The Topic At Hand: How Do You Like Your Eggs?

All you have to do to get a free trip to Israel from the Birthright organization is be a Jew. The innocent claim of the organization is that all young Jews (18-26) who haven’t seen Israel should see Israel. You don’t have to be religious. You don’t even have to be practicing. They don’t care if you discovered philosophy as a junior in college, and soon after discovered that all the cute boys were atheists and became one yourself. They don’t care if you called your parents up one day to say, “I’m forsaking Judaism.” They just care if one of those parents is Jewish. Or so they say.

Both of my parents are Jewish. They were relatively unimpressed by my rejection of our faith; I remember my junior year when I received a voicemail from my father, half chirping, half chiding: Hi Rachie, it’s your Daddy…I know you’ve forsaken Judaism, but I just wanted to call and wish you a Happy Hannukah, anyway, Sweetheart.”

I was aggravated by this, but a year later, I was willing to do whatever it took to get a free vacation, including pretending that I might still believe in God if I heard the right argument. In my first interview with Birthright staff, I got the vibe that this was what they wanted to hear.

Israel Mount

Approaching Masada.

I sensed they wanted more than a Jewish ancestor. They wanted me. In the interview with the Birthright people, they asked, “What’s the reason you want to go to Israel?” Rather than admit it was to compensate for graduating Penn without marrying a doctor, I looked at the woman with wide eyes and said, “Well, when I was in college, I gave up Judaism. But now that I’m graduating, I want to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.” I should have just worn a shirt that said: “Yes, I’d love a glass of punch! And a refill.”

But the truth was, I sort of believed my own story. After all, I didn’t have a job lined up for the fall. Maybe there was a God, and he was punishing me for dating a Catholic for the first two years of college and spending the second two hopelessly in love with an atheist, lapsed Jew. Maybe if I apologized to God for denying his existence, he’d send me a life plan. Maybe the answer to all my questions was Israel.

Me and my new friends, dancing the Hora.

Me and my new friends, dancing the Hora.

The Birthright organization bent over backwards to convince me that my suspicion was true. Once we got off the plane, our trip leaders told us we were home, and taught us Hebrew words. They gave us all the wine we wanted at dinner and led us in trust games to prove that all Jews shared a bond.

Never mind that I hate trust games—I liked looking at the Mosque in Jerusalem. I wanted to sneak into the Arab quarter. I was the only member of the trip not to cry at the Holocaust memorial. I befriended the two most cynical boys on the trip and fiercely noted every instance of apparent brainwashing attempts.

I was determined to resist, but the fates, and the Birthright organization, were equally determined to break me. It started with some persuasive speakers—leaders, writers. They didn’t just talk about Israel. They talked about love. They focused on a love of Israel and Judaism. They talked about what a challenging relationship it was: one filled with deep sacrifices and rich rewards. Although I had forsaken Judaism in college, I had embraced challenging relationships rife with sacrifice. Against my better judgment, I was intrigued. I started to look around for something to love.


Noah's Ark, rendered as a candle, in a shop in Safed.

At 26, Sam was the oldest guy on our trip, and I immediately perceived that he was going to be the perfect Jewish husband to some very lucky, very manicured young woman some day. I gave him a try. I walked around Jerusalem with him and helped him choose gifts for his family. I complained while he haggled prices, and openly resented his cheesy sense of humor. I thought, “this could be your life, married to the perfect Jewish MBA, embarrassing in public and mediocre in bed.” I started to get uneasy thinking about a passionless marriage with Sam. I soothed myself by arguing that marriage was just an entertaining convenience, like cable. I remembered I didn’t watch TV. My heart was suddenly pounding, and not in that way.

I was on the verge of hyperventilating when the trip leaders introduced the Israeli soldiers that would travel with us, ostensibly to teach us about life in Israel. However, I suspected it was more of an attempt to infuse Birthrighters with subliminal positive feelings about the State. “Sure! Bomb all the Palestinians you want! With biceps like those, who needs peace in the Middle East?”

