Happy Birthday, Israel!

This week marked the 61st anniversary of the establishment of the modern country of Israel. Inspired by his innovative 2008 list entitled, “Sixty Things I Love About Israel,” one American immigrant revisited his musings on the Jewish homeland.

Sixty-one More Things I Love About Israel

By Benji Lovitt

1. I love that even though I may not have spoken with someone since the Ben-Gurion Administration, he will call me to check that I have somewhere to go for Passover Seder.
2. I love how you can bring your dog into any café to walk around and no one bats an eyelash.
3. I love the social norm that allows us to double-dip in peace without neurotic fear of contracting the West Nile virus. Take your Purel bottle and stick it somewhere.
4. I love that you could take a homeless person with no marketable skills, put them behind the counter of Aroma, and they’d immediately be qualified to make a little foam heart in your cafe hafuch (aka cappuccino).
5. Mirpeseot. [Israeli balconies.] They’re cool.
6. I love that I visited Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, ran into an Israeli, and within two minutes realized we know someone in common. That could only be cooler if she were in fact a vampire and her name was Count Shawarmula.
7. I love tsofim, the Israeli scouts. I swear, these little MacGyvers can take wheat, some duct tape, and a falafel ball and make a nuclear reactor.
8. I love the magical phrase “yiyeh b’seder,” the Economica [bleach] of the Hebrew language. What can’t it handle? Flat tire? Failed test? Take two “yiyeh b’seder’s” and call me in the morning.
9. I love the peacefulness of Shabbat in Jerusalem. So quiet and relaxing. I can sit on my tuchus all day and not feel guilty.
10. I love how the smallest, least professional-looking chumusiot (hummus restaurants) serve the best tasting stuff. Within 7.2 seconds of your placing an order, they’ve scooped, spread, sprinkled and created what I like to call “beautiful goodness.”

benjihummusDoes it get better than this? Don’t worry, I already know the answer.

11. I love the impossible-to-predict playlist of Galgalatz. “Ok, Galgalatz, I dare you to play “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” followed by “Smells Like Teen Spirit”……………What do you mean you just played it?”
12. I love how when it rains, people celebrate like we just won the gold medal in basketball.
13. I love that when we win a gold medal, we celebrate like a people who take pride in every individual award won by our tiny country.
14. I love the effectiveness of El Al security. All together now: if El Al doesn’t do it, NO ONE SHOULD DO IT. Sorry, Delta, I’m not taking my pants off.
15. I love that while in America, Esti Ginzburg would be an 80-year-old grandmother in South Florida. Here she’s a hottie patottie Sports Illustrated model who also lights the Chanukkah candles.
16. I love the chassid who protested the sale of chametz by wearing only a strategically placed sock. Apparently the Red Hot Chili Peppers are huge in Mea Shearim. (And, no, you’re not getting a picture.)
17. I love the number of people who hit the social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to defend Israel when it’s being blasted in the international media.
18. I love that the popular kids game Simon Says is not in fact called Shimon Omer as Americans think but rather Herzl Amar (Herzl Said).
19. I love Friday in Tel Aviv and the incredible energy on the streets, in coffee shops, and oh yes….at the beach.
20. I love hanging out at Chof Bograshov in Tel Aviv and then seeing the same beach hours later in “Don’t Mess with the Zohan.”
21. I love not so much that my friends visit from the States and get so excited to be in Israel that they practically lose control of their bowels, but that I can secretly smile and and think to myself, “Yeah, I live here.”
22. I love Rosh Hashana dinner with my friends and their family when they feed me enough to nourish a small army.
23. I love when this unathletic North American Jew meets massive wood-chopping Israeli gever (man’s man). This dude’s arms were so big, they required arnona payments. [A bizarre form of city tax with no U.S. equivalent.]

24. I love drinking tea with only nana [fresh mint leaves] in it. Teabag–who needs it?
25. I love that Israeli tour guides know everything about every square inch of this country. If Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses of the Bible] went No. 2 on this rock, you can be sure that your guide learned it.
26. I love the uniqueness of the Israeli job search. Even if you don’t get the position you’ve applied for, there is roughly a 57% chance that you’ll be offered a date with the CEO’s daughter.
27. I love that there’s free wireless internet everywhere, especially in Ben-Gurion Airport. Eat your heart out, Starbucks.
28. I love that we put Shimon Peres on a wedding dress.


