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Six More Things I Love About Israel

Israel

Way back when a friend challenged me to write an article about things I love about Israel. I thought it was a fair challenge on a number of levels. Obviously there are things about the country that bug me to no end. It’s only fair that I tell the other side as well.

There also needs to be some balance to my bitterness for what I’ve seen and been through. And even if it’s not there to counterbalance my feelings about Israel, it’s worthwhile to be there to counterbalance my soul. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking it would be great to be cynical today.

But I am a cynic. And I have plenty of reasons and ongoing support for my cynicism. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. And credit should be given where credit’s due.

1) ProFit, My Beloved Gym

Gyms in Israel aren’t known for being very affordable. And even though I’m certainly spending more to go to Profit in Talpiot than I was spending in the States, I must say that a) it is the most affordable gym I’ve seen so far, and b) it’s worth each and every penny.

Not only has my gym been my greatest form of escape and has kept me strong and fit for some time now, but it is truly a break from some of the most stressful elements of Israeli society. There’s no Israeli vs. Arab in my gym. Everyone exercises side by side. Men exercise alongside women, religious folk on the machine next to someone completely secular. And all political opinions are left at home.

Everyone is just working hard to be healthy. A common goal that transcends all the garbage that chills me to the bone.

2) Walking the Mighty Mesila

And speaking of breaks from the world at large, nothing beats a walk down the Mesila (also known as Derech Harakevet or the Old Train Tracks).

A walk down this lengthy and gorgeous path is a trek through all elements of Israeli society. Some folk are jogging. Others are walking their dogs. And still others are just going from one place to another.

And some are just sitting and enjoying the crisp, clean air.

But they all have one thing in common: They’re at peace.

The Mesila isn’t just a break from all of the craziness of Israel. Anywhere in the world this would be considered a beautiful, relaxing place to spend your time.

3) Israel’s Objectively Better Wedding Experience

I’m going to say it, out loud and once and for all: Weddings in Israel are far better than weddings in the States.

Weddings in America are very formal and slow paced. Everyone is seated during the ceremony and everything progresses in an ultra-standard way. And there is a fashion show aspect that is hard to ignore.

At an Israeli wedding, formal dress is downplayed. It is not at all uncommon to see many a guest in sandals and an untucked white shirt. They pile around the ceremony. And this overly informal atmosphere goes hand in hand with the wild and pure fun about to come.

Sure, every wedding has the guy smoking at the side and the bozo who answers his cell phone. It’s all worth it to create the perfect environment for the crazy amounts of informal fun everyone is about to have.

Everyone’s about to sing and dance in utter joy, with few dull moments. An objectively fun and exciting experience!

4) Israel’s Uncanny Ability to Move On

Israelis have an uncanny ability to forgive and forget, so drastically different than the environment I grew up with in the States.

I feel like holding tightly to grudges is a part of being a true blue American. Someone wronged you, and there is no statute of limitations to when the ensuing feud will come to an end.

Not so the mighty Israeli. Anger in Israel is intense and frequent, but short lived and completely impersonal. Just because you were in a yelling match with the clerk from the Misrad Hapnim for twenty minutes yesterday, doesn’t mean they hold any ill will whatsoever. It’s more likely that if you were to see them on the street the next day you would get a nod and a semi-friendly “What’s up?”

5) Israel: A Different Kind of Pride

Admittedly, I waiver about my feelings on this one. Israeli pride can be funny sometimes. Folk here use the word “we” a whole lot. Oftentimes they’re referencing an accomplishment made by an individual or an organization (or even something that happened before they were born), and using it as a source of pride.

We invented the PillCam. Or Soda Stream. We won Eurovision! And the list of national achievements can go on and on.

I grew up in the States. I never once found myself bragging about the invention of dental floss or crash test dummies. Yet in Israel it’s entirely natural to have a national pride over all the “Israeli” accomplishments, regardless of your giant lack of actual connection.

