It’s that time of year again. When the weather starts warming up, the rains finally stop, and the blue and white flags start to decorate… well, everything. Car flags spurt from windows, buildings get dressed up, and LED displays show images of the Israeli flag waving behind a Ner Nishama (Azrieli Mall — I’m talking about you).
It’s the end of Yom HaZikaron (almost Yom HaAtzmaut) and each year, thanks to Benji Lovitt, we start to really enumerate the things that have made our Israeli heart just a little bigger. So without further ado, here are the 71 things that I love about Israel.
71. The radio, on Friday afternoons, not only tells you the news and weather every hour, but also tells you the times Shabbat comes in and leaves.
70. The teenagers in the crowd cheer for Israel’s lacrosse team by chanting Ashrei.
69. It’s cute that Israelis think they know what an omelette is. Or a grilled cheese. Or a milkshake. It’s not a chavita, a toast, or a shayk (I feel like Dr. Suess). It’s not right, but it’s cute.
68. On Shavuot, in the streets of Jerusalem, Haredim and arsim have water fights together, in good fun, just to cool off.
67. When you turn on children’s programming randomly, the TV stations and shows center around holidays so that even edutainment is relevant to life.
66. Delivery men kiss your mezuzah even if they don’t enter your apartment.
65. Israelis are everywhere around the world — you walk around Paris on the Rue de Champs Elysees and suddenly you hear HaTikvah on an udd only hours before you fly home.
64. The vegetables and fruits have so much flavor that you start to think you used to eat plastic in the old country.
63. Speaking of, if you’re vegan, you’d better start living in Tel Aviv — the vegan capital of the planet.
62. We all call each other “Jew” and no one gets offended.
61. If you’re craving the comforts of your old home, you can just head to Ra’anana and find most of it (thanks Meatland!).
60. There’s nothing like the excitement and anticipation leading up to the holidays, especially that moment you get to leave the office.
59. The entire country, north to south, gets all excited and teary eyed over the Yoreh (first rains) and the depth of a big puddle in the north (read: Lake Kinneret).
58. Israelis live on hope, even when it’s about the fast train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
57. When the rockets and missiles start falling again in the South, houses and hearts across the tiny land open for those who need shelter and a home-cooked meal.
56. Agree or disagree, the joy and passion and love presented in Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s posts inspire those feelings in others and reminds us to appreciate each other as people and citizens of Israel.
55. It’s 2019, and people may still vote with paper ballots in cardboard boxes decorated with blue construction paper (like in 5th grade), but parents take great pride when they bring their kids to the voting precints.
54. Goshen (the third best steak in Tel Aviv — and it’s kosher, baby!).
53. Israel has 137 official beaches and most have nicknames based on the “types” who occupy them seven months of the year (Hof Metzitzim — go into that one eyes wide open).
52. Uzi’s Hummus, the best hummus in the country (did I mention this last year as well? Because they still deserve it).
51. I’ve become familiar with four areas of Tel Aviv and I still haven’t seen it all.
50. If you’re a museum lover, then you’re in the right place! Per capita, Israel has more than any other country.
49. The dust and the earth here have a smell unlike anywhere else. As I always tell my kids, Israel is a dusty country, but it’s special dust.
48. My friend’s little daughter was hospitalized the other day and even though our soldiers were busy defending our citizens from rockets, at least a dozen, in full uniform, still found time to visit the children’s ward to bring a smile to their faces.
47. Only in Israel could you get into a deep philosophical discussion with a random someone at the bus stop.
46. Everyone in Israel is mishpacha (family). Which basically means that everyone can, and does, tell you what to do. At least they mean it with love.
45. Israeli guys with bouncy curls. Mmmm.
44. Even during rocket season, Israelis keep their sense of humor. “Ehhh, they just wanted to give us fireworks for Eurovision.”
43. When leaving Misrad HaPnim (Ministry of the Interior) and the security guard yells at the lady pushing a wheelchair to stop just so he can spray it with WD-40.
42. Only in Israel can you go to your local park and get into an argument with a Russian guy about moving to Israel from the States, but get along great when talking about Communism, Stalin, Russia, and anti-Semitism.
41. Here it might be a bit uncomfortable to talk to someone about the size of eggs (“habeitzim shelahem mamash gdolim. rak tzrichim shtayim!”)
40. Beresheet had all Israelis, here and abroad, rooting for the little one to make it all the way to the moon. Little country, big dreams indeed! Next time, like all Israelis, she’ll learn how to park.
39. All year, they sell pink and white marshmallows. For Yom HaAtzmaut, they’re BLUE AND WHITE.
38. Sandalim with socks!
37. Only in Israel do they post blessings outside of bathrooms (insert dirty joke here).
36. Making aliyah doesn’t mean moving away from friends. It means everyone will come HERE to see you (and Israel).
35. Israel has the best slang. “She ate my head with a spoon!” Whut.
34. Israelis are “sick” over their contractions (what I like to call smash-ups): shnahtz, motzash, natbag, or just make up your own. It won’t even cost you a shnekel, achi.
33. The glorious, dreamy, and golden sunsets on the sandy Netanya beaches.
32. Israel is so entirely international. I have friends who are French, Ethiopian, South African, Russian, Israeli, German, Italian, Japanese, and British.
31. Sarona Market. The food, of course, but don’t ignore the action outside. Music, dancing, energy!
30. I didn’t used to like halva, the weird sesame dessert thing, but when it’s available everywhere in hundreds of flavors, you just can’t help yourself.
