Allyson Altit

Special Edition: Israel

You know how sometimes artists create something for their career and it is referred to as a SPECIAL EDITION? At times food companies produce an item that is referred to in the same way, as do wine makers also. I am realizing that with the creation of Israel, it should also be referred to as a country that is without a doubt a SPECIAL EDITION.

Since I have extended my visit to stay in Israel and primarily in Tel Aviv, I feel compelled to write about my personal time over these past weeks. I am NOT going to discuss how proud I feel about Israel and how awesome it is to have such an amazing Jewish country. Nor do I feel the need to state how brilliant the Jewish brain is here in Israel and how impressive and innovative the people I have met are; all of that you already know.

I just want to mention the other side to this country that I find unique. Some aspects of life here can be annoying, comical or just endearing, hence the reason I refer to Israel as a ‘SPECIAL EDITION’ – in my opinion of course.

People seem to recognize me, since my week visit turned into nearly 3 weeks by now. One of my new friends is an elderly man, accompanied by his caretaker, who takes in the sunshine perched on a bench on Rothschild Boulevard. Lately when he sees me he gives me the PEACE sign and a huge smile and a nod. Another man, who has probably been in this city forever, rides his bike and walks his dog simultaneously. He CLAIMS TO KNOW ME from all my walking excursions TO THE BEACH. However, when he said hello to me it was the first time I had noticed him. I suspect he wanted to strike a conversation and ask where I was from so he could tell me he lived in Chicago a very long time ago and basically be friendly. Others seem to realize that I am American (which I still have no clue as to how) without me saying a word, they suddenly speak in ENGLISH, (as we wait for the light to change,) to whomever they were just speaking in Hebrew with. I pretend not to notice, it’s f unny to me.

Whenever I ask directions, as I prefer to walk all over this city, most will answer me by stating how REHOK it is when all I want is for them to point me in the correct direction! The only negative thing about walking in Tel Aviv is the issue of dog owners not picking up after their dog. My advice is do not look up because in an instant you can find your step in a disgusting mess. I thought it was bad in France, but here it is just as problematic. Otherwise I find it sweet that with the many dogs being walked, people are quite friendly toward one another’s dogs. It appears to me that it has become kind of a big trend here, to have a dog and walk it around the city. In fact, many restaurants and shops have bowls kept outside the business to provide the pets with food and water.

I have some more personal and favorite situations that occurred and I can only sum it up by stating: ONLY IN ISRAEL.

Israeli Shower
First, my Israeli shower. The issue, sometimes even with solar energy and lighting the boiler, is questionable: will there be hot water? Will there be a strong stream? Will there even be water at all? The first time this occurred I admit I was annoyed as the water was initially cold, but then when the flow stopped entirely while I was in the middle of the shampoo stage, I was quite upset. Since then I just have no expectations. If there is water and it is hot, I feel a great start to the day……

Going to the shuk always brings back memories, but it has proven to me just how rusty I am with the shuk mentality. Naturally I was ripped off here and there. Once when I asked for half a kilo (of tomatoes), the guy decided to add more to my bag and silly me thought he was just being nice….I realized I was wrong when he did not give me my change. “Who asked for more tomatoes,” I exclaimed! He thought I didn’t speak Hebrew and soon enough gave me the few shekels and left the extra tomatoes in the bag. Then the dried fruit and nut guy did sort of the same thing. He talked me into buying a few kilos of walnuts and then I could barely walk home with my bags. I made it home, but to my surprise, a broken elevator awaited me. There was no apparent reason for this, but I had no choice but to haul up my stuff like I used to do 32 years ago, except back then we didn’t even have the option of an elevator.

Yom Shishi
It was YOM SHISHI and time for a walk on the beach before I began cooking Shabbat dinner for my daughters and their friends. I needed some last minute things and went to the market nearby. After my purchase I asked the Arab Israeli employee if he would mind if I left my bags while I go walk on the beach. He was so happy to store my bags behind the counter. When I returned that afternoon, someone in his family had replaced his shift and gave me the bags as soon as I returned. I thought to myself, here is a small example of how we can live together!

Before the elections in Israel you can find the solicitors for the candidates on the streets. Strangers begin to debate with each other and passersby also chime in with opinions on a screaming level. It is just part of their walk to work or their lunch hour outdoors and following the small screaming match everyone smiles and moves on their merry way.

A Pit Stop
The situation I found myself in during another walk on the beach is among my favorite tales. As I became closer to the Namal I needed to make a quick stop to the bathroom. I entered the bathroom area of a busy cafe on the beach and an older man (maybe age 80) exited one of the stalls. Immediately he said to me that he thought the first stall was too dirty and in his opinion the one he just came out of was my best bet; the only catch was that the lock didn’t work. I felt insecure; I mean how awkward, this stranger in a nice way gave me his advice but who is he and really! He saw me reluctant to go into a bathroom without a lock and said “it’s okay I am here washing my hands.” I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be comforting, but while it felt weird, I believed him. I needed the bathroom and my gut told me it was fine and I should go in. I ran in and out quickly and found him slowly washing and drying his hands. He looked at me and said “Are you okay, I told you it would be fine.” I told him in Hebrew how this was very strange for me because typically in New York if this same scenario would happen I would have been out the door in a hot New York second! WAIT its not over….the next second he asked me where I was from and ironically his wife’s family hails from the same town. He was so excited he asked if I had a few minutes to spare so I could say hello to his wife, and of course I did! We played Jewish geography for 5 minutes and wished each other well. I walked away thinking-, ONLY IN ISRAEL!

All of the comments that I have made here are a small part of the character of this place. These scenarios are what I find truly endearing about the country and are just a drop in the bucket of what makes ISRAEL A SPECIAL EDITION of a country. The best, and all time favorite experience I find when being in Israel is having the opportunity to offer a ride to a soldier going home for Shabbat. That will forever fill me up with pride and just reinforces the giant family everyone can feel at all times here. In addition to the possibility of having KAYITZ in winter with the amazing sunshine, I also love Yom Shishi in Israel. No matter where you travel in this world, the feeling of Yom Shishi here, which seems to begin trickling in on Thursdays, cannot be felt as profound as in Israel.

Almost time to leave this home and before I leave I also want to say “toda raba” to the many bus drivers and cars that did not run me over but rather waved me across in surprisingly the most polite manner.

No goodbye over here, but rather, see you very soon…..

About the Author
Allyson Altit is from New York. She has worked in the travel industry for over 30 years as a leisure specialist. Her area of expertise is in European destinations and Israel. She has been involved with charity work for the Hadassah organization as well. In 2009 she graduated from Queens College majoring in Jewish studies. She has just completed writing her first novel...