There are a lot of people that want to be Taglit-birthright israel madrichim (trip leaders). They figure it’s a “free” trip to Israel and all you have to do is go on an all expenses paid excursion with 40 adults. Easy as pie!

So. Not. True.

It’s hard work. You must remain constantly vigilant, you are often the 1st one up in the morning and the last one to sleep at night. You have to be knowledgeable and cheerfully informative and you also have to go on every single hike while attempting to answer every manner of question. But I guess it’s worth it when you see something you say resonate with the group or an individual. And this applies even though I am very tired, beat and have 3 hikes to look forward to tomorrow. Well, today actually.

Today (yesterday?) was a pretty cool day. We visited an army base near the Syrian/Lebanese border. There we talked to a self effacing Israel reservist who acted as our guide. I know I illustrated this post with what one might think are photos meant to fetishize the military but really, there was nothing glamorous about this base. Nor was there anything macho about the soldiers we met. They emphasized the fact that they were there to do a job, namely to protect the physical integrity of the State, and but for the constant threats, they’d rather be anywhere but there.

The nature of the threat was well demonstrated on our hikes up the Golan and Har Bental where we saw just how close the enemy was in 1967, 1973, 1981, last summer and today. It was, as it always is, a rather sobering experience.

We also went rafting down the mighty Jordan River! Man was that scary! There were some trip participants who had done some extreme white water rafting in places like New Zealand and uh… Montana. And even they weren’t prepared for the ferocity of the current.

OK. So I lied. The Jordan River is not mighty at all. It was like taking a relaxing nap on a moving water bed. But still, it was fun and I hardly got splashed at all.

Yael our tour guide seems to be going crazy so we went out for a relaxing dinner in Tiberias. I had the fish fillet. It was ok. These guys however had a TON of meat. It looked very appetizing. Can you tell I need some sleep?

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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.


  • hmm, interesting, I always am amazed at how quiet it is up there for such a contested area. Did you see the rock pile zig zag things the Israelis made on the roads near the Syrains? What a cool idea. Or the wind turbines? Neat area. Talk to some UNDOF guys to get the otherish side of the story.

    And um, I hope you were being silly when you called it the mighty Jordan. We have higher classed rapid on the mighty Hudson than any river in the mid-east and that doeant even touch the ones in Canada or the other side of the con-div.

  • ten days with unruly college kids? PEH…. try six weeks with unruly 16 year olds….
    being a madrich/a is hard work… very hard work… but being able to have an affect on jews from outside israel …. then to me its all worth the crazy lack of sleep with intense hiking.