Soon after they joined us, I found myself bored at the Western Wall after placing my note: a love letter to Indiana Jones. My wandering eyes (don’t let them see you looking at the Mosque!) landed on a green-eyed, tanned, skinny and serious-seeming soldier, who was, in my opinion, begging for a batty extrovert like me to help him come out his shell. It took a lot of long meaningful stares, but eventually I got his attention. By the time our caravan had migrated to a Bedouin tent in the desert, we had started to talk.

He was quiet and thoughtful, but sometimes hilarious. He invited me to ride a camel with him and I pretended that I was being shipped away for an arranged marriage, which would ideally be more exciting than the one I envisioned with Sam. He loved music, he knew how to be silly and was willing to learn yoga. Unfortunately for the Birthright crew, I discovered that he was also desperately depressed about being in the army and wanted to get out of Israel. He gave me his e-mail address. I threw it away.

But Birthright had a back-up plan: instilling a love of the land, and I found the desert compelling. They took us to a tree farm and gave each of us a sprout. When we planted them, I crouched in the dirt and sang mine songs and told it stories. I told it everything I wanted to hear: that it should strive for happiness before perfection, and that the future was nothing to fear. I found myself wanting to stay. I had discovered a love of dirt.

Western Wall

The Western Wall. Don't let them catch you looking at the mosque!

A few days later, we visited an onion farm owned by Europe’s wealthiest patent lawyer who donated all the food to charity. After an hour of farming, I was hooked. I announced that I was ready to move. Little did I know, it wouldn’t be hard to do. The Lawyer-Farmer needed no convincing before offering me a job where I’d spend half the day as a paralegal and half the day farming. He handed me his card. I was effusive. I was wanted – by Israel, by the Jews. For the first time in a long time, I belonged.

I was skipping as his office assistant walked us out. Her head was covered and she wore a long skirt in the sweltering heat. “I came here after college,” she told me, “to work on the farm and in the office. I was totally secular. First I met my husband, an Israeli. Then I became Orthodox.” I stopped skipping. When they want you, I realized, they really want all of you.

But it was two nights later when I realized what they really wanted, and two nights later when I vowed it was something they would never get. On the last night of the trip, they threw a colossal concert at a stadium on a plateau for all the thousands of young Jews traveling through Israel on a Birthright trip. By that point, I was fully on board. I led my trip-mates and a random group of soldiers through in a Hora. Our leaders beamed at me. “You are perfect,” they said. I forgot the advice I had given my little sprout. I loved hearing it. Then the man who funded much of the organization started talking. Over a loudspeaker, he explained to us what they really wanted: “Seven Jewish children,” he calculated, “is how many you all need to have to compensate for the loss of the Holocaust.”

Now, unlike some other Jewish women, I do not have birthing hips. Nor do I like to think of myself as a baby farm. But they were courting me for my eggs. And not just one or two eggs like the personal ads for childless couples seeking women over 5’10” with high SAT scores. They wanted seven of them. And when my eggs became little people, they probably wanted me to spend all my time scaring them with stories about the Holocaust and teaching them to hate Arabs.

For a few minutes, I was crushed. All the people who claimed to like me actually just liked my potential offspring. And they wanted to be able to tell my children what to think, just like they’d been telling me for the past 10 days. Although I had been nearly convinced to change my own life, I was inflexible when it came to how I wanted my eggs.

I liked the autonomy of onion farming, but not as much as I like having autonomous rule over my own womb. So I decided not to make the big move. I left Israel with a great tan, the ability to say the word threesome in Hebrew, and a mezzuzah for my dad. And although I cannot offer up my body as a vessel for the line of Abraham, I am very grateful for the free vacation.

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35 responses to “eggs, milk, honey”

  1. Amy Meckler says:

    I’ve never taken one of those trips for that very reason. Super scary. I wish being Jewish didn’t mean you were expected to agree with all of Israel’s policies and have to repopulate the earth with more Jews.

  2. AFS says:

    So what is “threesome” in Hebrew?

    Re: mediocre sex comment: the best sex I ever had was with a Seth Rogen-esque Jewish guy.

  3. Rachel says:

    Fundies is fundies is fundies. Enjoyed the essay.