I don’t even have a joke here.

29. I love that my friend overheard his bus driver telling Talmudic stories with morals and relating them to current events. Only in Israel.
30. I love how lifeguards on the beach turn into Jewish/Polish mothers when they freak out and yell in Hebrew “Please please please, I urge you to come closer to the beach!”
31. I love that my cab driver offered me a peach and that I accepted it. That will happen in America when falafel balls fly.
32. I love the Israelis who take such pride in their country that they ask tourists, “You like Israel? Why you not live here???” When you’ve got Zionism, who needs linking verbs?
33. I love that this country is roughly the size of a parking spot yet is one of the most innovative producers of technology on the planet. Boycott us if you’d like, world. Just please return your cell phones, thanks. (And I’d like an iPhone while you’re at it.)
34. I love that the cable companies are named for English words, causing the inevitable awkward statement, “I’m waiting at home for the HOT guy to come.”
35. I love sachlab in the winter. [Translation: hot pudding scented with rose water sold by street vendors.]
36. I love that the vendors at the shuk sell their product as if their lives depend on it and like they just downed four cups of coffee. “AGVANIOOOOOOOOT! SHTAY SHEKEL!!!!!!!!” Do they know they’re selling tomatoes? You bet they do.
37. I love that a two year old can wet the bed but still sing “Avadim hayinu” for Pessach. Goooooo, Jewish education!

38. I love the brave 18 year olds who serve to defend this country. Do I even need to tell you what I was doing at that age? Let’s just say it rhymes with “Meroxing body parts.” Apologies to the administrative staff at Texas Hillel.
39. I love how the fruit shakes here contain the most obscure fruits in the history of the world. “Watch this….hey, can I get a shake with Abraham’s desert star citrus fruit, but the one without the seeds that only grows in the Western Negev? (pause) YOU HAVE IT????
40. I love how the street names aren’t Main, Elm, and MLK, but Hillel, Shamai, and Herzl. (Do you think Theodore had any idea that 100 years after his death, Tel Avivim would be selling furniture on his street? Hey, Ben-Yehudah, thanks for reviving our language. To show our gratitude, we’ve decided to give you a pedestrian mall where teenagers frolic and buy their name on a grain of rice.)
41. I love how Hebrew makes so much sense. A store with everything you need? Kol-bo. Delicious treat with cream in it? Crem-bo. We need more words like this. Bat Yam? The ars-bo! (Just kidding, Bat Yam, you know I love you.)
42. I love how Israelis will drink coffee even when it’s 80,000 degrees outside. “We ahr five meen-utes from deh sun? B’sedeeeer! Hafuch gadol!”
43. I love words like “teetchadesh” that neither exist nor make sense in the English language. “Wow, cool shirt! Enjoy using your new thing!” Nice try.
44. I love the distant cousin of the shuk vendor, the guy outside the Arlozorov train station selling “baigeles.” Apparently he gets paid to say baigele 568 times per minute without taking a breath. “BAIGELE BAIGELE BAIGELE!!!”
45. I love laughing when an Israeli turns to his friend and asks the question “mah ata dafuk?” (are you crazy?) The answer to that question is absolutely, positively, always yes. Whatever the guy just did, it was definitely dafuk.
46. I love that Agadir Burger Bar not only allows you to order a burger with just about anything on it but also publishes a calendar showcasing their waitresses.

