Israel, I love you. Here are 69 reasons why:

1. I love spotting old and tattered Israeli flags that are worn out but still waving. They represent this country – we may be old, we may be worn out, but we are still here.

2. I love that time I was getting my nails done and the woman doing my nails took out dried fruit from her bag and started feeding me (against my will).

3. I love that the taxi driver didn’t have a problem having a fight with his wife on loudspeaker with me in the car.

4. I love that when walking home from the army down Ben-Gurion Boulevard late one night, someone called down from a balcony and invited me to a party in his apartment.

5. I love how friendly I have become with one of the workers at my local supermarket – we are on a “text each other when we hear the other is sick” basis. Muhammad is much more than just a worker, he is a friend.

6. I love that there is a “national shidduch Whatsapp group” in Israel. There are different groups for different ages and hundreds of matchmakers trying to match the people they know.

7. I love that a phone call with my internet provider Bezeq somehow ended up being a conversation about a book that the guy from customer service had recently read and strongly recommended.

8. I love that a Druze pilot asked me out on a date and claimed to “have a thing for religious girls”.

9. I love the taxi driver that saw me on the street at 5am in uniform and drove me to my base free of charge.

10. I love that someone from my shul saw me in the queue in the supermarket and felt comfortable enough to take the peanut butter out of my basket, put it on the side and say “you don’t need it”. He may have indirectly called me fat, but… that’s what family does.

11. I love that I saw a bus driver, with a full bus, stop his bus in the middle of the street, get out and buy a falafel.

12. I love that within 20 minutes I saw 2 MORE BUS DRIVERS DO THE SAME THING. I couldn’t believe my Zionist eyes.

13. I love how everyone pushes in the shuk on a Friday, it means that everyone is rushing to prepare for Shabbat. The more I get pushed, the holier Shabbat becomes.

14. I love that the most common questions that I get asked by visiting dignitaries is “how do you do it?” We are strong, we are advanced and we are a great nation.

15. I love that when I was flying from the US to Israel and working on my university paper, the guy sitting next to me, who was clearly reading what I had been writing, started helping me with it. It turns out that he is a famous Jewish historian.

16. I love that my commander invites me to her house for Shabbat. Every Shabbat.

17. I love that time I was on a bus, it pulled up to a bus stop where a blind man was waiting, instantly two people at the front of the bus got up for him. The blind man didn’t end up getting on the bus.

18. I love that whilst waiting at a bus stop, 2 young boys got up from the bench when they saw an old lady arrive. She demanded they sit down because she “sat down enough today”.

19. AS I WRITE THIS DOWN ON MY LIST, the same old lady started consulting with all those at the bus stop, as to the best way to deal with her mouse problem.

20. I love that graffiti in Israel is a great source of inspiration, “We have no other land”, “Am Yisrael Chai” etc.

21. I love that it’s considered natural to offer the person you are sitting next to on the bus a piece of gum if you take one out for yourself.

22. I love that taxi drivers regularly pick up passengers even if they already have a passenger in their car.

23. I love that time that the above happened to me and the other passenger turned out to be an American soldier (I too was in uniform)… the taxi driver wouldn’t let me out of the car until I gave the American guy my number (he literally locked the doors)

24. I love that my cleaner, originally from the Philippines, knows more about pesach cleaning than I do.

25. I love that time I took my soldiers for dinner and someone anonymously paid for our meals.

26. I love that at 19:48 my soldiers and I will stop what we are doing in order to sing Hatikva. We will never stop appreciating where we are.

27. I love that when meeting with the deputy head of my unit, he spent more time talking about my love life than he did about the formal issue of the meeting.

28. I love that IDF Generals message me on Whatsapp. In what other military could such a thing happen!

29. I love that it was normal for me to invite the woman who does my nails to stay in my apartment when she broke up with her boyfriend that she was living with, I knew others would do it for me…

30. I love that ahead of Shavuot all dairy foods are on sale in the supermarkets.

31. I love that ahead of Yom Ha’atzmaut clothes in shop windows will be blue and white.

32. I love that when my friends throw a party in their apartments, most of the time, they’ll invite their neighbors in the building and most of them will actually come.

33. I love that the owner of Nini Hachi felt it appropriate to send me text messages with his opinion whilst I was on a date in his restaurant.

34. I love that the Prime Minister of Israel follows me on Twitter.

35. I love that when I feel an excessive amount of love towards Israel, I can literally just lie down on the ground and hug it out.

