Here we go. It’s been a FULL YEAR since I landed in Israel as an olah chadashah (new immigrant), and I am happy to say that I am going strong, full speed ahead. Before another war breaks out, and in the interest of looking on the bright side in the midst of tragedy and rising conflict, I have decided to make a list of things I have always loved or things I have learned to love about living in Israel (in no particular order). Enjoy:
10. I love how comforting the ״ברוכים הבאים״ signs can be when you are driving long distances. When you enter any city, pretty much anywhere in the country, you see a sign that says “ברוכים הבאים” – Welcome! After a long journey (like for example, the drive from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem), I can’t tell you how nice it is to be welcomed by a big sign telling you you’ve made it to your destination. Along the same vain, upon leaving a city, the sign “צאתכם לשלום” means literally, “Go in Peace” – this sign reminds me to drive carefully and I find myself (perhaps superstitiously) looking for it on the road as I head out.
9. I will probably never get over the sheer delight of wishing people Shabbat Shalom at the end of the day on Thursday – to the bus drivers, store owners, customer service reps, etc. It’s one of the things I love most about living in Israel.
8. I love Israeli hospitality, even if I struggle sometimes with how to replicate it myself. Israelis rule the world when it comes to hospitality – you can’t go into someone’s home and not sit for a coffee or tea or bowl of freshly made kubbeh soup. I have learned that if someone offers you something, you take it. You don’t necessarily have to eat it, but you should take it. American as I am, I constantly find myself saying “no, thank you” – as if it’s rude to take a cup of water when offered. So, this year I have learned to say “yes, please, I would love some water.”
7. I love Galgalatz. There is basically one radio station in Israel that the entire country listens to – Galgalatz (I know in your head you’re singing “gal gal galgalatz” – or if you weren’t before, you are now). Among PSAs about not leaving your children in the backseat and “there’s no such thing as drinking just a little if you are planning on driving home,” this radio station also updates the country with traffic reports, that literally only tell you if a particular road is “amus” – busy, “amus meod” – very busy, or “zorem” – flowing. If none of the roads have traffic, they will just say “we have nothing to report about traffic, call us to tell us if there’s something to report.” It’s hilarious. The music is equally as awesome. Because the station tries to cater to all audiences, they play ALL genres of music, from all periods of time. In the same 15 minutes, you can hear Led Zeppelin, Britney Spears, and classic Israeli folk music. They play contemporary rap music (and there is no censoring in English, so Cee-Lo’s popular “Forget You” is actually “Fuck You” in Israel), as well as alternative indie pop and amazing throw-backs that make me wonder who even thought to play the song.
6. I love that on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – the feeling I felt most strongly was not sadness, but rather gratitude. So many friends, acquaintances, and colleagues living in Israel are the grandchildren of survivors. I am so grateful that this country exists, and that it is made up of people from all over the world who are (for the most part) grateful to be living here. Israel is very much a country of immigrants – almost everyone comes from somewhere else, and many of these people (or their parents or grandparents) came because they were fleeing persecution – Yemen, Morocco, Iran, Eastern Europe, etc. It is not uncommon for people to ask someone’s nationality upon first meeting them – Israelis are curious about your family’s origins not because you are different, but because you are all the same.
5. I love that one day at the gym, I saw a Muslim man kneel on his knees in prayer near the locker room, praying his afternoon prayers, and the next morning I saw a car stopped on the road and a Jewish man in tallit and t’fillin was standing nearby, praying his morning prayers on his commute to work.
4. I love Israeli vegetables. Literally the best in the world. Maybe it’s because everything is locally grown, or maybe it’s just better here.
3. I love how sincere people are here. If someone is in a bad mood, you’ll know it. There’s no fake-nice, for better or for worse. But most of the time, people are genuinely happy to see you, or genuinely glad you came, or genuinely happy to help you out. If you drop something on a bus, strangers will help you pick it up – and if an old lady needs help crossing the road, strangers will help her cross, no questions asked.
2. I love that people don’t make plans more than a week in advance (if that). It could be the Israeli mentality, that people don’t like to plan ahead because what if there’s a war or what if they decide to fly to Europe, but it’s really nice to live in the moment.
1. I love that I don’t have to count down my time here – that I don’t have a looming return ticket to the States. Every other time I’ve visited or lived here, leaving was always the hardest part. Tears streaming down my cheeks on the plan ride home, I knew I’d be back – sooner or later. And now, I live here, for real. Though it’s definitely not easy all the time, it is always interesting, and there’s always something to be grateful for.