There is No Place Quite Like It.

As we celebrate our 70th year of independence we need to think back to the earliest years from 1948 to the mid 1950’s.   The years of TZENA… rationing.

We have grown from a land of near poverty to a land overflowing with more than just milk and honey.

Old-time residents well remember those bitter years when rationing coupons were required for every citizen in a program created by Dov Yosef, the military governor of Jerusalem during the siege in 1948.

Long lines waited to buy powdered eggs and dried milk and what passed for bread. The daily diet was confined to 2700 calories. The nation was suffering from near starvation. Food was very limited and imported food products were  too expensive and beyond the budgets for the majority of Israelis to buy.

Women would have to stand in line from 4:30 in the morning to be assured that they would be successful in buying what they needed before things ran out.

Rationing consisted of 60 grams of maize, 58 grams of sugar, 17 grams of rice, 60 grams of flour, 20 grams of dried peas, 20 grams of margarine (no butter available for several years), 8 grams of noodles, 200 grams of non-fat cheese and 5 grams of dried biscuits. Additionally, one could only buy 75 grams of meet a month.

My wife recalled they allowed one egg per person per week.

It was a time when the black market flourished. Truck loads of meat,fish, fruits and vegetables were smuggled in and sold to those who could afford the much higher prices. The ration police did their best to find the black marketeers to put them out of business. Some 1500 were arrested but only 75 went to jail.

All clothing and shoes were rationed. Diapers… only if they could be found. Those were bitter and unhappy years for the hungry population of the new State. With the flood of new immigrants there simply was not enough food in the country to feed them.  And so TZENA..rationing.. became a bad word.

But the spirit of our people did not break under the severe hardships. Jewish ingenuity created new ways to cook. Chatzilim (eggplants) became a daily staple, baked, boiled or fried. Long live  Israeli improvisation !

It is a long time ago and we have become a prosperous and creative nation. Our supermarkets abound with freshly-grown fruits and vegetables. Chicken, fish and beef are available by the kilo. Everything that anyone could want is available on the shelves of our markets.

Once upon a time some of the best mens’ and womens’ clothing was manufactured by the textile industries in Tel-Aviv.  A suit that I bought in 1951 from OBG lasted me for twelve years.

Now all the clothing is imported from China. It is difficult to find things that were actually manufactured in Israel. Some shops on Manhattan’s Fifth avenue  cater to Israeli tourists who can buy there for lower prices than at home.

Our technology is renowned and envied in most countries of the world. Our patented inventions are used across the globe.  Even our enemies buy them with the labels “Made in Israel” removed.

To anyone who recalls the “not so good” old days, the Israel of today is a wondrous miracle. We lack for nothing except maybe for an influx of Jews from abroad who are welcome to join us.

The State of Israel in 2018 is indeed one of the miracles of the past century. It is a dream realized.

As Theodor Herzl, father of Zionism, wrote: “If you will it, it is no dream”. And we willed it !!!

To sum it up on our 70th year of independence:  There is no place on earth quite like it.

God has blessed us with a return to our ancient homeland.  Let us always love and treasure it.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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