36. I love that every time a woman with a buggy gets off the bus, there will always be more than one person offering to help her off.

37. I love that I got a message from a friend telling me that he had found my other friend’s ID on the floor, he had searched for him on facebook and saw that I was a mutual friend and that is how his lost ID was returned.

38. I love that I get to be a spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces. All I have to do is tell the truth…

39. I love watching two dog owners meeting as a result of their dogs taking an interest in one another and talking as if they’re friends… these encounters happen all the time, I love them!

40. I love that on the way back from a night out with friends, I made up a game whilst on a Monit Sherut (taxi bus) called “six degrees of separation – let’s see if we all have a connection to one another”. All the passengers had a connection to one another.

41. I love that one of the guys that I played this game with actually added me on facebook. He’s probably reading this now, hello!

42. I love that the optician “Halperin” has a sale every year with the percentage off of optics based on the year of independence that Israel is celebrating (69% off everything this year!)

43. I love the guy who walked down the train cabin to give out wafers to the passengers.

44. I love that the school next to the IDF Headquarters rings to the tune of Golden Boy. In the middle of very important meetings I hear “I’m a golden boy come here to enjoy…”

45. I love that whilst in a meeting with a senior representative of the Ministry of Defense, I noticed he had a charity box on his table with 3 coins next to it. I asked him what they were for and he said “I want everyone who comes into my office to give charity!”

46. I love that Mendel, the old man at the wine shop next to my apartment, salutes me every single evening when he sees me walking home from the army.

47. I love when bus drivers sing loudly to the music playing on the radio.

48. I love when the passengers join in too.

49. I love Israeli soldiers. I may be one myself but that doesn’t stop me from loving them.

50. I love that as I sit down to write this list, a soldier literally came up to me and gave me a rose.

51. I love that passive aggression doesn’t exist here. If people are angry, they will tell you to your face.

52. I love that when someone goes to the toilet, they’ll ask a stranger at the next table to keep an eye on their bag. I do it too.

53. I love that when I let one of my best friends crash at my apartment for a few weeks, she ended up meeting her future husband… the Israeli guy who lives upstairs.

54. I love how normal it is for Israelis to wear jeans to weddings. This isn’t the most stylish thing of all, but it shows how damn comfortable everybody is with one another.

55. I love that on Memorial Day, even the passengers mid-flight will stand for a moment of silence.

56. I love that the last time I wrote a list like this, an Israeli guy reached out to me via facebook, and for two years following he would add me to a facebook group every few weeks with a different guy he wanted to set me up with each time. “Josh meet Keren, Keren meet Josh, you’re both Zionist and single” and would then leave the group. Only two years after regularly doing this did we actually meet.

57. I love that the word for “@” in Hebrew is Shtrudel.

58. I love that a local restaurant sent me over some free chicken noodle soup when they saw me walking home from the army sick.

59. I love that at weddings it is customary to say mazal tov to one another even if you’re not the one getting married.

60. I love Herzl Biton, the bus driver who took down a terrorist and lit a Torch at the National Independence Day ceremony – watch it on YouTube, you will cry.

61. I love that on numerous occasions, I have witnessed people on the bus have heated conversations ranging from politics to relationships. It really is quite phenomenal.

62. I love that a conversation that a random guy had with me on the bus, ended up in a series of successful dates.

63. I love that numerous people passed me tissues when at the funeral of a fallen soldier.

64. I love that my next rank in the IDF (the rank of Major), in Hebrew has the nickname of “falafel” because it is a leaf that resembles a falafel.

65. I love that the Hebrew word for a get together is a “happening” (said with an Israeli accent).

66. I love that my commander is the one who tells me when I need to get my eyebrows done.

67. I love that when I went to my bank, the guy behind the counter was extremely friendly and invited me to his home for Shabbat. A few days later, he texted me to see how I was and tell me that my credit card had arrived.

68. I love waking up in the morning and seeing my IDF uniform on my hanger, knowing that I have a huge privilege of defending the state of Israel.

69. I love that this is only my list and that everyone else has lists of their own – experiences, stories and moment that can only possibly happen in Israel.

About the Author
Captain Keren Hajioff is the Head of Public Diplomacy in the Israel Defense Forces. Keren was born and raised in London, graduated Hasmonean High School and after being an active in Bnei Akiva and FZY, made Aliyah to Israel in 2009.
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