This post was inspired by an article in HaAretz on occasion of Israels 70th independence day. One of the papers well-known correspondents was challenged to find 70 things he loves about Israel. He listed 67, claiming he couldn’t come up with more and it had been hard to find these.
The list included some peculiar entries like the Gaza strip and places with sad childhood memories. I guess that’s what happens when you try to make your emotions adjust to your political views.
I decided to find my own 70 things worthy of being loved (and putting politics aside). Wasn’t hard at all. I could have gone on but will leave some for the next independence celebrations.
So here’s my very personal list of 70 things I love about Israel (not necessarily in that order).
1. Diversity – Definitely the number one on the list! It shows itself in everything and often goes to every extreme. There is ethnic diversity, traditional, political, religious… you name it. It is present in every aspect of life and society. You will find every kind of food, music, tradition, lifestyle, beliefs, languages etc. packed together in a small place.
2. Humor – this is little known, but Israelis have a great sense of humor. We have to. It is the only way to cope with the daily culture shocks we go through and mentality clashes we have to endure as a side-effect of the no. 1 on my list.
3. Food – I am not talking about any in particular, but food in general. Like many things, Israelis have developed a passion for food. When I came to this country we had one type of bread and on the weekend we had Challah. There was white cream- and cottage-cheese and once a week we got yellow cheese. The only meat was chicken. Today you can find delicious food in every variation.
4. Criticizing everything – Israelis love to criticize. And it is o.k. to criticize anything and everything loud and publicly, even if it is totally ridiculous and unfounded. If it wasn’t for the article in HaAretz, this probably wouldn’t be on the list. But it made me remember that being able to openly criticise everything is a type of luxury we enjoy in our society.
5. Improvising – The fact that people like doing things in unconventional ways and look for short-cuts to everything, definitely makes life interesting. It’s also a skill necessary for survival and it fosters innovation.
6. Start-ups – Speaking of innovation, I think this point doesn’t need any explanation.
7. Travel lust – Israelis love to travel and they do. We hike and bike and ride and drive with the entire family inside and outside of Israel.
8. Arak – is the common people’s remedy for everyday blues. An inexpensive liquor with the taste of anise.
9. Music – Remember no. 1 on the list? I’ve even learned to appreciate oriental music. Well, sometimes in small doses.
10. „Fauda“ – amazing television action series, placed in the dirty, brutal, and merciless world of terror and Israeli under-cover units combating it. It’s an example of Israeli filmmaking that has produced great series and noteworthy movies in recent years.
11. Individualism – everybody is an individualist (even among the orthodox here and there) and everyone wants to be the boss. Yes, it’s annoying. But it makes it o.k. to be different, because everybody is different.
12. Arik Einstein – the first Israeli musician I knew by name and still the one I admire most. He shaped and influenced Israeli music like few others. He was and is liked by everybody. I love his music and his voice.
13. Ephraim Kishon – picked out the little ridiculous things about life in Israel and made us laugh about ourselves, without ever sounding disrespectful. He contributed to point 2 on my list.
14. Stand-up comedy – o.k., not really, because it is just too much! I mean, it’s like a national sport. But I love the way it binds the younger generation. They talk about stand-up, like we spoke about our favorite bands and songs, reciting entire routines.
15. Talking to strangers – I became friends with people just because we take the same bus every day. I don’t even know why. We simply started chatting somehow.
16. Getting directions – you’ll never get lost in Israel. People may not know where you want to go, but there will always be people going out of their way to help you get there.
17. Waze and Moovit – how did I ever live without these two apps?
18. My garden – my favorite place on earth.
19. The sea and the beach – no comment necessary.
20. Rosh Hanikra – white cliffs ascending out of the sea and small washed-out caves with shimmering walls. Ahhh, so beautiful!
21. The Dead Sea – phenomenal, unique, stunning, each time an experience.
22. Machtesh Ramon – another phenomenon, not as spectacular, but unique and intriguing.
23. Kibbutzim – are for me the most Israeli item. There is nothing more Israeli than a Kibbutz. They are what brought me here and what made me fall in love with this country. I am full of deep admiration for the Halutzim (first settlers).