All right, so maybe it’s a little weird…

47. I love that I just saw someone tell their pet “shev” [sit] which he of course did. He’s a dog and he knows Hebrew. Between this and the two-year old singing Passover songs, does it get any better?
48. I love that you can pay for everything in tashlumim, monthly installments. One of these days, I’m going to try this with an Egged bus driver just to watch his head spin.
49. I love that I went to a Guns N’ Roses tribute concert in Jerusalem and not only did the singer speak to the crowd in Hebrew, when he sang he actually sounded just like Axl Rose. “Oh oh oh oooooooh, sweet child of miiiine! Bruchim habaim [welcome]!”
50. I love that Israel got its first Apple store this past year. Yeah, baby.
51. I love how people have no qualms about giving you a ride to the airport even if it’s three in the morning and their wife is in labor.
52. I love the support that experienced olim (immigrants) give to prospective olim, answering questions and emails even if they’ve never met before.
53. I love flying into Israel and going through the “Israeli passport” line. (On a related note, I also derive some guilty pleasure watching the tourists lining up in the very lengthy “Foreign Passport” line as I quickly waltz on through. Does that make me a bad person?)
54. I love how on Rosh Hashana, the car radio display wished me a “shana tovah.” I don’t care what planet you’re from, that’s awesome.
55. I love the beautiful hills of Haifa which nevertheless caused me extreme confusion upon entering an elevator from ground level. “What do you mean we’re on the 9th floor?”
56. I love watching the Super Bowl until 5 AM with the guys. When you work that hard for it, you enjoy it that much more.
57. I love the superhuman Israeli hearing which allows them to pick up the “beep beep beep” of the news even while someone is using a jackhammer three feet away.
58. I love how Google redirects you to the Israeli version of the site. The first time it happened, I looked behind me and thought, “WHOA!!! How do they know???”
59. I love the powerful emotion I feel during the Yom Hazikaron [Remembrance Day of Fallen Soldiers] siren which you can only experience in Israel. Was anyone else caught off guard the first time they heard the siren? Seriously, I thought aliens were coming to eat my brain.
60. I love Yom Ha’atzmaut which is apparently Hebrew for “Go to the park and eat a cow.”
61. I love that I’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime experience and that it’s not over yet.

Benji Lovitt is a stand-up comedian, writer and blogger living in Israel. He has performed shows about life as an immigrant for Birthright Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh, MASA, Hillel, Hadassah, USY, Jewlicious and many other organizations. Benji’s writing and humor have been featured in the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Ynet, Atlanta Jewish Times, PresenTense Magazine, and other outlets, and his blog, WhatWarZone.com, has won several online awards. Benji can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

About tolerantamerica

On her recent tour for her book, Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe, Lisa was inspired by the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American elected president of the United States, to encourage cross-cultural dialogue about multiculturalism in America. To increase tolerance and understanding across communities, Lisa launched "A More Tolerant America" to feature guest bloggers, authors, activists, artists and other writers, who, like her, are multicultural. Klug's father is a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland and the descendant of a Spanish Jewish family that escaped the Spanish Inquisition. During her tour, Lisa encountered ignorance and bigotry toward Jewish Americans. As part of her campaign, this blog will giveaway books and other materials that promote cross-cultural dialogue.
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3 Responses to Happy Birthday, Israel!

  1. Pingback: Jewlicious » Why Not Keep Qvelling?

  2. jean says:

    You so nailed it! May I add some of my own:
    • I love swimming in the Med as the sun goes down on Friday evening and the lifeguard announces he’s leaving and “shabbat shalom.”
    • I love the hearing the alte-zachen man.
    • I love hearing the muezzin outside the Jaffa office I once worked in, or over the hills from my friend’s kibbutz.
    • I love the spicy smell of wild shrubs and flowers in the Galil.
    • I love that I got married ON Lake Kineret (sea of Galilee), with a full moon shining on the water.
    • I love those big thin Mediterranean-style “bagels” with melted cheese and salty green “cracked” olives.
    • I love how the Jordanian hills look purple in the evening across the sea of Galilee.
    • I love the sense of humor that is just part of life that can so often be difficult and painful.
    • I love that you can sit at a cafe for hours and no one cares if you are taking up a seat without ordering more stuff.
    • I love that no matter where you are or what you are doing, in Israel you never forget how alive you are.

    Thanks for letting me “play!”

  3. Shimstu says:

    great stuff! thanks.

    Please tell Shula at the Kiryat Moriah coffee shop that Stu says “Allan!”

    (we’ve met about 7 times, Benji, but you seem to forget me each time, like a goldfish..)

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