In what has become something of an annual tradition, comedian Benji Lovitt lists 64 things he loves about Israel. Happy Independence Day from The Times of Israel!
1. I love how Israelis can be completely indifferent to politics but will still argue about their favorite hummus place until they blow an artery.
2. I love that when I went clothes shopping, a guy let me use his dressing room even though he wasn’t done yet. I didn’t catch his waist size but he was definitely an XL gever-gever.
3. I love the “mmm-bye” farewell greeting used by certain Israelis when hanging up the phone. It’s a cross between “l’hitraot” and a Hanson song.
4. I love that after striking up a conversation with a complete stranger at the Ben-Gurion baggage claim, not only did he offer me a ride home but we also discovered that we shared over 60 mutual Facebook friends. Seriously, how are there any Jews who still don’t know each other?
5. I love that because we were unable to get home due to the Jerusalem Marathon, we agreed that our driver would drop us off somewhere else, take our luggage to his home in Ma’ale Adumim, and deliver it to us later, with not a fear in the world that it wouldn’t go exactly as planned. The guy got out of his car to bring the bag all the way to my door. Now that’s service.
6. I love how the worker at Bank Leumi decided she could call me “motek” after knowing me for all of 2.4 seconds.
8. I love how when you call a wrong number on Passover, they still say “hag sameah” before hanging up.
9. I love that instead of worrying about kids developing peanut allergies, parents feed their babies Bamba before the doctor has even finished cutting the umbilical cord.
10. I love how every time the Tel Aviv bike rental project opens a new station, people post “mazal tov” in the Facebook comments.
11. I love that the Asian sushi chef gave me the rega hand gesture. How do you say “kibbutz galuyot” in Japanese?
12. I love that they don’t sell any of that “not kosher for Passover” matza crap here. Who the hell eats that? That’s like taking medicine labeled “Insulin: not suitable for diabetics.”
13. I love that the owner of the makolet across the street carried my roommate’s groceries home just because. Strange that batting my eyelashes hasn’t worked for me.
14. I love that a sherut driver will divert from their route to make sure a little girl gets home safely, coordinating with the other drivers over their CBs like the Israeli Dukes of Hazzard. (With the way she dressed, are we sure Daisy wasn’t a Southern freha?)
15. I love that Bob Dylan played his first concert in almost 20 years here. It’s unclear which language he was mumbling in.
16. I love that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are finally making their long-awaited appearance here. I hope they open with “Californicatzia.”
17. I love that you can discover at a Shabbat dinner that three different women share the same gynecologist. I couldn’t decide whether to be impressed or uncomfortable.
18. I love that certain stores advertise their dependability by claiming to be open “24/6.”
19. I love that this gas station offered a Friday special of a free newspaper and Shabbat hallah with a purchase of 180 shekels of gas:
Not seen in this advertisement: a purchase of 250 shekels gets you a brisket and an autographed copy of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s “Kosher Sex.”
20. I love that upon leaving gas stations or other parking lots, you see a sign that says “Tzetchem l’shalom.” Because nothing says kabbalist liturgy like unleaded gasoline.
21. I love that there is no design too intricate to put in the foam of a latte. You could request the waiter to draw a Pac-Man board and he’d ask, “Ehhhh…..weeth or weethout deh dots?”
22. I love that even the post office clerks show their cleavage. It makes me wonder what the numbers you pull out of the machine get you.
23. I love that during my pre-checkup small talk, my doctor asked me to review the Hebrew inscription he had written for his mother’s headstone before talking to me about Shai Agnon and Hebrew literature. I know doctors sometimes run late but that was a first.
24. I love that a prospective landlord gave me the key to check out his apartment at my leisure and trusted me to return it later. “Thanks, dude. Why don’t you just let me paint the walls, whip up a three-course meal, and then return it when I’m done?”
25. I love that Apple chose to open their first overseas R&D center in Israel. Maybe the iPhone 5 will have a virtual assistant named Shiri who answers your questions and does your laundry when you come home from the army.
26. I love that millions of people rallied in the streets last summer to effect change. If you don’t think cottage cheese was worth rallying over, clearly you’ve never had Israeli dairy products.
27. I love that during the tent protests, some protesters set up makeshift communal kitchens. Even when pretending to be homeless, Israelis still make fresh salads.
28. I love that no one here cares what Snooki ate for breakfast but the Kinneret’s crossing the red line causes my Facebook news feed to explode.
29. I love that despite the fact that we have fewer original TV shows than American cable has channels, Hollywood is buying the rights to Israeli TV shows like they’re Middle Eastern hotcakes.
30. I love the word “pashtida.” Have you said it recently? Pash-ti-daaaaaaaaa……… (For bonus fun, you can sing it to the tune of that Backstreet Boys song: “Everybooooodyyyyyyy… pashtidaaaaaaaa-dyyyyyyyy…” No, I’ve never sung this out loud in my kitchen while making pashtida — why do you ask?)
31. I love that I can advertise my vacant room on The Times of Israel and feel pretty confident about psychos not responding.
32. I love that during a massive delay in the re-ticketing line at Ben-Gurion, the airport staff passed out croissants and beverages.
