Benji Lovitt
Because the Middle East is Funny

68 more things I love about Israel

It’s that time of year again, when comedian Benji Lovitt lists things he loves about Israel.

And this year’s list (all new, every year) is 68 things long in honor of Israel’s 68th birthday.

Enjoy, share the love, and Happy Independence Day from The Times of Israel!

1. I love that the potty training book “Seer Ha’seerim” is a play-on-words of the racy “Song of Songs” book in the Tanach.

Sir Ha'sirim

“Yossi, if you go peepee like a big boy, I’ll read you dirty love poems.”

2. I love that Tel Aviv has a gay beach, a religious beach, and a dog beach. As for the gay, religious dogs, they should have their own political party by 2029.

3. I love that “he had his mind blown” translates into Hebrew as “af lo ha’schach” (his Sukkah roof flew off).

4. I love that we illustrate how much bigger the Hebrew leap year is by calling it a “pregnant year” (shana me’uberet). Remember: do not ask the year if she’s expecting until you see Adar Bet physically coming out of the calendar.

5. I love that Jerusalem’s Hotel Yehuda offered to host a free event to any couples who conceived a baby onsite on February 29th. I am thrilled to extend the same offer to any ladies who do so in my apartment. Because I care about your simcha.

6. I love the Hebrew word for the alarm clock’s snooze feature which accurately represents how we all feel at six o’clock in the morning.

Comedian Yohay Sponder

7. I love that, never having served, I will always turn into a gushing 15 year-old when soldiers tell me what they did in the army, no matter how mundane the assignment.

Me: “So what did you do?”
Israeli: “I made coffee for the Assistant Minister of Defense’s Masa intern.”
Me: “OMIG———–D!!!!!! THAT IS SO COOOOOL!!!!”

8. I love how the logo for the toilet paper company “Lily” reads in both Hebrew and English. Even Israeli butts are bilingual.

Lily

9. I love that Israeli corporate culture supports family, allowing a hard-working CEO to leave the office early in order to bake poppy-seed Hamantashen with Yuvaly in Gan Shablul.

10. I love that at the height of national tensions, Hummus Bar in Netanya offered 50% off each dish at tables with Jews and Arabs sitting together. If anyone wants to meet me there, my reservation is under the name “Abu Lovitt”.

11. I love that in this country, I make six figures.

12. I love that Israel opened its first ever high-tech kindergarten to teach children science. Right now, a 5-year-old in Sponge Bob underwear is hacking into an Iranian centrifuge.

13. I love that I can afford to live on the most expensive property in Israeli Monopoly.

Monopoly
Photo credit: #PARUDIGITAL

14. I love that a briefcase is called “tik (bag) James Bond.” The ladies call my fanny pack “tik Sheldon Cooper”.

15. I love the festive Shauvot celebrations on kibbutzim. Because dairy tastes better directly from the cow.

16. I love that the statue outside Tel Aviv’s Habima theater was converted to a tribute to breast cancer awareness. If you’re wondering why there are so many car accidents in Israel, we have our answer.

Habima-breast cancer
(Mario Troiani)

17. I love the two weeks out of the year when people celebrate lime season as if af lahem ha’schach.

18. I love that it’s acceptable to sign your credit card bill with your fingernail.

credit card fingernail

Photo credit: Elahn Zetlin, Chutzpah Media

19. I love the new law that ended the era of having to fax government offices. Now who’d like to join me at Bituach Leumi to go “Office Space” on an Inkjet?

20. I love that Burger King marked their return to Israel by offering an increasing number of free meals to soldiers as their rank increases.

68 Burger King

If you bring President Rivlin, you get to manage the fry cooker.

21. I love that on Ben-Yehudah Street in Jerusalem, there’s nothing you can’t find on a head covering. “Shmuley’s gonna love this ‘Walking Dead’ kipah at Monday minyan.”

22. I love that in Israel, even Santa Claus wears tefillin.

Santa-tefillin

Grab the reindeer and we have a minyan.

23. I love the Jerusalem siren that announces the arrival of Shabbat. I needed this kind of thing when Netflix released “Fuller House”.

24. I love that Israeli bodybuilder Dani Kaganovich won the Mr. Universe competition.

Mr. Universe

The chickpeas go right to my hips.