  4. dee says:

    do we really think that they are so conniving? i have never heard it said that we have to agree with all of “their” policies. i guess when we don’t repopulate that will be that and then we wont have the Jews to kick around anymore for being so kind to invite those of the heritage to visit and see and learn something about their culture

  5. For some of us, the pressure we experience growing up to focus our energies and emotions on the plight and continuance of the culture into which we were born is hard to bear. It’s a relief to encounter others who feel the same way.

  6. Eric Eicher says:

    Knowing nothing about this topic before I read this, I found your story amazing.

    Given what you ultimately decided, do you ever wish that you’d kept the green-eyed soldier’s email address?

  7. It is a shame that you could not just enjoy the trip and not analyze everything in a negative way. Maybe one day you will visit again on your own and take in the beauty of the country and its people.

  8. Monique says:

    Great piece! Very funny, and interesting. Sadly, no-one is courting us lapsed Catholics. I’d definitely sign on for a free trip to the Vatican.

  9. Monique: The Catholic church isn’t paying for you to visit the Vatican, but I’m sure they’ll give you a hand if you want to be a missionary in a third-world country, which is probably a better parallel.

    And you raise an interesting point. If there is a Jewish equivalent to the Vatican, it’s not Jerusalem. I wonder if it’s the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Maybe sending Jews there, to see the real power with which their culture has them aligned, would be more motivating than a trip to Israel.

    But, just as in any other system, the positions for which most eager young people are recruited are not the comfy ones that enjoy the hard-earned privilege, but the ones out on the front lines.

  10. In response to a previous commenter: it’s clear you didn’t have the opportunity to “just enjoy the trip and not analyze it in a negative way,” since the trip as organized involved not just taking in the beauty of the country and its people, but taking in fundamentalist indoctrination.

  11. Catherine says:

    I’d love to leave thought-provoking commentary on the religious issues, but I was too taken with the truism that “perfect” men are embarrassing in public and mediocre in bed. Well put.

  12. Esausti says:

    I learned how to say boobies on my trip.

  13. Arthur Balik says:

    This is extremely well written, probably just as it happened with no plan or outline. I would like to see, read, and hear more about the real “Rachel”
    As for religiosity, it is one of those things, except in rare cases, that comes and goes very much like a cold or a sore or like the weather. The important thing is to try to understand it and its relation to you and others. Some of the most famous Jews were always in doubt about it, including Albert Einstein, who claimed, in his personal notes, that he was on the verge of proving (mathemativally) the existence of God. Think of the good and evil that the world has endured because of religions.

  14. Danny says:

    What a great, fun read. I actually didn’t know about the free Birthright trips. (As a fellow commenter noted, no such luck for lapsed Catholics.)

    I can’t help but wonder what progress would be made if, instead of devoting these financial and ‘spiritual’ resources into convincing young women to reproduce in litters, they tried to get work with their neighbors to move beyond the history of intolerance and violence toward a sustainable way of living with one another.

  15. Sara says:

    I enjoyed this. I read it before bed and then spent the night dreaming I was hiding out, like Anne Frank. In the light of day, though, I keep thinking about dirt and the little tree – one of the most revealing moments in the story. Do you still love dirt?

  16. samantha says:

    hey girl– Your love of onion farming for charity, and your desire to stay and work half-lawyerly, half-farmerly, even if you didn’t, is what I really take from this piece. For me, above all the other BS, being of service to others is the most important tennet of Judaism. Birthright trips are more similar than different (and people were drinkin’ up the kool-aide when I was there too) but I felt as though my trip was infused with a constant mantra of “do something good! Give to others!” You’re a fabulous writer: keep on planting trees and singing songs wherever you go, skip the seven babies. xo

  17. Charles says:

    Sadly, you took one comment too seriously and used it as an excuse to bail out. In Israel, there are millions of secular Jews; as there are countless women who will (rightfully) decide not to have children. For every person in Israel who desires your fertile parts, there are ten more who would tell you that how you procreate is no one’s business but your own. Why base your decision on one person’s thoughtless comment? No one can indoctrinate you wothout your permission.

    I sense great anger in your comments – towards your parents, towards Judaism and towards a society that you view as controlling. Not that I wish to bring up my credentials, but you have a passive-aggressive personality. It’s not difficult for me to spot, because I had one too.