33. I love that the salad bar in the airport’s pre-security atrium actually chops up fresh vegetables before your very eyes. The last time I saw that in an American airport, Elvis and Moshiach had just hugged me goodbye at curbside check-in.
34. On that note, I love that you don’t need to drown salad in dressing to make it taste good. (If I had a shekel for every disgusting cucumber I ate in America, I’d be Bituach Leumi.) This list is five years old; do we really need to review the awesome taste of Israeli vegetables? Didn’t think so.
35. I love that my Arab cab driver says “baruch Hashem” in Hebrew.
36. I love that Arab guys scream “Alte zachen!!!” in YIDDISH. I guess this is less surprising when you consider that our slang is in Arabic. Sababa!
37. I love that no matter how many different ways the Western world tries to spin and sell hummus, we know it can’t touch ours. “PEOPLE! GET THE FRIGGIN’ PEANUT BUTTER AND EDAMAME AWAY FROM THE HUMMUS!”
38. I love that Claire Danes told Conan O’Brien that Tel Aviv was the most intense party town she had ever been to. Thanks, Claire — please come back! And are you familiar with the conversion process?
39. I love that when someone accidentally drops a dish, everyone in the vicinity screams “mazal tov!”
40. I love that kids can walk home at any hour in this country and feel safe. While this may be an adjustment for children of olim, the biggest thing they need to worry about is their overprotective parents.
41. I love that instead of Spanish, the Israeli Dora teaches kids English. Hey, D, how about using your map to find Israel and open a Mexican restaurant already?
42. I love how even after a company has filed the appropriate paperwork with the various government offices, it’s not actually a proper workplace until it has a kumkum.
44. I love that Wonder Woman is called “Ayshet Chayil” in Hebrew. What, is she cooking Shabbat dinner in her invisible jet?
45. I love that the Golan has good old-fashioned cowboys:
There’s not enough room in this yishuv for the both of us. (pause) B’seder, I give you hafuch, then you leave.”
46. I love that I actually found a hummus sufganiya last Hannuka. I had already reached my sufganiya quota so I didn’t buy it. But who cares? IT’S A FRIGGIN’ HUMMUS SUFGANIYA!
47. I love that despite questions from abroad about the spectre of war with Iran, daily life in Israel is totally normal. “Do I feel it? I feel ness going down my throat 35 times a day — what are you referring to?”
48. I love the delicious salatim that inevitably fill half my stomach to kick off a Shabbat meal. Just once, I’d love for the host to serve them and five minutes later say, “That’s it. Seriously, that’s the whole meal.”
49. I love that people get more excited about the prospect of snow than teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Which is surprising since I’ve never seen a 15-year-old faint from inclement weather.
50. I love that there are approximately 21 million news sources from Israel all over the political spectrum, approximately 2.711 for every citizen who thinks he could run the country better than the government at any given time.
51. I love that even after five and a half years in Israel, the women still become approximately 478 times hotter the minute I hear Hebrew come out of their mouths.
52. I love that even as a straight man in Tel Aviv, I can step back and say, “Damn! These are some good-lookin’ dudes.” (Although after my pashtida confession, some of you may have your doubts.)
53. I love that my teacher friend receives a stipend for new clothes every August. Because if you’re going to be harassed by 40 young Israeli children, you might as well look your best.
54. I love that a Jerusalem court is currently hearing a case against the producers of the Israeli “Big Brother” for allowing a cast member to bring a Tanach into the bathroom. Whereas this may be offensive, c’mon, where do you get your best reading done? Only in Israel.
55. I love that Shelly Yachimovich’s winning the Labor party election at the time gave women the leadership of two of Israel’s biggest political parties. Golda power!
56. I love how, when I told my friend I was moving to Spinoza St. and wondered aloud who he was, he took three steps toward the bookcase and grabbed a book about Spinoza himself.
On second thought, achi, I’m moving to Rechov Million Dollars…
57. I love that the day after Thanksgiving, instead of trampling each other for an Xbox, we conduct ourselves like civilized human beings. If, G-d forbid, there was only one container left of hummus, would you and the ars come to blows? Of course not. You’d smoke a cigarette; he’d call you ”kapara,” and then invite you for dinner to meet his sister.
59. I love that no matter how much daily occurrences can drive me crazy here, the minute my plane lands in the States, I turn into the minister of tourism.
60. I love that I have lived here long enough to see the proverbial “light at the end of the klitah tunnel”; that despite difficulties and doubts, I was able to truly celebrate my five-year aliya anniversary last summer:
61. I love that when I go back to America, I feel like Marty McFly returning to 1985 in an alternate reality, recognizing that there is so much more to life than most people realize.
62. I love how prospective olim make me feel like a Jedi when I share my thoughts and experiences with them.
Use the force… of your elbows to cut in line.
63. I love that Gilad is home with us where he belongs and the incredible feeling of peoplehood and family we all felt on the day he came home. I can’t imagine having been anywhere else. Welcome home, Gilad.
64. I love that I’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime experience and that it’s not over yet.
* * *
Benji Lovitt is a comedian and writer. Contact him at www.benjilovitt.com if you want to rent his room in Jerusalem or book a show. For previous entries in this series check out the 63, 62, 61 and 60 things Benji loves about Israel.