Talya Woolf

70 Things to Love About Israel

It’s that time of year again… Israel’s birthday and it’s a big one. Here’s seventy reasons to love it – one for every year we’ve been around. Enjoy and may there be at least seventy more!

70. When you’re on a five hour bus ride (yes, you’ll still be within Israel) and your young toddler cries the ENTIRE second hour, rather than glare at you, almost all the people on the bus come back to help you and cheer him up (with chocolate sandwiches, bamba, and a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe).

69. Horrible translations into English despite being surrounded by Anglos. “Yes, I’d LOVE to buy a couple sweat cakes!”

68. Every last Israeli celebrates Pesach with BBQs, hikes, and beach time. How they fit millions of Israelis on those beaches – must be like Mary Poppins’ bag.

67. When your little toddler sees another kid eating a snack on the playground (and/or steals the snack), the other mom will gladly share the snack. Was there really any question?

66. On Pesach, the radio station plays punny, related songs, such as “I Want to Break Free” and “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

65. When you walk around pregnant or with a new baby, strangers will stop you on the street to give you blessings (or tell you to eat since you’re too thin).

64. The cashiers at supermarkets tell you to put back the eggs you chose because they are organic and double the cost.

63. There’s a “secret” Facebook group for almost every city in Israel, but it’s no secret that people in these groups are all willing to share an opinion (or help).

62. Israel – the only land where sheep and donkeys graze on the green grasses a block away from a industrial/commercial zone and rabbits are feeding near your bus stop.

61. Painted clowns and jesters juggle on unicycles to keep people entertained while they’re waiting in line at a government office or at a red light.

60. Upon entering a store, security guards simply ask if you’re carrying a weapon because they’re trained to easily spot a lie.

59. Those same guards ask if you’re bringing chometz into a store during the week of Passover. “No, but I have a gun-shaped matzah in my pocket… and I’m happy to see you!”

58. The same people who impatiently honk at you before the green light are the same people who will help you AND order you a pizza when you’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and two small kids.

57. You will be told to put socks on your baby (“she’s cold!”) and take socks off your baby (“she’s overheating!”) within ten feet of each other. The wisest move is to sic them on each other and run!

56. You can give your baby to a total stranger in your synagogue so you can say Yizkor and you know she’ll still be there when you come out.

55. You make a purchase at your local hardware store in April and the cashier says, “And a merry Christmas to you too!” because that’s the only English he knows.

54. The meat guy at the supermarket gives you half off an entrecote purchase because he’s entertained by your two year old and his taltalim (curls). (Quick kid, smile and tilt your head… Ima is anemic!)

53. Two words: shai laChag!

52. Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers, and singles; no one is left alone for any holiday.

51. You paid for two grocery bags but only used one. The cashier tells you to take the other one anyway – It’s a damn shame to lose out on ten agurot.

50. You go to the beach, lay in the sun, drink a margarita, eat an ice cream, and check on your friends who are still digging themselves out of the snow back in the States.

49. The grocery stores do all the work for you on Passover. All the chometz in the stores is covered so all you have to do is check for kitniyot if you’re Ashkenazi (and NOBODY wants to be Ashkenazi on Pesach).

48. For the Yom HaShoah siren, we stood on our porch. We saw into someone else’s yard where they were also standing at attention. Even in the privacy of their own home, people stand in memory of our murdered families and victims.

47. Uzi’s Hummus in Netanya.

46. A challenging postal system and a great sense of humor have to go hand in hand because, hey, we can’t do everything right.

45. To celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut at Gan, they all serve falafel and Israeli salad.

44. Female soldiers get their pants specially tailored to show off their best assets.

43. When exterminators find out that you have a new baby, they not only spray for bugs but also throw in a defense against eyin harah (the evil eye) – whether you want it or not, but why wouldn’t you?