    The world cannot manipulate you without your cooperation. No one would think less of you had you moved to Israel and abandoned the religion, or had no children. Rather than contribute mendacious feelings to those around you, take life by the horns and just be yourself. Look at the mosque. Control your own reproduction. Never feel responsible for rebuilding the Jewish religion with your eggs. But, at the same time, know that only a handful of individuals wish to control you and they cannot accomplish this without your complaince. The vast majority of the world’s population doesn’t care what you do.

    I was young once too (I might be your parent’s age). I too fought society and rebelled against anyone who seemed to want to control me. Eventually, I realized that the world was not out to control me. In fact, only you could allow that to happen.

    I hope that you can find a way to push the anger aside. You are obviously a bright and talented young woman. I wish you a happy and rewarding life (with no one trying to control you). I apologize for this lecture. It’s just that, for a moment, I saw myself in your writing.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage

  18. vve says:

    Really liked the voice in this piece–strong ending. Keep writing–Thanks!

  19. Gil says:

    Allow me to share some thoughts after having read your piece.

    You were born into a faith that is thousands of years old and that has made significant contributions to humanity. A faith whose followers were eroded numerically throughout history by essentially being considered strangers in lands that were not the one from which they’d been exiled, through persecution and assimilation. Today, there are roughly 14 million people worldwide who identify themselves as Jews. Out of more than 6 billion people, hardly a critical mass.

    You say right off the bat that you rejected Judaism early on. My guess (I may be wrong) is that a faith that essentially asked you, on a yearly basis and for no apparent reason, to fast one day, light candles for eight days a few months later, and forsake bread for a few days in the spring (to name but a few things) didn’t exactly resonate with the critical and independent mind and personality that you hoped to cultivate. Hanging on to old and senseless traditions for the sake of hanging on to them didn’t make sense. (By the way, it doesn’t for me either.) And so what other choice could there be than to reject this semblance of an identity that is partially obsessed with food (I forgot to mention the whole ban on pork and seafood) and partially with remembering battles fought millennia ago.

    It is clearly with this mindset that you went on a Birthright program. One according to which all this Jewish identity stuff is useless dribble that will nevertheless be shoved down your throat during the 240 hours that you’ll spend in Israel. It is this mindset that had you seeing shadows where there were none. Not being allowed to look at a mosque? What nonsense. Sam the boring Jewish MBA who’s probably mediocre in bed? Who needs stereotypes about Jews coming from others (I’ll steer clear of the dreaded “anti-S” term) when we can come up with them on our own. Israeli soldiers out to bomb all the Palestinians? Why bother asking them what they think about the conflict. (The variety of answers would have made you dizzy but who needs the headache of subtle hues when black and white is so much more comforting.) The woman who became Orthodox after moving to Israel? Shhhh, don’t tell the 85% or more of Israelis who are fiercely secular and drive to the beach on Saturdays to barbecue meat that is as likely to be kosher as not. And it goes on and on.

    With all due respect, you are the poster girl for Birthright. Your text illustrates exactly what is happening to young Jews all over the world who don’t have the faintest idea of the value and complexity of the faith of which they are the descendants. When something is of no value to you, you rightfully throw it away. And anything, such as a Birthright trip, that reminds you that things are not quite as simple as you think, that challenges your very comfortable (and erroneous) view of Jews and Judaism, is discarded without a second thought. It’s so much easier to believe that Israel is just an enlarged version of everything that turned you off Judaism – a mind-numbing conformism to a worldview that is as narrow as it is devoid of sense – than to dig deeper. You’d be right if it were true.

    My prediction? 100 years from now, there will be those Jews living in Israel, attached to their heritage and faith while fighting for their right to be individuals, living in the very places that marked their common history, and speaking a revived ancient language; and those individuals outside of Israel somehow being reminded that they had a Jewish relative somewhere in their family tree every time they bite into a bagel.

  20. Gil: I agree with your prediction, and I hope that my descendants, if I have any, are the ones eating the bagels. Thanks for commenting.

  21. Gil says:

    Michael: And I hope that my descendants are those that will recognize how humanity is enriched by its cultural diversity, and that reducing cultures – whichever ones they may be – to a couple of recipes is about the stupidest step that could be taken in human history.