24. Moshavim – are for Sephardic Jews, what kibbutzim were for Ashkenazim. I have come to respect their ways and initiatives as Halutzim as well. Many Moshavim are wonderfully quite places to live with lots of space for the individual.
25. Olim Hadashim – new immigrants, they are still pouring into the country. And to me, whoever stays, finds his place in society and establishes a life for himself/herself is a hero.
26. Zionism – it’s a form of patriotism, which I am not usually fond of. But for the Jewish people in Israel it is a dream come true. And we must never forget this!
27. Abu Ghosh – my favorite Arab village in Israel, especially the little fruit and veggie store, always good quality and friendly. A place of true coexistence.
28. Shopping in your house-slippers – not that I particularly like to do this. I usually giggle when I see people in their slippers and tracksuit in supermarkets or on the street. What I like is the fact that I CAN do it, if I want to, without appearing weird.
29. The northern road – just north of Tel Hai, turn west and drive up the hill. Keep going till you reach the Mediterranean. This area has an exceptional character. If you’ve never been there, you are missing a significant part of Israel.
30. Jerusalem – let’s leave this one for another time. I need a long breath and enough energy to get into it (not sure it will happen in my lifetime).
31. Nathan Sharansky – I admire the man; wrote a blog post about him.
32. Shimon Peres – same as previous.
33. Ben Gurion – oh, he must have been some character! I don’t think he would do well in politics today, unfortunately.
34. Gal Gadot – no, I don’t mean wonder-woman, I am talking about Gal Gadot, the woman and actress. I liked her long before she was ever considered for the part. She is smart, ambitious, tough, charming and also super sexy.
35. My daughter – everything I lack in being Israeli, I can see in her. I love her for making me tolerate and accept things about Israel, I could have never understood without her growing into it.
36. My partner – part of his family are seventh generation ‚Tsabarim‘. So, they were Jewish Palestinians, the most indigenous people of Israel. That’s not the reason I love him, but it makes him more Israeli than most people I know.
37. Driving in Jerusalem on Shabbath – streets are empty and quiet, you can get quickly from place to place and still see things you never notice on a regular day. Just need to make sure to stay away from religious neighborhoods.
38. Infrastructure – never a dull moment, it is constantly being expanded and developed. Thanks to that we can live in one part if the country and work in another.
39. Minutes of silence – on Holocaust remembrance day and on the remembrance day for fallen soldiers and terror victims. It is extremely powerful when the whole country comes to a standstill. Does this exist anywhere else in the world?
40. Yom Kippur – I know, what you’re thinking. How can anyone love Yom Kippur, what’s there to love about it? It’s a horrible day. But I love the quiet. No background noise from any electric equipment, factories, vehicles etc. You have to experience it to know what it’s like.
41. Remembrance – In Israel I have learned the importance and the difficulty of truly remembering. With this important point I will end the tragic part of my list.
42. Esther Rada – an Ethiopian-Israeli jazz and blues singer with an amazing groove.
43. Spring – it is short and intense. I refuel on energy for the rest of the year when nature seems to explode with green and color.
44. Erel Margalit – founder of the JVP (Jerusalem Venture Partners) and other similar organizations, dedicating his life enthusiastically and successfully to supporting entrepreneurship. A person with a vision for Israel, constantly laboring to turn it into reality.
45. The airport – seriously! First off, the place is loaded with emotion. Keep in mind, it is the only gateway to the rest of the world. But I also like the building itself. It is built on logic and practical thinking. And it is the most secure airport in the world.
46. The road from Sattaf to Beith Shemesh – probably the most beautiful road in the country.
47. Kiddush – hmmm, I don’t know, it gives me a warm and pleasant feeling of belonging.
48. Aroma and Roladin – you know, the coffeehouse and bakery chains. Isn’t it obvious to love them?
49. Jaffa flea market – Lots of second-hand stuff, some useful, some junk, some real antiques and stuff that’s hard to find elsewhere. In recent years, fancy boutiques have popped up and given it a real artsy atmosphere. Coffee-shops, bars, and restaurants fill the little streets. It has a very young, modern, freaky, cool flair.