29. Graffiti and street art are everywhere. Want to see some of it? If you live here, look around. If you live in chul (“chutz la’Aretz” or Outside of the Land), follow me on Instagram @tdrissman.
28. Did you know Israeli paper money has Braille on it? I didn’t either.
27. Israelis are awesome volunteers. Roughly a third of them volunteer their time somewhere. You can’t just say they’re brash — you also have to talk about their softer side.
26. We all know that Israelis are overachievers (startup nation, y’all), but their palm trees also work hard, producing 10 times as many dates as the average (about 182kg per year). We gotta eat!
25. David Jablinowitz and his bus stories always warm the heart. If you’re lucky, you’ll be featured in one! And now he has a podcast, so you have no excuse but to be informed and entertained.
24. Our family found snow up north this winter. Being a Michigander, I loved it. My kids are Israelis — one afternoon was enough.
23. Acre is super multicultural, historic, and gorgeous. If you haven’t made it there yet, take a day. Take money. Take your time.
22. If you’re a spelunker or just an admirer of caves and natural beauty, head waaaay up north to Rosh HaNikra. Bluer than blue and the world’s steepest cable car.
21. In Jerusalem, there is a family tattoo parlor that has been inking religious pilgrims for 700 years. That’s what I call staying power.
20. The most delicious meat and “cheese” nachos you can find (and is shockingly kosher) is at Crave in Jerusalem. It’s worth the trip, but you won’t want to share.
19. A more earthly set of beauty can be found, where else, on all the Tel Aviv beaches playing matkot, sunning themselves shamelessly, or playing beach volleyball. I will always say that dads with their kids are the sexiest.
18. Animals! Kangaroo Park in the north, Monkey Reserve in Modi’in, the Safari and Zoo in Ramat Gan, the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem — love LOVE LOVE!
17. The amazing Ilana Goor Museum. A stranger walked by me this past year, asked for directions, and then passionately told me that I HAD TO GO. A curio cabinet of a house, it’s a historic building filled with art, her own work included, which was all designed by the artist herself. Seriously eye-boggling.
16. Israel takes therapy very seriously. Haifa University has a medical clowning program — the world’s only official college program focused on clown therapy. Not of the “It” variety.
15. Eilat feels like a paradise unto itself. People go south to vacation and literally never leave (Hotel California by choice). The beaches, the aquarium, the dolphin reef, coral beaches, the underwater observatory, Petra, shopping tax-free, friendly cabbies, amazing diving… shall I go on?
14. Israeli television shows used to be nothing to brag about. Now they are so good they’re picked up by major television studios. Add these to your list and make some popcorn: Fauda, Mossad 101, Shababnikim, Shtisel, and best of all, When Heroes Fly.
13. The little, but delicious, winery inside the Scots Hotel in Tiberias (used to be operated by the Scottish Church). While you’re there, check out the hotel itself. Somehow those Israelis make those plaid pants look great.
12. EUROVISION! Americans, educate yourself. It is no joke.
11. This year, Tel Aviv celebrates 110 years of history, architecture, beaches, food, nightlife, sunshine, and markets galore. It’s most definitely the year to visit.
10. You never have to walk far to find a vegetable/fruit stand. Maybe that’s why Israelis have an average lifespan of 82.5 years and are listed as fifth for health longevity. L’Chaim!
9. The Israel National Trail is a hiking trail 683 miles long from north to south; it traverses a wide range of landscapes, flora and fauna, and a diversity of cultures. These boots were made for walking and walking and walking and walking.
8. Even little Israelis as young as 2 and 3 stand quietly for sirens which remind us of the cost of having our country. And we worry about those little Israelis growing up as we pray for peace. We feel fear and pride as we think of them, tall and handsome, wearing those Israeli green uniforms and defending our country.
7. Let’s talk business. Israel ranks fifth overall on the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index (moving up five places from last year) and in R&D, we’re number one. Makes me wish I could grow up to be a venture capitalist.
6. We’re super knowledgeable about the bird and the bees *wink wink.* I mean literally. Israel has 545 resident species of bird, and the 500 MILLION twice-yearly bird migration across Israel has been called the eighth wonder of the world. Israel also has 500 beekeepers with a total of 110,000 hives and an annual yield of 3,000 tons of honey. Sweeet.
5. Israelis are smart and educated with the highest number of engineers and scientists per capita. Which means that if you start arguing with someone on the bus, you’d better know what you’re talking about.
4. Arab Israelis make up 21 percent of the Israeli population and have created breakthrough inventions from science and medicine (think along the lines of nanotech array tech or neurobiological basis for emotions) to technology (really really really tiny computers) to biochemistry (synthesizing homogeneous proteins for a variety of structural and functional studies) and more. That’s a brainful!
3. The seriousness we feel, the depth of our feelings of personal loss on Yom HaZikaron when we remember our fallen soldiers and those murdered in terrorist attacks. Israel is such a small country that everyone knows someone. The tears that spill from our heart even as we push through the pain, keep insisting on not just surviving, but living and thriving. As Jews. As strangers name their new babies after the dead. Because that’s what and who we are. And we stand together singing HaTikva, shoulder to shoulder, lighting candles as the sun goes down and the fireworks go up.
2. Mangalim to celebrate! Shipudim! Shnitzel! Ktzitzot! Inflatable hammers and waving flags! Smiles on everyone’s faces. Chag Sameach to everyone — Happy birthday, Israel! PARTY PARTY PARTY! Even Wonder Woman parties here.
1. Always and forever at the top of the list: 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. Israel is home — MY home — and there’s nowhere like it on earth.