Registration for Summer 2011 Taglit Birthright Israel trips is right around the corner. Previous applicants can begin their registration on Monday, February 14th at Noon EST and general registration begins on Tuesday, February 15th at 10 am. The Birthright Israel web site is full of information meant to help you prepare for and make the most out of your trip. Often dubbed “Birthrate Israel”, oddly enough, the information you are least likely to find relates to sex. Consequently, as a public service, I put together this little guide to educate the next cohort of Birthright participants about the ways of ahava (love) on their trip.
Condoms/Birth Control/STDs: With a GDP of $30,000 per capita, Israel is not considered a poor or developing nation. And yet, in many ways Israel often acts like a third world banana republic. How so? International trademark and copyright laws are rarely enforced. Merchants openly sell knock off name brand products and pirated DVDs – not as much as in the Far East or in Chinatown in NYC but often enough that it’s readily visible. One of the products that often get knocked off are name brand condoms. Usually sold in corner bodegas or makolets, these condoms are unreliable and poorly manufactured. When in Israel, if you plan on being sexually active, only buy condoms from large pharmacies like SuperPharm or better yet, bring a freshly purchased stash from home.
Should the condom break during sex, and you fear an unwanted pregnancy, Morning after pills are readily available over the counter at most pharmacies in Israel. These are effective up to 72 hours after sex and cost about 125 NIS or about $33 each. If you are a woman on birth control and you are about to hook up with an Israeli man, don’t tell him as sometimes Israeli men will latch on to any excuse not to use a condom. Remember, birth control pills do not protect against STDs. And boys? If you manage to hook up with an Israeli woman, while they tend to be more sensible, they too often prefer to ride bareback. Don’t do it. Jews get STDs too!
Other than that, the regular rules apply. Get condoms with spermicide like nonoxynol-9 and if you have to use lube, use a water-based lubricant to avoid damaging the condom.
Sex on the Trip
Now that that’s out of the way, what kind of sex goes on on the trip? While Birthright Israel has a reputation for encouraging hook ups, the reality is not quite as straightforward. On a typical ten-day trip, participants tour from early morning till late at night on most days. It’s a grueling pace and if you factor in late night drinking and 2-3 people to a room, actually being able to have full-on sex is quite challenging. Your typical Birthright Israel participant is many things, but when it comes to getting it on, one thing they are not is uninventive! What then are the chances of and issues related to sex with the sorts of people one is likely to come into contact with on a Birthright Israel trip?
Most Birthright Israel trips are joined by a group of Israeli soldiers for 5 of the ten days of the trip. Being able to join a Birthright Israel trip is a very coveted privilege in the IDF. Most of the soldiers are close to the end of their mandatory service period and getting a 5-day reprieve from Army food and Army work is fantastic, let alone the opportunity to travel the country in relatively high style while interacting with young Jews eager to learn more about Israel.
For the male soldiers the possibility of uncomplicated sex with their choice of dozens of exotic foreigners serves as added incentive to join the trip. In Israel, being a soldier is a very common thing, but in the eyes of new friends, their otherwise humble service takes on heroic and very sexy dimensions!
But approach with caution. These men, well… boys really, have prodigious appetites, especially if they are in a combat unit. It’s not unheard of for one soldier to hook up with more than one female participant. Furthermore, you ought not underestimate how much more attractive you are to them by sole virtue of your American passport and apartment in the US. You see, it’s not uncommon for young Israelis to take a year or two off after the army in order to travel and/or work in the US. In the ordinary course of events they are willing to do the hardest work while living in cramped apartments shared with other Israelis. Your passport and apartment are the key to a comfortable stay in the US – especially if you live in New York or LA. Yes, they can be that mercenary.
Try not to be swept away by your perception of romance. If you think your interaction with one of these soldiers represents the budding of true love, then take it slowly, gauge their sincerity and don’t rush into anything that might leave you hurt or disappointed. If on the other hand, you just want to fuck an Israeli soldier, then by all means, go for it. But again, be cautious – while Israeli men are rapacious they sometimes form attachments quickly and what you thought was a quickie turns into something else when Shimon soldier starts asking you how many kids you think you’re going to want to have. With him.
And what of the storied sexy female soldiers of the IDF? As you can imagine, the IDF is a very male dominated institution. Its female members often have to deal with unwanted advances from overly macho warriors. This gives them an accelerated understanding of the male species and if you are going to try to make a move on her you better have your very, very best game on. And it will be an uphill battle given that compared to the men she is used to, you are quite literally a child – soft in the middle and tremendously immature. Israeli women are supremely sensible compared to their male counterparts and are not known for their promiscuity. If you manage to get anything off of them, consider yourself a master.
As an addendum, you may meet Israeli soldiers or former Israeli soldiers in bars, cafes or restaurants during or after your trip. If they tell you or even hint that they were in a top-secret elite unit, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they weren’t.
These are your trip counselors. Most trips have one male and one female counselor. Their job is to make sure the trip runs smoothly, that participants are informed of schedules, that everyone wakes up on time and that no one gets too drunk. If they get caught sleeping with a participant, they will be summarily and unceremoniously fired. You may be attracted to their idealism, their knowledge of and passion for Israel or the forbidden nature of a possible dalliance. But do everyone a favor, try to keep it in your pants until after the trip. Participant, madrich “encounters” are discouraged because of their potential to be very disruptive to a trip. A madrich or madricha has to be attentive to the needs of all the participants and their ability to do that is diminished if they are cooing over someone, showing favoritism or if they disappear every night to have sex with the object of their affection. If you do not heed my advice and have sex with your madrich or madricha, please at least exercise extreme discretion for the sake of everyone involved and try not to be clingy or too obvious, ok? But seriously, don’t do it.
No. If caught they will lose their jobs and be blacklisted.
They are usually young Israelis recently released from the Army, trying to make a little cash before they begin their University studies. They are usually quiet and reserved and are working in this poorly paying job because they really need the money. If they have sex with a participant they too will lose their job and get fired. Wait until after the trip, extend your ticket and do what you like, but during the trip, leave these people alone.
No. Are you insane???
Fellow Trip participants
These are usually your safest bet for sex. The shared experience of seeing Israel for the first time creates a strong, albeit fleeting bond which can translate into sex. It will be easier for you to finagle your own room if the person you are fucking is on your trip. And it might even be fun as long as you are aware of the potential pitfalls of vacation sex. That sudden bond you feel with the other person might be artificial, fueled by your shared experiences or by a night of hard drinking. If you do not require substance then it’s ok, but if you think your encounter might be serious, I mean people have married each other after meeting on Birthright, then taking it slow might not be such a bad idea.
That having been said, the outside perception of Birthright trips being giant drunken orgies is actually grossly exaggerated. Based on my large trove of anecdotal evidence and personal experience, the vast majority of people participating in Birthright do not have sex on the trip. The amount of sexual activity taking place may be slightly above average, but not by that much. If you are a guy please know that Birthright sex is not a given – try not to be too disappointed if you don’t score, but do feel free to lie to your buddies back home about how much hooking up you managed – sex sells after all! If you’re a gal, it might be a touch easier for you to have sex but like in all things, nothing good is easy to come by.
Please keep in mind that your Taglit Birthright Israel trip is a brief and unique experience. You should make the most of your 10 days, try to extend your ticket and see a little more of the country. If in the midst of it all, you manage some sex, try to make sure it is good and please make it safe!