6) Israel’s Doggie Culture

To be sure, there are plenty of stores and other locations where it is not permitted to bring my precious pooch. But it feels like they are the exceptions, not the rule.

The default is that you can bring your dog almost anywhere. I’ll never forget once walking through a strip of bars in Jerusalem. We contemplated sitting down at a place, but I was concerned that it wasn’t an option, since my trusted hound was with me. Not only did they encourage me to come in regardless, they offered to bring him a bowl of water!

Indeed, good ole Frankie gets to experience a whole lot of Israel.

***

Anyone watching knows I don’t love everything about Israel or its culture. I think it’s import to critique Israel, from top to bottom. I think it’s essential we all work together to create a better and more functional society. The society we deserve.

But I need to give credit where credit’s due. Israel is by no means devoid of its positives, and some of those are reason enough to cross the ocean and stay here for a while.

May we be blessed to fix the ever-present problems plaguing our everyday lives, and may my next list be about the top 100 things everyone loves about Israel!

***

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Make Me Rich in 2019!

Passive Income

2019 is going to be my year. This is the one in which I achieve complete financial independence. And this is the year where I finally get to a stage where I wake up in the morning no longer frightened to pay my bills.

I want to get there without pain. And I want to get there with a giant smile on my face.

Passive Income

I’ve spent a large chunk of the past couple of years studying the concept of passive income. This is something a select few have mastered effortlessly. Something others among us are clueless about. And then there are those like me. I wish to explore every facet of the concept and hopefully figure out a way to finally grab my piece of the pie.

So what is passive income?

Passive income is things you do where the initial effort and continual and occasional maintenance results in money that could be earned at any moment. Forever. Essentially, it’s money you can earn while you are sleeping. A classic example in our generation might be a high-quality and engaging YouTube video. In your video description you placed affiliate links. That night you went to sleep like any other, but unbeknownst to you, the video exploded. Someone loved it, posted it online, and sent it to friends, and over the course of the night, the video was seen by over 20,000 people.

Of those thousands of people, hundreds clicked on the affiliate links and purchased products, and you woke up to find that you had an extra few thousand dollars in your bank account.

Passive income at its finest.

Yes, you worked hard to create an incredible video. And you made some initial efforts to get it out to the world. But inertia and good, old fashioned luck took over at that point.

The Success X-Factor: Luck

Certainly hard work and perseverance play an extremely significant role in many if not all success stories. But they’re often not even close to enough. Luck is really the secret ingredient to all success, so it would seem. I love to reminisce about Friendster and the Gong Show. It’s fun to watch the blank stares on the faces of anyone under the age of 30 when I mention either of these two things.

What are they? Friendster was Facebook before Facebook was Facebook. It was about a decade two early. No one used it. No one now seems to remember it. And some poor guy is eating a hot dog at a 7-11 right now wondering why he is not a billionaire. The Gong Show is the same story. It was American Idol decades too soon.

Yet Facebook and American Idol were able to revolutionize social media and reality television, respectively. Not exclusively because their product was excellent, but because their timing was superb.

Luck made all the difference.

Accidental Fortune?

However, accidental fortune doesn’t come to those who don’t buy the lottery ticket (the one exception). Facebook and American Idol don’t take off and make people millions of dollars without someone creating Facebook and American Idol. Hard work, perseverance, and a healthy handful of being in the right place at the right time team up to change someone’s life forever.

But…

Let’s say that luck can somehow be manipulated. Let’s say luck isn’t exactly always the accident we pretend it is. Maybe, just maybe, we all have the power, at least on occasion, to gear our “accidental fortunes” in the direction we want.

And that’s where all of YOU come in.

My Tacky Passive Income Request

How can you help make me wealthy in 2019?

Visit my blog. Share my posts with others. Comment on things. Click on the weird ads Google puts all over my pages. Buy the crap they’re trying to sell you. Be a guest blogger! (Seriously, contact me if interested.)

I’m sure there’s something on here you like. Hell, you’re reading this right now. No one’s twisting your arm. Let the world know you’ve found something you enjoy reading.