25. I love the Old City’s beautiful Hurva Synagogue, rebuilt more than sixty years after it was destroyed in the War of Independence. If I can just find a Chief of Staff uniform, I can cater the next meat kiddush.

26. I love that an Israeli company is overhauling the traffic light to be more energy-efficient, help deploy police, prevent traffic jams, and figure out how to monetize Yom Haatzmaut jokes.

27. I love the superstition that when someone sneezes, it confirms what was just said. I’d love to tell you about me and Gal Gadot but I’m waiting for the pollen count to go up.

28. I love that when someone sneezes seven times, it means the Messiah is coming. Either that or Gal Gadot and I are getting married seven times.

29. I love that the valedictorian of Tel Aviv U was Egyptian. How do you say “pomp and circumstance” in Arabic?

30. I love the new statue of Ben-Gurion on the beach, standing on his head…

PikiWiki_Israel_45054_Sculpture_of_David_Ben_Gurion_in_Tel_Aviv_beach

…but have you seen the new one of him at the Kinneret?

Ben-Gurion statue

31. I love that Israel is sending athletes to the Rio Olympics in gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and more. Spoiler alert: we’re winning gold in matkot.

32. I love that while America celebrates its first ever Jewish presidential candidate, Israel has had one in every election since 1948.

33. I love the annual Yom Haatzmaut flyover where planes cross the country in minutes. I hoped to hitch a ride to Metulla but my GettF16 app was down.

34. I love that on Yom Haatzmaut 2015, Uber offered free chumus from Abu Chasan.

68-Uber

Of course, now I have no energy to get out of the cab.

35. I love that in Israel, even the vandalism is holy.

68-Elie Klein
(Photo: Elie Klein)

Policeman: “Why didn’t you stop at the intersection?”
Driver: “No need, Officer, I already stopped this morning.”

36. I love that when you read the titles of books on a shelf, your head cocks the other way. Want to turn an English-speaker into a live bobblehead? Alternate between Hebrew and English books, and repeat.

37. I love Mayor Ruvik Danilovich’s mission to add as many fountains as possible to the largest city in the south, all of which boast a light show and use recycled water. I hate to split hairs, Mr. Mayor, but on behalf of all the students at Ben-Gurion University…..it’s Beersheva, not Watersheva.

38. I love that the teenage makeout game is called “7 minutes in Gan Eden.” In my day, we played Spin the Bottle, or as they call it here, “Dirty Dreidel”.

39. I love that “ayn li koach” (“I don’t have energy”) can be a catch-all excuse for anything.

Why didn’t you get milk? Ayn li koach.
Why didn’t you walk the dog? Ayn li koach.
Why didn’t you tell your mother-in-law how wrong she was?

 

Mamash ayn li koach.

40. I love how Shuk Machaneh Yehudah comes alive at night with the colorful new shutter art. But have you seen the city’s latest work?

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 5.08.47 PM

41. I love that we finally broke ground on the new light rail in Tel Aviv. Now even Petach Tikvah residents will be able to pay 150 shekels for scrambled eggs and labane.

42. I love that United launched a direct flight from San Francisco. And if you think Silicon Valley is excited, you should see the men on Castro Street.

43. I love that these animals ate traditional Passover food. Because you can’t spell “Ramat Gan chimpanzee” without “m-a-t-z-a.”

44. I love the hand motion that people do to indicate that something happened a while back.

45. I love Dafni Gafni, Israel’s #1 internet prankster. She’s only a “troll” if she’s pissing you off.

46. I love that Bon Jovi finally performed in Israel. If you translate “Living on a Prayer” into Hebrew, “Chaim al Tefillah” sounds like a yeshivish niggun.

47. I love that Jerry Seinfeld performed four sold-out shows in December. On his next visit, he’ll film his new web series “Comedians in Moniot Sheirut Drinking Petel.”

48. I love the power of crowdsourcing in our tiny national network. In order to avoid wire transfer fees, I found a random Israeli on Facebook who accepted twenty thousand dollars from my Citibank account into hers before transferring the equivalent sum in shekels from her Leumi account to mine. I successfully used the phrase “dafakti et ha’ma’arechet” (“I f***ed the system”) and saved $6.27.

49. I love how the ganim (kindergartens) distribute swag to their kids before Yom Haatzmaut. The biggest parties of the year and everybody gets into the spirit.