    Think about what I sound like when, faced with the tremendous contribution the Greeks have made to civilization, the best thing I can come up with to describe their culture is that they make decent olives.

  22. Rachel B. says:

    I’ve been holding off on responding until now, although there have been many provocative comments. I’m jumping in now because while I think others slightly misinterpreted me, Gil got me totally and completely wrong. How he deduced that I decided to give up Judaism because I refuse to give up bread for 8 days and fail to realize the beauty of the Hebrew language or the accomplishments of the people is beyond me. And while I’ve always wanted to be a poster girl, at 26, I’m too old to model, so it seems a defense is in order.

    The reality is, my critics have both missed out on a part of what is already in the essay and drawn attention to things I left out. Right off the bat, anyone who thinks I didn’t love Israel should please go back and re-read the third quarter of my essay. I worked hard to write it, and I’d so appreciate if people took a quick glance before lambasting me.

    Israel was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but based on careful observations, many conversations with Israelis-and yes, the oppressive vibe I felt on my birthright trip- I believe that we will never have peace or fairness there while it is a Jewish state. One of the stories I left out was a conversation I had with a 19 year old female soldier, with whom I formed a close friendship. We walked down Mt. Massada together-and I asked her as many questions as I could. She told me hated the army and hated her life. She told me she had friends who were in jail for evading, and that she was afraid of jail. She cried. She told me that she believed there would never be peace in Israel. “What about a two-party state?” I asked. “If we let them in, they will kill us,” she said. “They will always hate us. We have to kill them first, so we will be fighting forever.” “What’s here for you, then?” I asked. “Are you here to practice Judaism?” “I’m not religious,” she explained. “Judaism is a nationality. This is our land.”

    So, yes, 85 percent of Jews in Israel are secular. That’s exactly the point. We are not fighting for religious freedom. We’re fighting a nasty senseless power struggle that has gotten way out of hand. I believe my soldier friend that “they” will kill “us” if we let “them” live here. But maybe the solution is work on how to live together rather than keep “them” out. The belief that Arabs are too crazy to negotiate with (yes, that’s the message I got on birthright) is not a particularly evolved or generous one. From what I can tell, a country that was established to compensate for a great act of hatred (the Holocaust) is now a nexus of hatred itself. Maybe that’s why I resented being told to have seven Jewish babies to “fix” the Holocaust. The aspects of Judaism that I still cherish (yes, there are many) would encourage me to redeem the ills of the Holocaust by working for peace and intellectual freedom, not by putting more strain on an already over-populated, troubled world. But that doesn’t mean I hate Israel.

    Israel was so full of passionate people that the land itself seemed to exude a supernatural force. I was completely captivated by it, I craved it, I tried to imbibe it, but I was also alarmed at the direction that force is taking.

    Some of that direction was conveyed on my trip. Was I told not to look at the Mosque? Not in so many words. We didn’t get go near it, though. And I was told negative things about it, and the people who went there. Everything I heard was “us” and “them.” I was told not to put one foot in the Arab quarter. I was shown the street where our quarter ended and warned not to buy one thing from a store on the next block.

    And as for “forsaking Judaism” that was an accurate report of what I said and felt at the time, and was meant to be slightly self mocking and retrospective. But I grew up voluntarily leading synagogue services, attended Hebrew school and youth group long after my bat mitzvah and fasted on Yom Kippur without err from age 6-20. I respect and value Jewish traditions and texts.

    I still go to some portion of our family holiday dinners. I will usually read the four questions when called upon to do so. I value the commitment to intelligent questioning that appears so frequently in Jewish philosophy. But politically, ideologically and socially, I find that there are beliefs and practices that I wish to disassociate from.

    Many of those are exemplified by certain elements of fanaticism that were present on my birthright trip. Giving up Judaism was not an act of laziness or disregard but a statement. The Judaism I would hypothetically partake in fosters free thought and free thinking. My birthright trip did not encourage free thinking, and nor does Judaism as I have seen it manifested as of late. Thus, it’s a statement I still stand by.