Buy my books. Review my books. Tell others to buy my books. I’m sure you know a teacher. Or someone dating, married, divorced, or contemplating divorce. Everyone could use a few friendly and comical tips and tricks. Someone learns something new… and I become filthy stinkin’ rich. Everyone’s a winner!

Upcoming Projects

Upcoming projects for this and the following years: More blog posts. More books. My hope is to write two more non-fiction ones, followed by the big goal of tackling writing a novel. A huge bucket list item for me.

Besides learning a lot more about investing, I also want to explore the world of passive income through YouTube and online courses. There is a bright and exciting future out there for me. I can feel it… sort of.

While you’re at it, my beautiful son has spent too much time with me and has caught the passive income bug. Check out his pictures. Buy them and share them with others. Heck, maybe one of these days he’ll pay part of the rent…

My Passive Income Long Game

So here I stand. The amount I’ve made so far from my passive income attempts is hardly impressive. I still can’t afford that brand new Lamborghini I’m hoping for. But passive income is for those with patience. It’s for those willing to play the long game. One day a post or a book or a video or a course of mine might go viral, and make a ton of cash. It could cause sales of my books to skyrocket, and who knows what else. And once the flow hits, it could be an endless outpouring. Every day I’ll wake up with a bit more money in the bank. All for work I did long ago.

Let’s hope. Let’s keep pushing. Maybe I will get that Lamborghini some day…

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Should the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) Really Serve in the IDF?

Haredim IDF

I went to the Israeli Army when I was in my early 20s, a solid deal older than everyone else in my group. And I quickly learned that I arrived somewhere very unexpected.

I thought I was entering a place filled with excitement and fervor. Dedication and commitment. Pride and a devotion to do anything to serve this great nation.

My disappointment was palpable.

Although my experience has little to do with one of the most heated debates in Israeli society, I think ultimately there is a powerful connection.

Haredim in the IDF

There’s a constant and contentious debate in Israel over whether or not Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jewish males should be required to serve in the military. To give a drip of background: Every Israeli citizen is required–barring serious medical issues–to serve for three years of military service from age 18. There has been an exemption that applies almost exclusively for these folk since the very beginning. The general idea is that in lieu of their military service, they will be studying Torah all day, every day. In fact, during this period they are prohibited from working. The idea is (very oversimplified) that while the others are defending the nation physically, those who are studying are, in effect, supporting the spiritual backbone of the country. And in that way, they are keeping the country safe. (Again, this is a drastic oversimplification.)

Is it a “good” law?

There’s a lot that could be said about this law. Some might see it as outdated or hokey or even offensive. But one thing cannot be ignored: It is and has been the law for quite some time. There are those who have violated the law in many ways. But those who were actually studying during the period they were required to, were behaving within the law.

But should the law be changed or scrapped?

Let’s take things a step further.

A Unique Nation

I believe Israel is a unique nation. Its citizens share a history and culture. We stand together knowing that we are surrounded daily by existential threats, and we can lose everything we have in the blink of an eye. We might have lots of bickering and contempt, but deep down we are all in this together, and I’d like to believe everyone knows that.

But there are ways to unite a nation. And there are ways to just create greater amounts of animosity and mistrust among groups that already have trouble seeing eye to eye.

My IDF Experience

When I joined the army I was shocked. Here you have a privileged American immigrant, shlepping across the world and joining a foreign military. I didn’t know what I would expect from those around me. Certainly I didn’t expect bowing and a ticker tape parade. But after just a few short moments, I would have settled for a gentle nod of extremely mild appreciation. I certainly did not expect and found it jarring that the most common reaction was shock that I would do something so utterly stupid. The almost-universal sentiment: We have to do this. Why in the world would any sane person choose this?

And I think this relates a lot to the issue of forcing all citizens to serve in the military.

I know why I believe everyone should. And I waited patiently for others to echo my sentiments, and was greatly disappointed by everything I heard.

