Above all, this country is our own. Nobody has to get up in the morning and worry what his neighbors think of him. Being a Jew is no problem here.
In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.
Thus says the Lord GOD: I will even gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.
I am not a very new Olah (immigrant to Israel). I’m what you would call a veteran Olah. I’ve lived in Israel a good long time. I have spent most of my life, and just about all of my adulthood, in Israel. Despite the accent and the fact that I still wait for an invitation to go to a ‘mimouna’, and no matter what my kids say, I am far more Israeli than I am Old Country.
But there was a time, once, before Facebook and Google and blogs, when I was a new immigrant and I know what it means: the feeling of being an outsider and not quite belonging; the sudden sense of being illiterate because you can’t read your rental contract or your electric bill; sitting in the dark because you don’t know how to pay your electric bill (or you don’t have a job and can’t pay your electric bill); having to scramble around and invite yourself to some random person’s house for a holiday dinner so you won’t be alone; being alone for a holiday.
Over the course of the years, I have been asked, many times, how I was I able to stay in Israel. I’ve been asked for reasons to stay in Israel because it’s hard to stay here – the language is hard to learn, the culture is hard to understand, the bills are hard to pay.
I usually just smile and answer ‘there’s only one Pesach Seder’. Because, it’s true, it is hard to live here.
In past years, in the run-up to Israel’s Independence Day, I’ve written blog posts of 65 reasons to live in Israel, and 66 more reasons. The reasons include falafel, and ice cream, two birthdays, and, of course, one Pesach Seder.
I haven’t added any more reasons in recent years because other writers say it so much better than I.
But now I’m going to try again – because I have simpler reasons. So, in honor of the State of Israel’s 70th birthday, in no particular order, I give you my list of reasons why I will live here for ever and ever and why you should too, despite it all, or maybe because of it all:
- We have our own government (for better or worse).
- Our government is not going to outlaw circumcision, or Shabbat observance, or ritual slaughter.
- We have our own flag. No more bowing down to foreign flags.
- We have our own army. Never again actually means something.
- Hebrew, after 20 centuries, has been restored as a spoken language, and is spoken by at least 8,000,000 people, more than at any other time in all of History.
- My kids speak unaccented Hebrew.
- They also make fun of my Hebrew.
- Translating Hebrew slang into English can be very entertaining.
- Hebrew is the oldest language in the world that is still in use, and speakers can still understand ancient texts.
- Almost anywhere you go in the country – any town, village, park, side of the road – you can find a minyan.
- The Holidays come out at the right time of year. Pesach is in the spring, and, not only is there no snow on Tu B’Shvat (January/February), the trees are blooming. Take that Old Country.
- Planting trees in Israel is an emotional event.
- You don’t have to request vacation for the Jewish Holidays.
- There is only one possible three-day holiday.
- But Purim lasts for about two weeks.
- Israel is the ONLY country in the world where the Sabbath is kept on Saturday.
- In Hebrew, the word for Saturday is Shabbat, so, no matter how secular you are, you are aware that it’s Shabbat.
- Days here begin at nightfall. There is something calming in knowing that a new day is beginning with the stars.
- 60% or so of the Jewish population make Kiddush every Friday night.
- There are far fewer than six degrees of separation between just about anyone here.
- Strangers share with you both tragic and happy events. This is because even strangers are family.
- The security guard at the train station was in Grade 7 with my son. They shared a hug.
- The security guard at the mall was the son of friends. He cheerily waved us in.
- My (immediate) family can’t go anywhere without at least one of us seeing someone we know.
- No one is ever more than 4 or 5 hours away from Jerusalem.
- No one is ever more than three hours (by bus) away from a beach. And the water is usually warm.
- There is only one time zone in the country; none of this “8:30 in Newfoundland” nonsense.
- But there are about eight different climate zones.
- It is possible to have sunshine, a sandstorm, and rain, all at the same time.
- There are groups such as ‘Shabbat meals and hospitality for Olim‘
- There’s a music group called ‘HaYehudim’ (the Jews).
- Three times a year, once on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), and twice on the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism (Yom HaZikaron), the entire country comes to a complete standstill as a siren sounds in memory of those worlds that have been destroyed.
- Three evenings a year, all shops and restaurants close down – on Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Tisha B’Av – as a memorial to our people who have been killed because they were Jews.
- During the 25 hours of Yom Kippur, there are no cars on the road, and no TV or radio broadcasts.
- More than 70% of Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur.
- About 98% of Israeli Jews attend some sort of Passover Seder.
- Upon induction, IDF soldiers are registered in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry, which has saved countless lives.
- IDF soldiers are everyone’s children. That means everyone takes care of them.