50. Spontaneity – yeah, we don’t have much of that where I grew up. It makes life exciting.
51. Argue and make up – goes with the no. 4 on the list. Israelis will argue about anything, sometimes for the sake of arguing. I like the fact that they can do that and stay friends. There’s even a children’s song about ‚little arguments‘ on the album that I honor in my next point.
52. „HaKevess haShishaAssar” – “The Sixteenth Sheep”, this album of children’s songs by Jonathan Geffen includes the most wonderful, smart, heartwarming and unforgettable lyrics and melodies for kids.
53. Humus and Tehini – banal, but they deserve a place here. Just like the French love their croissants and Americans love pizza.
54. Rubi Rivlin and his wife Nehama – Very positive down-to-earth persons, connected to the average people.
55. Coffee with Hawaige – this can’t be spelled in English. I love the mixture of spices in my coffee. We grind them ourselves at home because you only get the full taste when it’s fresh!
56. Getting chasers in restaurants – you sit at the bar in a restaurant. Next thing you know you are drinking on the house. The barman simply puts chasers in front of you, whenever he feels like it. How can anyone not love that?
57. Tea with Nana and other herbs – can I have some?
58. Dog gardens – large, fenced-in gardens for letting the dogs out. You can’t let your dog run free in the city, but Israelis are freedom lovers, so they unleash them and let them play in designated gardens. A place for socializing of dogs and their owners.
59. The Hula valley – Years ago residents of the area would proudly tell the story of how the swamp was drained and dried and turned into farmland. Today the same people will proudly walk you through the nature reserve with the reestablished swamp. Changing what you believe in is a lot harder than sticking to your arguments. Admitting that what was right years ago, may not be right today is wise and the Hula reserve is a symbol of that wisdom. Besides, it’s awesome.
60. Cherry tomatoes – yummy! They are symbolic of Israel’s innovative agriculture. The list of newly bread fruits and veggies is long and amazing.
61. The shuttle – The free bus service into Tel Aviv, super clever and efficient. I wrote a post about that once.
62. Klil haChoresh – I am in love with this tree! It puts color back into the world after the winter, before any of the other trees even realize it’s over (only the almond trees bloom earlier, but they are white).
63. Sacher garden – The large park in the center of Jerusalem. For people in the city it is like the private garden they don’t have. I wrote about it once as well.
64. Nachlaot – One of the first neighborhoods in modern Jerusalem. A mixture of students, religious, artists, musicians, and weird people live in small patch-worked houses. An odd mixture of semi-slums and expensive vintage.
65. Honey from Nataff – Natural, organic honey from the little village of Nataff in the Jerusalem hills – tasty, rich in nutrition and healthy.
66. „Dry Bones“ – The one-of-a-kind cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen has made me laugh with this series even before I ever realized he was Israeli.
67. Foreign supporters to Israel – All those organizations and individuals out there in the world, who actively support Israel through money, information, activism or simply by seeking the truth – like Hillel Neuer from UN Watch and Gerd Buurman in Germany. You are amazing!
68. Ayalon Promenade and Shvil haRakevet – On the weekends the promenade along the Ayalon river is full with people strolling, biking, running, skating, working out, hanging out, holding hands, chatting, gossiping… just what humans do. The same is true for the path created on the old train-tracks cutting through Jerusalem. The people look quite different, though; very characteristic for the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
69. Chakra – my favorite restaurant. Great food and lots of it, best service, fantastic atmosphere, most wonderful staff.
70. Coming home – Every time I fly back into Israel, as soon as I see the landline appear through the window of the plane I am filled with joy.
Did I surprise you with anything? There are a lot more things I could mention here, and I am not even sure these seventy are the main items. It is a list of whatever popped into mind first. What do you love about Israel?