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Hooking Up in the Holy Land

The social dynamic of our Birthright Israel trip, before the soldiers and after

Matthew Schwartz
June 21, 2012

The social dynamic of our Birthright Israel trip has been pretty interesting. Though we all came to Israel with different intentions and goals, there’s always something in the back of people’s minds while on this trip—sex.

We’ve all heard the rumors and stories of Birthrighters drinking too much and engaging in sexual acts with their fellow trip-goers and new Israeli companions. But what really happens?

The trip is made up of mostly twentysomething Americans who grew up with similar Western values and have many shared cultural experiences, including hooking up. It’s a social experiment, taking 50 young people away from their family, friends, and significant others for 10 full days, keeping them sleep-deprived and in close quarters.

As the trip unfolded, it turned more and more into a high-school social environment. Conversations of who is hot (and who isn’t) dominated lunch talk and seemed close to completely overshadowing anything culturally significant. Flirting devolved to an elementary level, becoming more and more obvious and painful to watch. We basically turned into preteens who hadn’t been bar mitzvahed yet (a rite of passage we’ve already taken care of).

Things really changed when our Mifgash started, and eight Israeli soldiers joined the group. Friendships that flourished for the first three days were left in shambles following the addition of the “hot” new soldiers. I overheard one girl say, “They’re all hot, I would do all of them.” This is certainly not just a one-sided thought. I believe about 85 percent of the males on this trip were looking forward to seeing some “hot Israeli chicks.” We weren’t disappointed (though two of them were reds).

After five days spent desperately wooing the soldiers, it was time to bid them farewell. With so many potential romances unfulfilled, goodbyes were especially painful. Suddenly our group lacked that certain je ne sais quoi—how do you say that in Hebrew?

Sexual tensions may have been escalating, but still no one seemed to be acting on them. Things were pretty tame … up until the last night. With the pressure on and our departure imminent, the gloves (read: pants) came off. We threw caution to the wind and M&M distinctions out the window for one last night in the holiest of lands. Hopefully the bus ride to Ben Gurion airport wasn’t too awkward for anyone. Yowza.

Matthew Schwartz, 24, is from New Jersey and has a humor blog.

Matthew Schwartz, 24, is from New Jersey and has a humor blog.

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