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Almost Home

Abbi and Ilana go to the Motherland (and it’s not Long Island)

Sara Ivry
April 14, 2016

It makes sense that Abbi and Ilana are boarding an “El Ol” flight as participants in a heritage tour to Israel. We learn of their destination in “Getting There,” the latest from planet Broad City, after they’ve been tortured by subway delays and odors, forgotten passports, broken shoes, busted suitcases, a besotted 15-year-old taxi driver from Queens who shocks them with his multi-colored “fuck bracelets,” and a bitch of an airline employee, a ringer for Cokie Roberts who yells after them, “You are two lucky Jews!”

The young ladies are at a crossroads after their respective relationship ruptures (honk if you like my alliteration game), and what better way to fill the void, to help them regroup, than a free trip abroad? By which I mean, a profound trip that’ll introduce them to fresh sights and sounds and ideas about their own identity and their own responsibility to the continuity of the Jewish people. You know, Birthright.

“It’s about Israel,” Abbi tells Ilana, not about meeting new people. To hell with that; new people could pull them apart. Israel, Abbi explains as if she spent a lifetime at USY conventions, is “like Africa for Jews. It’s about our souls. We’re going to find ourselves in the motherland.”

Abbi’s never before demonstrated such Zionist zeal. But this is a show that thrives on surprise. To wit: Ilana is wearing jeans with an old period stain (“it’s a red herring ’cause it’s red and looks like a fish kinda”) as a decoy since she’s shoved some weed up her hoo-ha. Abbi engages in a cannibalistic fantasy having to do with an adorable pudge of a baby on the train.

Their tour is called Birthmark, an homage to the project that has brought an estimated half a million Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 to Israel. Birthmark is arguably a more fitting name, though, for the trip. Jewishness as a port-wine stain. A tattoo. It is, isn’t it, in a sense? Jewishness as a discrete sensibility? Or as a burden? Sometimes a joy?

Though I’ve visited Israel, I’ve not been on a Birthright trip (have Abbi and Ilana irl?), so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the parody, though it seems credible, if not entertaining and also who cares if it rings true, ultimately? This is their show. Their vision.

Behold, therefore, a coach class full of young Jews in t-shirts with Stars of David on them, fist-pumping and chanting in unison, “Jew! Jew! Jew!” They look far more nebbishy than the bro-like partiers I imagine when I think of Birthright, but maybe once they land they’ll turn from frogs into royalty. They’ll shed their shirts, like Jaime does earlier, and flex bursting biceps, show off immaculate wax jobs. All that hummus and sea air. All that righteous pride. It can change a person.

Abbi and Ilana are greeted by Jared the fabu Seth Green with a yarmulke on his long, fiery locks, who explains, “For the next 10 days, we will be traveling around the holiest place in the world—Israel. Our beautiful country will teach you all about Judaism, its rich history, and I’m looking at the two of you—its reproductive future.” That last he says while stroking Abbi’s cheek. Judaism: It’s about getting it on. “We’re almost home,” he says.

Next week is the season’s finale. Almost home, my people. Almost there.

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.