Why Join the IDF?

Ideally I like to think of Israel as one united family. Everyone working together to contribute to the greater good. When each and every citizen fulfills his mission, when they participate in the process of a building a great nation, the package is complete. Everyone should enthusiastically want to be a part of the magic. Everyone should run to the induction offices to give of their time and become a part of living history. To become a part of the process of keeping our people safe once and for all.

And they should be welcomed with open arms. When someone is not a part of the family, when someone is off to the side and regretfully not experiencing belonging to something so much greater than themselves, we should feel pity for them. We should feel sad that they are not having this incredible experience that all of Israel’s citizens should benefit from.

But…

But I never heard this or anything like this.

Not once.

Not even close.

The Truth

What did I hear?

I’m miserable. Why shouldn’t they be miserable also?

Do you know what kind of an argument this is? It’s a toddler’s argument. It’s the logic of small child. Are we that petty and childish that the only thing motivating our thoughts and our goals is so that others can suffer too? This is like a six-year-old whose Barbie doll gets broken so she runs to her mommy to insist that her sister’s doll gets broken as well.

Is there a requirement in a society for shared misery? Are we so bothered by others feeling some level of happiness and contentment that we are uneasy? I would love to believe that’s not the case. What happened to the IDF of old? What happened to the days when we joined with our heads held high, proud and honored to serve our great nation? And what happened to the times when people would flock from other lands to serve Israel in its greatest times of need or when people would choose to serve extra reserve duty even after they were exempt from service?

The Nation of Old

If we were still that nation, if we were still in awe of what we are and how far we’ve come, we would look at those who don’t serve and feel bad for them. We would pity what they’re missing out on. A proud army does not want the service of wildly unwilling participants.

If our only motivation is shared misery, I suggest we either revamp our military so that people aren’t so unhappy. Or we revamp our attitudes and let others just go on doing their thing. No matter what, I don’t want to be protected by those uninterested in protecting me.

 

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Never Settle… Reloaded

Never Settle

I had a lot of strong responses to my Never Settle post and it made me think it’s worthwhile to do a bit of a follow up about some details, three of which I’d like to discuss or clarify here:

Settling vs Realism

A few folk told me that it was wrong of me to tell people they should search for perfection, since perfection is not a realistic goal. This made me wonder: Did I actually say people should seek perfection? Looking back at my words, I don’t think I said that at all. However, if people are hearing it, maybe it’s worth clarifying a point or two.

When I say someone should never settle, I mean they should follow their hearts and trust their instincts about what they truly want from a partner.

Now this can theoretically get a bit tricky, since some people out there have highly unrealistic expectations. We’ve all heard the stories of the short, dumpy, uninteresting, unemployed dude who will only date super models. I don’t think these are the average scenarios for those accused of being “too picky”; however, it does behoove people to sit down with a trusted friend or family member, someone they know has their best interest in mind and knows them very well, and figure out whether or not they’re being realistic.

Just because we should all learn to be realistic, and because we should recognize the futility of searching for perfection, still does not mean we should ever settle. Even our aforementioned short, dumpy friend should never settle!

Before vs During

Much of what I spoke about in my previous post dealt with the way other people might react if you repeatedly go on dates and deem the people “not good enough” or that you are just not “feeling it”.

Some might argue that it’s worth giving things a bit more time. I hear what they are saying. Everyone has heard the story of the person who “stuck things out” just a little longer and now they’re happily married with three kids. I do believe there’s an element of truth to the idea of “giving things a chance”, but I think there’s just as much validity (or more) to the idea of trusting your own instincts. We’re all adults here, and pushing people to stay in relationships they’re not enjoying is not doing anyone any good.

But what about beforehand? What about constantly rejecting suggestions without ever giving the guy or girl in question a chance? Is that any different? It’s certainly not what I was speaking about in the earlier post, but it’s worth considering.

