[Have I mentioned how much I hate the fact that the official spelling for “birthright” is a lowercase letter? It’s just wrong, I tell you. That said…]

The Jerusalem Post has a new section on its site [not “it’s sight”] for blog posts about birthright israel, sponsored by birthright israel. Read the personal stories of birthright participants for whom the ten-day trip created a lasting bond to the State of Israel.

Of course, Jewlicious is no Johnny-come-lately to the birthright game. Laya and CK just returned from their Oranim birthright trip, and in a week, Michael and I begin our excursion. I’ve touched base with a lot of the participants who will be joining our Oranim bus, and the prevailing feeling is one of anticipation. The level of excitement is building, with participants on our bus (including five sets of siblings) hailing from Idaho, Louisiana, Illinois, Los Angeles, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and, of course, New York.

After a month of stressing about finding a subletter for my apartment, I’m finally set, so I can start stressing about packing. But I’m confident that once we’re en route, the enthusiasm will overtake the anxiety and carry me through. It’s been five years since I’ve been to Israel, and more years than I can count since I spent time touring the length and breadth of the country on a bus.

I’m wearing my Tevas, and getting ready to go. More birthright blogging to come.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

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


  • Just had a wierd-ish Oranim experience the other day. I was with a good friend of mine who is, incidentally, an experienced tour guide. We were walking back from synagogue (in Tel Aviv) and passed a large group coming out of a Ben Yehuda hotel.

    More or less the conversation following the spotting:
    Friend: Birthright group.
    Me: Really? How do you know?
    Friend goes on to explain–demographics, level of hotel, huge size of group, etc.
    Friend: It is sad–they have 10 days in Israel and their one Shabbat-for a lot of them the only Shabbat experience they may ever have- they spend on the beach in Tel Aviv as opposed to Jerusalem.
    Me: You are right, why do they do that?
    Friend: It is Oranim. (She went on to give a bit of background which I do not remember). And people wonder why younger Jews are so disconnected, even after the Birthright trip.

    I have to admit, I was sceptical–I found it hard to believe that Birthright would condone this. But later on that afternoon, while we were sitting on the beach (yes, on the beach, but I am already committed enough to live in Israel), I hear an announcement over the ramkol:

    “Oranim–it is AFTER 4:30”.

    So what IS the point of the Birthright trips? Why are donors and the Israeli government donating gazillions of dollars to fund it? To give Jews a free lark at the beach so the kiddies will remember the cool vacation (which they could have on their own dime in Mexico-lots of beaches and historical stuff there) or to give them a free immersion in their history, homeland, religion and culture so that said kiddies might actually be fired up enough to be involved when vacation is over? Now as much as I love Tel Aviv and its beaches, and as happy as I am to no longer live in J’lem, the last time I checked, the Hof Gordon was open on Sundays as well. Reform, Orthodox, Conservative or whatever…if you want to really do Shabbat in proper “stir up the Jewish part of you” style–the place to be is Jerusalem.

    CK, Laya–pleeeeeze tell me that your Oranim Birthright trip does Shabbat some justice!

  • But what IS “Shabbat in proper” for your average Israeli? Shabbat in the Old City? Not the Israelis I know.

  • Our Oranim Shabbat experience involved candle lighting on a roof in the old city and then kabbalat shabbat at the Kotel. For shabbat lunch we did home hospitality with young religious families in Jerusalem. It may not have been a typically Israeli shabbat as Harry pointed out, but even the surly, cynical Israeli soldiers were touched by the experience. The trip is really all about getting people in touch with their Jewish roots and in that respect, a meaningful shabbat experience in Jerusalem is where it’s at – please leave your sectarian strife at the doorstep, thank you.

  • CK-now that sounds more like it! And Sunday, come visit my beach!

    Harry-the point is not to have an “Israeli” experience, but rather a Jewish one. Besides, a lot of those secular Israelis are going home every last Erev Shishi to do dinner with the family–they are doing some Shabbat whether they know it or not!

  • Ester, CK has my contact info–would love to meet up. Actually, I will text him with contact info, just to be on the safe side.

  • Daphna, you won’t get any arguments from me, Shabbat in Jerusalem is the way to go, especially when you only have ten days.

    Daphna, I’ll be extending my trip, so if you wanna meet up, lemme know…

  • Ani choshev sheh Teva kvar lo kayam? Ha Sandalim hachi tovim achshav hem “Naot”?

    She yihiyeh lach, tissah vi tiyul naim vitov, maleh chavayot vi bisurroat tovot

  • birthright Israel has to use the lower case b because of a compromise with another group that had the word “birthright” in its name, and was first. bri HAS to use the lower case b. They don’t necessarily like to. It’s a legal thing, a copyright thing.

    You are so right about Shabbat. It’s core.

  • Ani choshev sheh Teva kvar lo kayam? Ha Sandalim hachi tovim achshav hem “Naot”?

    They are one and the same:

    Teva Naot

    Wearing mine as I type! 🙂

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