    That said: yes, Sara, I still love dirt. I still love the pistachio plant I planted, the women who ran the candle store in Sefad, the sight of the sun rising as I climbed Massada, and the stars outside our Bedouin tent. I love the old Turkish woman on the docks who singled me out from our group to tell me the story of her immigration. I love the hora—on a mountain in Israel or at my cousin’s wedding. I had startling, wise and tender conversations with everyone on my trip, and met one of my greatest friends and kindred spirit there. (We bonded because we both thought we were being brainwashed..)

    But I believe my foremost responsibility is to stand up for the ideals I believe in. Perhaps I didn’t take the right tone to do so, but I wanted to provoke thought and conversation without explicitly stating anything too radical or political. I feel compelled to clear things up because while I’m ok with people thinking I’m wrong, I hate to be labeled as ungrateful, thoughtless or ignorant.

    Speaking of which: the mediocre comment. It was what my 22-year old imagination concocted. It was in my journal in 2005. But if I could get it out of this essay, I certainly would. As Catherine pointed out, it was more of a comment about “perfect” men than Jews, but the truth is, I’ve never dated a Jewish man or a “perfect” man, so I actually have no right to comment on the abilities of either. The fact that I’d entertained the hyperbolic and melodramatic notion has always been amusing to me personally, but I probably should have kept it as inside joke. Sorry.

  23. Saul Epstein says:

    People, Jews and otherwise, have been predicting or declaring the disappearance of Jews, in the land or outside it, for as long as there have been people so called.

    Judaism is an argument. To have had so much continuity means it is also an ongoing memory, and a wisdom regarding what to let go in order to hold on.

    Barring some catastrophe — with which we are also familiar — 100 years from now a family of Jewish cultures will be 100 years more deeply established in Israel. I can’t speak to the likely situation outside Israel except in the United States, about which I can say this. It is true that being Jewish in the US is for many becoming very much like being Irish or Italian: a strand woven into the fabric, here more thickly, there more thinly. But I can also say that American culture itself has Jewish flavors in its recipe, and they aren’t all as superficial as bagel.

    Diversity requires both difference and combination. To say that Jews outside Israel, or not otherwise immersed in some exclusively Jewish context, will not participate in the argument because they will not really understand, makes no more sense than to say that Jews in Israel won’t really know what it is to be strangers in a land not theirs, or to answer to a higher authority than the local government.

  24. Jess says:

    “too old to model”…”my very high sat scores.” please get over yourself.

  25. Cynical Boy #2 says:

    Rachel – this is true-to-life, hilarious, and captivating . . . what a bizarre and excellent journey we had. For as much of a theological noncognivist as I consider myself to be, I can do little else besides laugh and smile when I think about that trip. You did it justice and for that I salute you!

  26. Matt says:

    Jess, you’re either an idiot or have a poor sense of humor. You pick a single line from the entire piece, manipulate and misquote it, just to shit on the author. What’s wrong with you?

  27. Emily says:

    HAHAHAHAHA! i just came back from birthright and i completely agree with this post and love the humorous way in which it is written. it is truly an honest tribute to the brainwashing that is done by these groups and an exposure on how child-centered judaism really is. thank you and keep writing!

  28. Justine Flaherty says:

    Wow! This is so interesting Rachael, but only because of your most recent viewpoints. Or, to be precise, I am taken by your independent philosophies. As is always the case with me, I become engaged in intellectual discourse once an individual has lived long enough to begin forming views born of free thought. You are clearly at this point, so I will share with you and others what drew me to this essay.

    It’s the universal struggle faced by all women. Corny, perhaps, but you and I -and millions of others- share this struggle on a daily basis nonetheless. I am a Baptist Christian who would be devastated -OK, maybe just hopelessly depressed- without the concept of Jesus still waiting beside God to forgive and/or save us all. I could never give up on this notion, because I feel strongly that we all need a LOT of saving!

    However, I too have lapsed in my Baptist following … I struggle with the ideals of Christianity more frequently than my mother ever did. I even posted this line on my web page: I often check mark ‘Suspend Subscription’ with my religion. ‘Reason:’ Conflicts with my subscription to Womanhood. You and I get it, completely. No further explanation necessary. So do millions upon millions of other woman following any of the major religions; except one.