Five Rules for a Setup

I would say these five points:

  1. Yes, it’s worth greater consideration. It’s very hard to really know a person you’ve never actually met. Can you really have a strong idea that you’re not about to meet someone incredibly important to you without actually having sat across from them and looking them in the eye? No, you can’t…
  2. But… sometimes you can! I still think it’s important to trust your instinct, even with just a picture and some peripheral information. Especially in a generation where finding out information is so quick and simple. If you don’t like the information you are seeing, or you are simply not attracted to the person in question, you have every right to not go on a date. That’s even if you’ve never been married, have no children, or are past a certain age.
  3. If you’re choosing to get involved in other people’s love interests, please please please be thoughtful about it. “I know someone who’s also single and somewhat close to you in age” is not and will never be enough information. If the great majority of failed dates were “not bad” or “pretty close”, I think people would get discouraged less often. Frivolous, thoughtless dates are more often than not a giant waste of everyone’s time, and the more awful dates people go on, the more the process will be a turn off.
  4. You can ask. You can even possibly offer a gentle encouragement to give it a shot after some initial pushback. But anything more than that is completely obnoxious. Please allow people to trust their instincts. When you don’t, you’re weakening their resolve. You’re telling them their own thoughts and feelings are not good enough. And frankly, if we saw someone pushing too hard for a date with someone, we might call it harassment. Why is it any different if it comes through someone else?
  5. I’ve seen this now a few times. Someone wants to set somebody up. They respond by thanking the other person but explaining that they’re already involved with someone. The response: “Oh. Well… if it doesn’t work out, be in touch.” For the love of God, never say that or any variation to anyone! Ever!

What about Children?

Another friend asked me about children. For women there is often an overwhelming desire to have children and, unfortunately, a biological time limit for how long they can do so. What happens when that need is borderline oppressive and the deadline seems right around the corner? Is then a time to consider settling?

God no.

It is incredibly important to recognize that setting yourself up for an unfulfilling marriage is also setting your future children up for an uncomfortable, upsetting household. Obviously many children have grown up in such homes, and many have done so with great success; however, it’s certainly not ideal, and every child deserves a stable, calm household. We should certainly not push for situations where that’s far less likely.

And we are blessed with countless opportunities to adopt beautiful children who really need and want you as a parent. And those children ARE your children. Biology is nothing. If you raise a child, that is your child 100%. Sure, you can go ahead and find an incompatible match in order to raise biological children in an uncomfortable environment. How much greater would it be to wait for the right spouse in order to raise your adopted children in a home built on love and trust?

 

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Six Things I Love About Israel

Love about Israel
So… anyone who’s been paying attention for a bit may have noticed I’m a bit harsh in my criticism of Israel. Well, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. However, recently a friend of mine challenged me to come up with ten things I love about Israel.

I love a good challenge… and this certainly was one. And sadly I wasn’t able to come up with ten, but I think six is a healthy place to start.

Please please give me more ideas. I can’t tell you how much I want to love living here!

1) The Produce

When I arrived in Israel in 1997, there were several types of vegetables I did not like, and some fruits I had nothing interesting to say about.

That was until I took a bite of some of them in the Holy Land. One bite and I realized why I didn’t like the cucumbers and tomatoes in the States. They taste awful! Flavorless at best. The produce in Israel may not look the part. The colors aren’t as vivid. The shapes are often funny. And there are plenty of items not available year round.

But the flavor is off-the-charts incredible. And the prices are uncharacteristically amazing. One of the only things cheaper in Israel.
If you’re here in the fall, try a mango. You won’t regret it. It’s like eating candy. It’s the way they’re supposed to taste!

2) Ease of Religious Lifestyle

My last year in the States was pretty rough, as far as scheduling was concerned. The last two jobs I had were for major corporations, but I was a contracted employee. This had a lot of complications, the biggest being that I was paid hourly and received no paid holidays or vacations. What this meant was the company was closed for every American holiday and I was not paid for those days, and I needed to take off and not get paid for all the Jewish holidays as well.

Every once in a while the same companies would give us free food, food that was very much not kosher. One of the companies had a program where different employees would give a lecture and the company would then give everyone a free lunch. Even when I volunteered to give the lecture, the food was still off limits to me.

I can go on and on about the complications in trying to make it in the professional world out there when you have a whole assortment of religious restrictions. But I’ll leave it as this: One of the biggest advantages to Israel is that the country’s system and schedule is by and large based on Judaism and the Jewish calendar. I’m never rushing home on Friday to make it in time for Shabbat. Nor do I miss out on countless activities because they’re all on Saturday or Friday night. Nope. Things here are designed around my schedule, and I absolutely love it.

3) A Walking Culture

I’m aware there are places in the States where people still walk, but for the most part, it’s a rarity. I grew very accustomed to driving everywhere, even relatively short walks. I even drove to my gym that was a 20 minute walk away. To my gym!

Now the old train tracks in Jerusalem are essentially my backyard. I walk on them about an hour every day, and it’s always filled with people doing the same. I’m a happier person if I avoid cars and buses here. They are stressful and can get quite expensive. And with traffic and a whole lot of other variables, they strip you of control of your schedule.

Not only can I walk to every place I every want to be, but I’m joined by others doing the same. I love living in a culture that encourages and normalizes the best method of transportation ever created.

4) Dealing with the Big Stuff

Years ago I sat next to an American doctor who led a team of medical professionals to Haiti to deal with a humanitarian crisis following a giant earthquake. The team got together, and showed up with pride and joy to save the day… only to find Israel had long ago sent a team that was fully up and running and making the world a better place.

I’ve had enough experience here to avoid doctors’ offices to the best of my ability, but I can’t imagine a place I’d rather be if true tragedy struck. Perhaps Israel became what it is because of necessity, but there’s a reason this tiny nation could mobilize instantly and help another country across the world with seemingly no effort. It’s become a part of the country’s DNA.

When I see something terrible happen here, the first response time is off the charts and the quality of service is second to none. Years ago in Baltimore we rushed my son to the Emergency Room because of a possible broken nose. Six hours later, and $800 poorer, he was admitted so we could indeed find out his nose wasn’t broken. My experience in American Emergency Rooms is they’ve kind of forgotten the definition of the word “emergency”.

I hope I never need first responders or an emergency room… but if I do, I hope I’m in Israel.

5) Freedom of Children

I love that children seem to be released from their parent’s shackles a lot younger in Israel. I mean, they might still end up 30-year old adults who frequently go home for some home-cooked dinner and laundry, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about walking around the streets and seeing young, young kids walking freely, without a care in the world, sometimes picking up groceries for the house or watching their even younger siblings.

It’s kind of like an even better version of what I remember from America in the 80s. Better because it’s even younger. Growing up we went to parks by ourselves and played on old, splintery contraptions, and had the time or lives. All of that has been replaced by boring, plastic monstrosities, and helicopter parents fearing child abduction. Nothing’s actually changed, except attitudes and perspectives.

Kids need freedom to enjoy life and grow into well-adapted adults. A little goes a long way.

6) Hosting Couch Surfers

I haven’t been able to bring all of my hobbies with me from the States to Israel. But of everything that I did bring over, there is one that I’ve certainly made the most of in Israel, and that’s hosting Couch Surfers.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved hosting people in the States. And I certainly loved the people I met. But most people in Kansas City were just passing through, and unfortunately the biggest thing I was providing for them was safe lodging. In Israel I can provide an experience!

I have now taken countless people to see the Western Wall for the first time, showed them all around the city, and given insights into the culture and customs of the country.

Almost everyone who passed through my home in America was from the United States, whereas here I’ve hosted people from over 20 countries. I’m making interesting and incredible connections all over the world.

I’m no one’s first choice to be Jerusalem’s Ambassador, but for these scores of guests who stay in my home, I am committed to making sure their visit to Israel is as incredible as it could be. And watching people fall in love with Jerusalem makes me like it here a lot more as well.

 

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