Gan swag

“Davidi, where are you celebrating tonight?”
“I’m hitting up a Kinder-Egg rager in Florentine.”

50. I love how every five minutes, someone is unearthing an ancient artifact in the most unexpected of places. You think they’re finding a Byzantine church under a Cinnabon in Des Moines?

51. I love the Biblical Zoo’s collection of wildlife in Jerusalem and how they have succeeded in breeding endangered species. Isn’t breeding endangered species half the goal of Birthright?

52. I love that a Chassid on roller blades waving a “Mashiach” flag isn’t a sign of mental illness.

53. I love that starting Friday evening, the public transportation directions turn into walking directions. That’s right: even Google Maps is shomer Shabbat.

68-Maps on Shabbat 2

54. I love how “If I Were a Rich Man” translates to “Lu Hayiti (“If I Were”) Rothschild”. Also, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” translates to “Teender, Teender”.

55. I love that an Israeli bus driver could be hundreds of miles past Alpha Centauri and still find a buddy to stop and say hello to.

56. I love that when you are glum, someone can tell you that you look like “Tisha B’av”. Only in Israel would the Mets losing the World Series be compared to the darkest day in Jewish history.

57. I love that jachnun is sold at so many places on Shabbat that for 5 minutes, even Dovid Shtisselfarb from Flatbush can be Yemenite.

58. I love that the process of tearing down an old development in order to rebuild a nicer property is called the rhyming “pinui binui” (clearing out/building), which is also what I call a big pre-meal poop.

59. I love that I’ve been here so long that I now accidentally read English words as if they’re transliterated from Hebrew. When someone emailed me that he was filling up at Chevron, I thought he was visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

60. I love that the escalator at the Tel Aviv municipality displays the “Star Wars” opening crawl.

Iriya star wars

“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I came to dispute my arnona bill…”

61. I love that when my officemate told me to clear my web browser’s cookies, she called them “oogiot“. I know it’s a direct translation, I know it doesn’t make any less sense than it does in English, but even if I lived here until the age of 465, some things would still be funny.

62. I love how the news outlets freeze on Yom Kippur. If you run down the road naked an hour before Kol Nidre, it will remain the top story online for 25 hours.

STREAKING

63. I love that one alert citizen destroyed his guitar by hitting a terrorist over the head with it. If The Who ever comes to Israel, we have Pete Townshend’s backup.

64. I love that the one time you don’t actually need to silence your phone is during the Yom Hazikaron siren because there’s absolutely no chance that anyone will call you.

65. I love that just a month after the bride’s father passed away, a last-minute social media plea helped bring thousands of strangers to a wedding to support the couple. Because that’s what family does, whether you’re related or not.

66. I love the photo of Hebrew U professor Sydney Engelberg which went viral around the world. When the baby of a single mother student began to cry in his class, Engelbert picked him up and held him while continuing to teach. Because that’s what family does, social media plea or not.

המקום – אוניברסיטה ידועה בירושלים.הקורס – התנהגות ארגונית.המרצה – ד"ר סידני אנגלברג. הארוע – בנה התינוק של אחת…

Posted by Sarit Fishbaine on Sunday, 10 May 2015

67. I love that just as I have grown from an oleh chadash (new immigrant) to one about to celebrate his ten-year aliyah anniversary, this piece has evolved from some of the goofy, cliche observations in Year 1 to a list which that guy wouldn’t have understood 95% of.

While nine years of writing this list has turned into possibly the most meaningful and fun thing I have ever done, all good things must come to an end. I know I’ll miss it more than anyone else but hopefully a future Yom Haatzmaut will bring a new tradition. While this list is finished, my aliyah is not. For the final time…..

68. I love that I’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime experience and that it’s not over yet.

Benji Lovitt is booking comedy shows/educational workshops for 2016-2017 in Israel and North America. For previous entries in this series, check out the 67, 666564636261 and 60 things Benji loves about Israel.

About the Author
Since making aliyah in 2006, Benji Lovitt has performed stand-up comedy and educational programs for groups including Jewish Federations, synagogues, Masa Israel Journey, and Birthright Israel. His perspectives on aliyah and Israeli society have been featured on Israeli TV and radio and in publications such as USA Today, Time Magazine, the BBC, and more. During 2014's Operation Protective Edge, his humorous observations on the war led to his being called in Israel "the only reason to go on Facebook.”
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