLY SHIT, THEY HAVE MCDONALDS IN ISRAEL” response among certain Birthright kids…um…how to put this diplomatically…I find it mystifying. It’s like, you came 6000 miles to a country with some of the best street food in the world and you seriously want to eat at McDonalds, which due to McDonalds corporate policy will taste EXACTLY THE SAME as it does at home, you sheygetz?

    I mean, honestly.

  • Yup, Michael. But look at it this way, with 32 women and 8 men, this is one way to cull out the less desirable prospective partners.

  • I agree with Michael, who comes to Israel to eat McDonalds? Although I did learn that McDonalds in Israel is one of the only places that still deep fries their apple pies. But I doubt that’s what they ate there. I want my tax money back!

  • I’ll be happy to host your group, and show them the strategic importance of where I live, how it overlooks the Tel-Aviv metro area and the airport – underscored by anectodes about fedayeen attacks that led up to the 1967 war, battles raged at that time, and the stream of suicide bombers (including the notorious “Mehandes”) who’ve come from nearby villages since then…

    … except that MY strategically important mountaintop is not officially sanctioned by PC thought – even though it was liberated in the same war as the Golan, and is much more centrally located.

    It’s in Samaria. And Taglit doesn’t let its precious charges actually visit over the Green Line, or talk to any of those dreadful, bloodthirsty settler fundamentalists – just carefully groomed Pali spokespeople.

  • Ben-David, you’re being paranoid. In general, Taglit trips have no “carefully groomed Pali spokespeople.” Sometimes they visit Druze villages, and they go to a fake Bedouin village in the Negev. But the Druze and the Bedouin aren’t Palestinians. Taglit groups don’t go to Umm al-Fahm or Nazareth. They certainly don’t go to Bethlehem or Ramallah.

    There’s also no talk of “dreadful, bloodthirsty settler fundamentalists.” I don’t know where you get your information from. Taglit trips simply don’t go over the Green Line. If you want Taglit groups to see the “settler” viewpoint, then you can try to arrange with a Birthright provider a meeting not over the Green Line.

    But honestly. It’s a fun ten day trip to increase foreign Jews’ identification with Israel, and to get them to date/marry/shtup other Jews. It’s not an indoctrination program for Greater Israel, nor is it an indoctrination program for pre-’67 Israel. It’s a fucking tour. It’s not the place for your personal crusade to justify the location of your home. There are plenty of other avenues for that, like (sigh) our website.

  • Oh Taglit eating… One kid complained everyday that he had to eat kosher in the hotels and started screaming about how he was going to go nuts if he couldn’t “put a fucking piece of cheese one on piece of fucking meat”. When we found a Burger King somewhere along our way, he almost wet himself with glee…only to find it was a Kosher Burger King. Hashem is a stand up comedian and Israel is his stage.

  • Elon, that’s shocking and upsetting. You’d think that someone getting a 100 percent free ride to Israel would be a bit more appreciative. Could be worse I guess, a lot of groups have to deal with messianic Jews.

  • My birthright trip with Hillel definitely involved some indoctrination. We met both an illegal settler and a well groomed Palestinian, among others. Serves me right for going on a “Peace, Politics, and Journalism” themed trip rather than good old regular indoctrination. Any birthright participant with half a brain should expect at least a little bit of bias. It’s not like the people who shell out shitloads of money have no agenda. Regardless of one’s politics, though, it’s a great experience and an amazing gift.

  • Harry,
    Would you be surprised that 5 people out of my entire taglit group knew what teffillin were? What if i told you one was in rabbinical school, one was a rabbi’s daughter, and the another has been called “convert boy” by at least 2 Jewlicious contributors?
    In that context it isn’t really shocking that one dude threw a massive fit over the food situation.

  • Yay! Har Ben-Tal! I was there on the March of the Living trip that I went on three weeks ago! 🙂 Did you guys get to walk through the underground bunkers? We also went on a jeep trek through the Golan, and visited Tel Dan nature/archeological reserve.

    I’m telling all my friends: go do Birthright while its still around. It might not be around for much longer…

  • I encountered one Taglit group led by a demented-looking Kahanist rabbi and rebbitzen (rabbi wearing a Kach necklace, no less) so YMMV.

    What mall is that, by the way — Kiryat Shmona?

  • TM-I didn’t mean to say with my relating of the “convert boy” bit that it was said in a demeaning way by any means.. i was trying to highlight the irony of the situation more jokingly, which always comes across well on the internet 🙂

  • I just got back from a Birthright trip, and I made it a point to eat at a McDonald’s and Burger King — once each. I wanted to compare them to their American counterparts and to see if kosher fast-food tasted different. McDonald’s burger tasted different but good, while Burger King’s burger tasted different but bad. BK’s portions were also obscenely huge compared to America, but this franchise was at a Jerusalem mall. The fries were pretty much the same.

    Nothing wrong with seeing the difference out of curiosity.

  • CK, as a religious and Reform Jew, I’m also concerned about your specific mention that it was the Reform Jews who chose to eat at McDonald’s.

    Was that a slight dig at Reform Jews, or were you just reporting what happened with the intention of leaving it up to the readers to interpret as they see fit?

  • P.S. Thanks for blogging each day of your trip. I’m doing the same thing (though, after the fact) on my blog, and it’ll be interesting to compare what the various trips were like.

    I went with the Reform movement’s trip — Kesher — and I wonder what the experience would have been like with another provider, for better or for worse.

  • Sam-I agree. I read the “reform kids went to McDonalds” yesterday and didn’t comment. It really got under my skin. My last roommate was Conservative, but he was the one who brought home bacon cheeseburgers, not me. I feel for the reform kids on the trip if they are picking up on this vibe.

  • Sorry about the Reform kids thing. My position on Reform and Conservative Judaism is well documented – I am not a member of either stream because I don’t believe in them. I try to be as respectful as possible though, but I’m not going to pussyfoot around the issue and try to be all politically correct about it. I am straightforward and honest with the trip participants and I do not try to impose anything on them. Identifying with Orthodox Judaism means that you do not identify with the other streams. So far I haven’t insulted anyone and the participants seem cool with that. My co-madrich Shaanan is Conservative and his Dad is a Conservative Rabbi and we all get along fine with the participants and with each other. No need to feel bad for the “kids” they are having the time of their lives.

  • Identifying with Orthodox Judaism means you do not identify with other Orthodox either. Oops, I meant to say if you’re the Chief rabbi of Israel and you have to deal with those pesky North American pseudo-Orthodox. 😀

  • One reason to be excited about McDonald’s in Israel is if you keep kosher and don’t get to eat at McDonald’s back home. (I can only assume that this is what CK meant with his reference to “reform kids”.) Of course, this euphoria is short-lived, once you realize that, kosher or not, McDonald’s still sucks.

  • TM wrote: “Identifying with Orthodox Judaism means you do not identify with other Orthodox either.” Uh… no. It’s like Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai. I may hold by Beit Hillel but I still respect Beit Shamai and would never say they are wrong. I don’t believe in any stream of Judaism that doesn’t believe in Torah Mi’Sinai, allows driving on Shabbat and no longer follows kashrut – for starters. Other folks can believe whatever they like and live however they choose, but that’s me.

    As for the reform kids, they jjust wanted to eat something they were familiar with – given that they eat McDonalds and treiff all the time back home.