Teenagers returning from Burgas
From left: Anar Ariel, Adar Kaplan, Omer Neiman, Guy Beckerstein and Rom Musasko - all from moshavim in the center of the country, arriving from Burgas, Bulgaria. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Tomer Appelbaum
Sara and Mordechai Katsav, and Etty and Itzik Kuznitz from the 'Who loves you more than me' group, flying to Georgia. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

'Who loves you more than me'

Are you going on an organized trip?

Etty Kuznitz: No, we are going on a group trip.

What group?

Itzik Kuznitz: “Who Loves You More than Me.”

Excuse me? Who gave you that name?

Mordechai Katsav: We gave it to ourselves. We even have T-shirts and hats with the name, but they are in the suitcases. We had them made before the last trip ...

Itzik Kuznitz: ... which was in Israel. Now we are going to Georgia, but we are people who like the Land of Israel above all. Tell her.

Mordechai Katsav: I am telling her.

How many in the group?

Etty Kuznitz: There are 35 people going to Georgia, but we are actually 50, even 60, usually.

Are you friends from work?

Sara Katsav: We are friends from childhood. Some of the people here have been friends since first grade. It started with seven couples and then one person brought another. There are brothers and sisters here, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Many former teachers. We have been a large group for at least 20 years.

Do you all live in the same place?

Etty Kuznitz: Most of us are from Rishon Letzion, Bat Yam and Holon − that’s the core.

Have you already been abroad together?

Itzik Kuznitz: We went to Sicily by ship; we were together in Crete, Rhodes, Larnaca. In Israel we’ve been everywhere already. Not long ago we were in the south, at [Kibbutz] Sde Boker, for three days. We stayed at the field school there. We hiked in the Arava and had a costume party in the evening.

Who decided on Georgia? Was there a vote?

Mordechai Katsav: We decide, and whoever comes, comes. The person who organizes most of our trips isn’t here yet. His name is Zvi Even Bar and he is an educator who was a school principal in Holon. He is in charge of all the big projects.

How have you remained friends for so many years?

Itzik Kuznitz: That is not the problem. The problem is that over the years we get sent more and more people, and everyone who comes wants to stay. It’s time to say that it’s enough. There’s a limit. We fill up one bus. There is no more room. We are at an age when we can develop our social relations more: We are not young people who are busy with work and small children. This is the age at which people can enjoy themselves together to a large degree, and that’s a good thing.

Etty Kuznitz: We also have all kinds of traditions. Once a month we meet in a hall in Givatayim. There isn’t enough room for all of us in a cafe. We celebrate Purim together in costumes and with games, and light the first candle of Hanukkah together. We go on two long trips every year with a full bus, but on Shabbat there are less. We split into smaller groups of eight couples. There is a group in Rishon Letzion and one in Tel Aviv.

How do so many people arrange to meet?

Mordechai Katsav: Thank God, we have email today. On Shabbat in the morning someone gets up and sends a message to everyone. Within an hour, at least seven couples organize and we fill the cars and go.

Did you ever all meet together including the children?

Sara Katsav: Most of us are between 60 and 70, pensioners. The children are grown. We have grandchildren. If everyone were to meet together we would need four buses.

What will you do in Georgia?

Itzik Kuznitz: It will be an experience. We land in Tbilisi and go on from there. We will visit villages − it’s hard to pronounce all the names − but we also plan to visit at least six or seven synagogues that are still there, even though the Jewish community no longer exists. There is also a city from the 12th century, called Vardzia, which is completely cut into a rock face. We will go on a jeep tour in the Caucasus to an elevation of 2,500 meters. We will visit the town where Stalin was born, Gori, including the house in which he was born, and there is also a large museum there.

You are definitely young at heart.

Mordechai Katsav: It’s an extended family. We are blessed.

Where is your next trip to?

Itzik Kuznitz: We don’t know, but we really have to start planning already. There’s a long way to go.

Back from Burgas

How was it?

Everyone: Out of sight.

Kaplan: Lots of parties, lots of girls, lots to drink.

Where do you know each other from?

Everyone: We’ve been friends since the second grade. We were in high school together.

Is this your first time abroad?

Ariel: It isn’t even our first time in Burgas. It’s our second year there.

Beckerstein: This time we took a short trip, only a week, because in a week we are going to Crete with another 15 friends. This is all before the army.

When are you being inducted?

Ariel: My date is next March, maybe to the Armored Corps.

Neiman and Kaplan: We are going into a pre-army preparatory program at Mikveh Yisrael [outside Tel Aviv]. I heard that these programs are also fun.

Kaplan: Not so. There are studies. There are lessons in Zionism.
And there are no European girls.

Kaplan: There were plenty of Israelis in Burgas, too. We thought this time we had gone ahead of the season, but forget it.

Ariel: It’s not just the Israelis. Everything there is already in Hebrew. The signs are in Hebrew. In the kiosks people call themselves “Moshe Zayin Gadol” [Moshe Big Cock]. The sellers shout, “Come here, Israel. You will get a discount.”

What is there to buy in Burgas, anyway?

Ariel: Junk − you do the boardwalk and buy things you don’t need.

Kaplan: I bought socks in the duty-free and they clipped me for $40.

Neiman: You’re a sucker, bro.

So what did you do on the holiday?

Neiman: You go down one floor in the hotel, two at most, and lie in the sun. Then you wander around, eat a little.

What’s to eat?

Neiman: Just pizza.

Kaplan: Not true. There’s also shawarma, pasta.

Neiman: In short, you go back to the hotel to sleep a little. Then another visit to the hotel pool. It’s all-included, so there’s beer, too. And in the evening you go out.

To dance, to drink, or both?

Neiman: There are day parties, too, but the real parties are at night.

Kaplan: There are PR people from airlines who organize parties. But we’ve already been to Burgas, this is our second time, so we know.

I don’t understand a thing. I’m old, explain slowly.

Beckerstein: The companies close the Burgas deals three months ahead of time: hotel, traveling, flights. Each company organizes a group of young people for the trip. After that, when you arrive, they try to sew up the deals.

Neiman: You land, the company’s representatives put you on a bus and take you to the hotel. When you get there they tell you they have to come up to the room with you to make sure everything is in order. Then, when they are with you in the room they tell you they know how things work and say, “Come to our parties.”

Ariel: They promise parties with European girls, but when you get there it’s all Mediterranean music. And the DJ is like a sort of Eyal Golan.

So, which parties did you go to?

Neiman: Mainly dance, not Israeli music. Viking parties. The Israeli PR people tell you that those parties are full of anti-Semites, but that’s because they don’t work with them and Viking’s the best club there is. A fantastic club. About 2,000 people show up. Plenty of Europeans. There’s a balcony; it’s fun to sit on it and look out at Sunny Beach. There are other good clubs − the Iceberg is a good club. There’s also the Lazur, which has an indoor pool and slide, but all in all you can’t beat the Viking.

How much does it cost to get in?

The party at the Viking cost 20 lev, and a lev is NIS 2.50. Just think how people rip you off here. The Israeli PR people come to your room at the start, when you don’t know anything, and sign you up for eight of their parties for 150 euro, but they aren’t good parties.

Ariel: But people arrive and are new, don’t understand and get stuck.

How do you start up with the girls?

Neiman: It all happens at parties. You come, you see, you dance with someone and if there’s a click there’s a click.