42. Cool Israeli music that is religious, Mizrahi, pop, metal (Galgalgalgalatz).

41. Masheh koreh…. achshav!

40. When you see a nifty looking place to tour or hike, a delicious restaurant, or unique store, you know that it’s within driving distance. EVERYTHING is within driving distance.

39. The National Organization for Safety on the Roads, in their jingle, play on some of the words and phrases from the Pesach Haggadah. Why is this highway different from all the other highways?

38. The Chagim are national holidays!

37. THIS can happen: There’s an extremely long line at a kiosk so a worker starts passing out pieces of cold melon. A man in line has too many things in his hands so he declines. Instead, the worker laughs and put the chopsticks with the melon in his mouth for him. Everyone starts laughing and everyone buys melon. (c/o Raquel Gonzalez)

36. Shopping carts are left in the cashier’s line while their owners go back for more items. #abagofpotatoessavedmyspot

35. Israel is hosting the 2018 FIL Men’s World Lacrosse Championships this summer – the first time a country other than the US, UK, Australia, and Canada ever hosted it. The men with sticks are expected to do rather well.

34. Israel has history, modernity, and nature all rolled up into one neat package. There’s a new 70km (43 mile) walking path called the Sanhedrin Trail being prepared (a “smart” trail connecting the different centers in which the Great Sanhedrin sat under the rule of the Roman Empire). Thousands of school pupils and volunteers on the project discovered a priceless 1,400 year old intact oil lamp engraved with an eight-armed menorah and an extremely rare gold coin from Suleiman the Magnificent.

33. The BEST: Roladin’s sufganiyot, South Tel Aviv’s Cafe Levinsky’s hand made gazoz, and Givat Shmuel’s Greg’s Cafe hand blended ice cafe and Asher’s sabich and sabitzel sandwiches. TO DIIIIE FOR.

32. After Pesach, suddenly Israeli flags and other blue and white paraphernelia pop up EVERYWHERE in anticipation of Yom HaAtzmaut (car flags, head bandanas, 100′ long flags hanging from skyscrapers). We call them BFFs (big f*ing flags). Further, the entire country wears blue and white, are instructed to have their kids wear those colors for Gan and school parties, and everyone has the day off (including stores). Don’t forget – this is the CHEAPEST day in the year to buy shaving cream so stock up!

31. But first, we mourn the loss of our soldiers with a nationwide siren, where cars pull over and drivers stand at attention outside their cars, business people stop phone calls and stand, and little kids hear the tzphira in Gan. Even the trains stop for that moment. In the evenings, the country closes down, stores are shut, and it’s quiet except for that sixty seconds of the eerie heart-wrenching siren.

30. It is one of the few places on Earth where you can (and will) hear English, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, and French all in the same restaurant.

29. Holding a newborn baby in a pharmacy gets you a quick ticket to the front of the line (and an evil eye to the Russian guy who tries to get ahead of you).

28. The best coffee. Seriously. No burnt grounds (ehem, Starbucks), just perfectly ground, perfectly roasted cafe hafuch which turns you right side up in the mornings.

27. Shoko b’sakit. Because, for some reason, chocolate milk in a small spillable bag makes your crappy day worth it, but only if you open it by ripping the corner open with your teeth.

26. We may not have a double caramel frappacino but we do have a ice cafe – a delicious, dreamy blend of vanilla ice cream, coffee, and whatever other magic in it that makes EVERY SINGLE ISRAELI who lives outside of Israel homesick.

25. Knowing that I am not alone in my immense pride and fear – when I stand for the siren for Yom HaZikaron, holding the soft, little hands of my two small, innocent boys; thinking about how, in thirteen short years, my first and eldest will be drafted; and praying like hell that I never hear this siren for my kids, relatives, or friends.

24. Just as Christmas music comes out earlier and earlier, so do the sufganiyot – now right after Sukkot. Pistachio crunch, salted caramel, the ones filled with rum – this is why we fought Antiochus.

