OPINION: Oy and double oy… the summer I took teens on a disastrous Israel tour

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Oy and double oy… the summer I took teens on a disastrous Israel tour

Jenni Frazer recalls the ups (but mostly downs) of her summer as an Israel tour leader

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Jenni Frazer back in her Israel tour leader days.
Jenni Frazer back in her Israel tour leader days.

A friend was talking about sending her offspring on Israel tour next summer, a sunny prospect to think about in the face of such determinedly gloomy weather here.

‘Just imagine’, I thought to myself, ‘Israel Tour, blue skies and glorious sunshine’.

And just like that, as Carrie Bradshaw used to say in Sex and the City, I remembered that long ago I had been a madricha, or youth leader, on an Israel tour group, which had the distinction of being one of the most disastrous events of all time.

Where to begin in this tale of woe?

Well, to start with, not everyone on our group wanted to take part. Unlike today’s trips — and even at a challenging £4,000 plus, the tours are massively over-subscribed — my hapless group of teens was seething with resentment. At least one of the participants didn’t even know she was going to Israel until her mother drove her to the airport.

Others were leaving their boyfriends/girlfriends/pets, or simply had different plans for the summer which did not involve an educational trip to Israel.

So sulkiness was the order of the day for many.

Armed with that attitude, many of the group — who were not members of any of the affiliated youth movements — seemed to delight in doing the absolute opposite of what we leaders advised.

We — there were just four of us, two Israeli guys fresh out of the army and two British women — had been warned of the perils ahead. That included only having insurance for participants directly in our care. And there were rumours, which may not have had any basis in fact, that the previous summer some American Jewish teens had returned home pregnant.

Oy and double oy. So we were obliged to be the sex police as well as everything else.

Challenge number one: after a visit to the Cremisan Monastery near Jerusalem, how to get back to our bus waiting down below, without dropping purchases from the Cremisan winery on top of people who had descended earlier (it was a climb down a rocky hill).

Some few people succeeded in getting back to the bus with their bottles intact. “Please don’t drink yet”, we asked them, because we were due to get up very early the next morning to go to Masada.

Of course, several people ignored this, and accordingly several people were violently ill and had to forgo a climb up Masada by lying prone in the shadow of the bus.

Then there was the time that waiters in a hotel tried to flog cannabis to them; or the time that about 12 took refuge on a raft tethered off a Netanya beach and pushed away attempts by the madrichim to bring them back to land for a meeting.

My all-time favourite was when we went to visit Lohamei Hagetaot, the Ghetto Fighters’ kibbutz, which at the time — I don’t know if it is still the case — only served dairy food. No use for a hungry teen craving a burger.

Two of them said they were off to the nearest town to remedy this, despite being told that they needed to stay on the kibbutz. I vividly remember running downhill after one of the would-be meat-eaters, banging on the doors of the bus he’d caught, while he made faces at me from inside.

We had, of course, to decide what to do about the runaways. One of the Israeli leaders suggested we should threaten to send them home. We made it clear to one of the 16-year-olds that this was on the cards if he transgressed further. He gave us a long, considered, north-west London look and announced: “I shall get my solicitor.”

All of the foregoing is intended as a “be grateful your kid is going on Tour today” — because I am sure things are much better organised now.

At least, I hope so.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: