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!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. Click To Tweet
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!