    Now, I am not chicken-sh//t, but I’ll not name that major religion whose female followers are FAR behind the curve in intellectual development only because I love them, and I know it will do more harm and foster no good to do so (not that this minuscule little thread on this start-up website has even a thousand views per day, but still…) I love all women first and foremost. I try to live my life through the ideal that first, my actions should culminate in no harm to women, (and their children) and second, any decisions or actions I make should try to emulate Christian ideals.

    You see, ALL RELIGIONS were forged by men, since women were too busy with messy inconveniences like menstruation and reproduction. So, guilt not over your natural and logical progression toward rebellion, for it is exactly what this world needs more of: free-thinking women.

    P.S. I am married some 11 years now to an Arab Muslim, and I know what I know, but will only say this much to the more liberal male posters who think we can all “just get along, coexist, or live peaceful and prosper: HA! If you only knew how male Muslims talk about us behind our backs -or in my case, right in front of my face, in my own house, no less- you would be singing a very different tune. My advise is to wake-up, grow some hair where it counts, and be ready to protect your tribe at all costs. (Yes, I do love my husband. Yes, it has gotten harder to respect him as a direct result of his narrow, intolerant ideology, and yes, our marriage is always on shaky ground.)


  29. iye says:

    I appreciate this very well written piece!

  30. Gisela says:

    As someone who is a year out of college with no long term job security and no concrete 5-year plan, I definitely read this with a very specific viewpoint and a set of very specific insecurities. And I completely understand many of your sentiments (especially the love of dirt) even though I am not Jewish and I have never been to Israel.

    Really enjoyed it, and learned a lot, and had some good self-reflecting moments. I appreciate this piece as well!

  31. Tara says:

    7 kids?? I only heard 4. But that was by a conservative Rabbi and maybe he was more modest in his goals.

    I hate the idea that we can replace/replenish after the Holocaust. I think it’s part of the post-Holocaust trauma that’s so much at the core of Israeli machismo (and Diaspora schizophrenia), to somehow imagine that we can make it any less devastating than it was and continues to be for us, all of us but especially direct descendants. As if each and every one of the 6 million were not a unique and irreplaceable individual. I almost prefer the Hasidic idea that they are souls that get reincarnated, sometimes of necessity in gentiles, when there aren’t enough Jews.

    A friend of mine wanted to lead a reverse birthright, taking Israeli Jews of Eastern European descent on a tour of Poland, Germany, Lithuania, etc, to see the places (and ashes) they came from.

    I don’t think the Catholics will pick up on Birthright any time soon, but I think there are other Diaspora groups studying the idea (the Armenian community, for one). I hope they’re reading essays like yours as well.

    Also, do you know, did that guy on your trip end up marrying some manicured Jew and making many private-schooled Jewish babies?

  32. Aurora says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I laughed out loud during each and every paragraph! You are a fabulous writer with great wit! Have you thought of doing a stand up routine – seriously. Enjoyed your essay very much. Loved your “defense” response after the comments came in. Have you seen Anna Baltzer speak? She was on Jon Stewart Comedy Central last week, hardly got a word in edgewise on the broadcast (which is now ranked #2 program in the 11 years of recording) but seems to be coming from similar point of view to what you touch on briefly in your response.

  33. […] of, etc. And then, best case scenario, commenters start responding to each other. (This happened in Revolving Floor’s longest comment thread to date.) When this happens on a regular basis, the site comes alive in a whole new way. Users start leaving […]

  34. Chris says:

    “All the people who claimed to like me actually just liked my potential offspring.” Great bumper sticker or gravestone engraving.

  35. Matthaze says:

    Someone's got an onion in the oven.

    Great piece, though I must say it seems your contrarian approach to BRI only heightened the plausibility of its Zionist nudging. Also, don't forget that San Francisco is…7 miles by 7 miles! Sevens abound, here or abound.


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The Author

Rachel Balik

Rachel is a freelance writer and arts critic covering books, theater and live concerts. Her writing has appeared on PopMatters, The Brooklyn Rail, and other web sites. She helped to launch the online publisher findingDulcinea, where she worked as a writer, researcher and social media marketer. Prior to that, she dabbled in artistic direction and production on and off Broadway. Rachel holds degrees in English and Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and is a student and teacher of yoga. She brings her many interests together as often as possible on her blog.

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