Eating on Birthright has been something of an afterthought. The meals come on a regular schedule, and there’s never really a shortage of food, but overall it just hasn’t been the focus, and every time we sit down to eat, it feels first and foremost like a break from activity, rather than an activity in and of itself. Yesterday, for instance, began at 3:45 a.m. with tea and graham crackers at the Bedouin camp. Then, around 7:30, we were given a brown-bag breakfast at the Ein Gede nature preserve consisting of a cucumber, a small apple, and a cheese, lettuce, and pickle lettuce sandwich. Lunch was at the spa by the Dead Sea, where Yoav gave us big red coupons good for a plate of schnitzel, fries, salad, and a bottle of water for a reduced rate of 35 shekels. The day ended with a relatively elaborate buffet-style affair at our hotel in Jerusalem, where we filled up on rice, sampled a variety of meats, and even took our pick of multiple desert options.
In every case, we knew we were eating authentic Israeli fare, but we weren’t beaten over the head with the fact, like you might expect. It was remarkably easy to get used to—so much so that when I heard this morning that our trip-mate Joey, a 21-year-old from Long Island, closed out his evening at 1:30 in the morning with a pizza from Domino’s, it kind of threw me for a loop. What does a pizza from Domino’s look like in Israel? Is it as generic and straightforward as American Domino’s, or do they make it in some special way? And how did Joey get his hands on a Domino’s pizza at 1:30 in the morning, anyway?
It turned out Joey and his roommates had been hanging out at the hotel bar when they realized that, despite all the schnitzel, olives, and hummus they’d consumed throughout the day, they still needed a little something before going to bed.
“I’d had a few drinks, and I was on my phone on the Wi-Fi, and I was just like, ‘I’m hungry—how can I eat?’ ” Joey told me. “So, I call up Domino’s and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I need food right now.’ ”
They asked him where he was and he told them. Some time later, a fellow arrived bearing a large cheese pizza, for which Joey handed over a whopping 90 shekels—77 for the pizza itself and 13 for the tip. The purchase, which amounts to roughly $24, turned out to be a disappointment.
“It literally tasted like matzo with like, tomato sauce and a little parmesan cheese on it,” Joey said. “It was horrible. But it did the trick.”
When Joey finished eating, he took the empty pizza box and, perhaps in an act of vengeance, “threw it in the middle of the hallway, college dorm style.”
Some stories always end the same way, no matter what country you’re in.