23. Olim get help (job offers, shoes, clothing, advice, legal and otherwise) from strangers via Facebook groups because the truth is that we aren’t strangers in this tiny country, just family who haven’t met yet.

22. Shop owners selling paintings on consignment negotiate against themselves when making a sale.

21. The minute by minute scheduling of the military flyover over most Israeli cities is publicized and it’ll only take a couple hours to circle several times over the country. We’re small but fierce.

20. Looking for a spouse? Talk to anyone on the street, in your cashier line, on the bus. Literally. They’ll start looking for you; more likely is that they’ll already have someone in mind.

19. Israel is usually the first to offer emergency assistance to other countries in need of help. We also work and train others so they can learn from our experiences and situations (ehem, Capetown).

18. Brilliant Israeli scientists are working on ridiculous cures for heartbreaking diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons, and by ridiculous, I mean long-awaited.

17. Amazing and transformative Arab restaurants are helping to change the face of Israel’s culinary scene.

16. There’s no moment that makes you understand more what is to be Israeli than standing alone with the sound of the sirens and understanding that even when you’re alone, you’re part of something way bigger. (c/o Guy Goldstein)

15. Many of the religious decide to serve in the army with the secular; sometimes the army is the first place the secular experience Shabbat.

14. Not kid-friendly, this is a kid-centered country. Jews in Israel are the only demographic whose average birth rate is increasing – and not just among the religious, but the secular as well. Babies… ALL THE BABIES!

13. Only in Israel will a huge, muscled macho guy argue with an old woman so that she takes his seat on the bus… then she makes sure he has a seat by the very next bus stop.

12. Gal Gadot.

11. You can get anywhere in Israel even without Moovit. Just ask the bus driver or the passengers. Not only will they help you find your stop, but they’ll remind you when it’s your stop as well (even when you’re sleeping).

10. For some reason, steamed peas and carrots are a thing here. You know of what I speak. There’s even a vegetable store named after it: Afuna v’Gezer.

9. In the Spring, when the kalaniot (anemone flower) bloom, EVERYONE wants to know the best place to see the endless Wizard-of-Oz-esque fields of the red blooms.

8. One of every two Israelis is a yenta. Look to your left and right. If someone isn’t trying to set someone up to be married, then the yenta is YOU.

7. Israel might be small, but it has 273km (170 miles) of beautiful coastline and beaches (and matkot, ice cream stands, and bars).

6. Srulik the Chalutz!

5. Having planted over 240 million trees, it is the only country that ended the 20th century with more trees with which it started.

4. We are lovers. We are fighters. We are smart and clever. We like to argue. We are tall, short, dark, fair. We are sexy and proud. We are an ancient people but a young and energetic country, full of conflict and life.

3. Israelis are every color, culture, nation (over thirty represented regions and countries), and from every path of life. They add to the depth and richness of Israel, making us stronger and better.

2. Like a phoenix, we rise up from the ashes in Europe, settle in our land of desert and wilderness and make it bloom with the sweat of our brow. Chalutzim (pioneers) dried up the swamps, built towers and walls (choma migdal) to turn our settlements under British rule into cities, and, over the course of seventy years, turned into a technological powerhouse, leader into the future, and light unto the nations.

1. I don’t have to be jealous of people living here, constantly posting pictures of loving family, amazing food, nifty tours and locations, and views of cliffs and valleys because, finally, I am the one living here! Eretz Yisrael is home and there’s nowhere else like it on Earth.

What.. Seventy reasons isn’t enough for you? Nu? Come home already. We will be waiting here for you with open arms.

About the Author
Talya Woolf is an eight-year Olah with four spirited children and a fantastic husband. She is a writer, American-licensed attorney, handgun instructor, amateur photographer, and artist. She is politically confusing, Modern Orthodox (though she doesn't dress the part), and ardent Zionist (ZFB). She enjoys spending time with family, friends, running, photography, and reading about highly contagious diseases and WWII.
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