- Over 80% light Chanuka candles.
- 40% of secular Jews in Israel keep some form of kashrut.
- Flags adorn most public and private buildings from the day after Yom HaShoah until the day after Yom Yerushalayim.
- Israel ranks #11 on the ‘Happiness Index” out of 156 countries. The US was 18, and the UK scored 19.
- Israel is the second most educated country on earth, with 92% of its population graduating high school, and 46% graduating college. This despite the fact that, after finishing high school, most Israeli youth serve in the army for 2-3 years, and don’t start college till they are well into their 20s. (Canada, by the way, is #1)
- Israel boasts 12 Nobel Prize winners – a testament to its value on education and culture.
- Israel has produced wine longer than any other country in the world – since Biblical times – and in recent years, has won prestigious awards.
- Just about all Israeli wine is kosher.
- By law, all fathers get vacation for the day of their son’s brit mila (mothers are on maternity leave, so automatically have the day).
- Everyone gets a week off if they need to sit shiva.
- The State of Israel has gathered Jews from practically every country in the world.
- When Jews anywhere in the world are in danger, Israel comes to rescue them; Ukraine, France, Nepal, Syria, Yemen – just to name a few.
- The history of Israel eclipses that of Europe and North America. “Yes, I am a Jew, and while the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.”, said Benjamin Disraeli.
- The majority of hotels in Israel have ‘Shabbat elevators” (which automatically stop on every floor), kosher food, regular keys to replace the electric keys for Shabbat usage, and the clerks wish you a Shabbat shalom.
- The Mount of Olives is the world’s oldest continuously used cemetery.
- Political and military leaders have great nicknames, which they are called by everyone.
- The monetary currency in Israel is the shekel, the same currency used by Moses, Joshua, and Shimon Bar Kochva.
- The shekel notes have raised lines on them so the blind can identify the different notes.
- The glue on the back of Israeli stamps (remember stamps?) is kosher. I think that’s hilarious.
- Israel’s air force is exceeded in size only by those of the USA, Russia, and China. We can reach anywhere we need to be.
- In late winter and early spring, G-d unrolls carpets of red flowers all over the northwestern Negev.
- Fresh pomegranates, fresh dates, fresh figs, and fresh grapes, all fruits of the Land of Israel, and locally grown, are widely available in most supermarkets in time for Rosh HaShana.
- So are pitayas, passion fruit, carabolas, and lichis – also locally grown.
- It’s one thing to have a sign on the bus that says Shabbat Shalom, or Chag Sameach. It’s quite another to have a sign requesting you to rise for the elderly.
- Nobody, EVER, nags you to stop having kids. A family of five kids is normal, as is 25 grandchildren.
- At most school ceremonies, anywhere in the country, the pupils wear blue and white, the colors of the flag.
- Patriotic songs are sung unabashedly, and with gusto, at school events, parades, weddings, bar mitzvah parties, and karaoke evenings.
- When my daughter was late for an exam because there was a suspicious object at the bus station, she was allowed in to take the exam, no questions asked.
- Because, no matter what, there is always the feeling of ‘we’re in this together’.
- Our National Anthem is called “The Hope”. In that we are rich.
- Miracles happen.
- When you live in Israel, you are living in the midst of a miracle.
And one more for next year:
No matter the hardships, the difficulties, the challenges, the frustrations, and even – sometimes – the fear, Israel is home;it always was, and it always will be.
Avinu Sh’b’Shemayim – Heavenly Father, Israel’s Rock and Redeemer, bless the State of Israel, the first flowering of Your final redemption. Shield it under the wings of Your loving-kindness and spread over it the Tabernacle of Your Peace.
Send Your light and truth to its leaders. ministers and counselors, and direct them with good counsel before You.
Strengthen the hands of the defenders of our Holy Land; grant them deliverance our God, and crown them with the crown of victory. Grant peace in the Land and everlasting joy to its inhabitants.
As for our brothers, the whole house of Israel, remember them in all the lands of our [ in Israel say their] dispersion, and swiftly lead us [ them] upright to Zion Your city, and Jerusalem Your dwelling place, as it is written in the Torah of Moses Your servant:
Even if you are scattered to the furthermost lands under the heavens, from there the Lord Your God will gather you and take you back. The Lord your God will bring you to the Land your ancestors possessed and you will possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. Then the Lord our God will open up your heart and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Unite our hearts to love and revere Your Name and observe all the words of Your Torah, and swiftly send us Your righteous Anointed One of the house of David, to redeem those who long for Your salvation.
Appear in Your glorious majesty over all the dwellers on earth, and let all who breathe declare: “The Lord God of Israel is King and His kingship has dominion over all.”