Only in Israel By Rabbi Adam Ross
This isn’t one of those funny articles which starts ‘What Israelis can’t do with an aubergine simply isn’t worth doing,’ or ‘Israel is the only country in the world where you can buy humus flavoured toothpaste.’
It’s true that Israel is a quirky place, and there is usually something to make you smile or shake your head at around every corner, but this tiny country is also a fountain of inspiration. Living there for 10 years, I had so many experiences that could only ever have happened there and I’d like to share a few to mark Israel’s 68th birthday!
The 10pm Ice Cream
As a soldier, I was waiting for a bus travelling home from the base where I worked when a car suddenly pulled up beside me and a woman stepped out and ran into a nearby shop, bought a huge ice cream, handed it to me, then got back in her car. Before driving off, she got out again, handed me a 50 shekel note and said: ‘in case you need to take a taxi home.’ Only in Israel, do complete strangers treat you as their own.
Challah from the Heart
During the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the border town of Sderot was under lockdown and many of the shop owners suffered terrible losses as its citizens fled the city or stayed at home for well over a month to avoid the rocket fire. We received a message about an initiative called ‘challot from Sderot’ aimed at keeping the bakeries of Sderot in business through this taxing time. Truckloads of challot were baked fresh and then sent out to pop up shops in apartments all across the country as far as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and beyond. Only in Israel is the baker and his kids 200 miles away that important to you.
The Taxi Driver War Hero.
Israeli taxi drivers are a very special breed! Not only are they all prime ministers in waiting, with a full manifesto of policies ready to share with you whether you want to hear them or not, but it’s not at all uncommon to find out mid-way through your journey that the guy driving you fought in the 6 Day War, the Yom Kippur War and has the scars to prove it! Over the years my wife and I have heard so many inspiring stories in taxis including some incredibly brave soldiers and an Ethiopian and an Iraqi who both literally walked to Israel by foot! Only in Israel are taxi rides so humbling!
A few years ago I left my wallet on a bus from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan. The lost property department of the Dan bus company drew a blank and I was just about to go through the most annoying process in the world when an Israeli friend offered some advice, ‘Wait a few more hours, maybe someone will return it to you.’ In the UK I would not have listened, but I waited, and then the phone rang. It was my bank who explained a lady had found my wallet and seen my bank card, the only item inside with my name on. She had phoned a friend of a friend who she knew worked in that bank who helped track me down. My wallet returned completely in-tact just like a boomerang. In Israel it is very typical to see notices on trees, notice boards with people publicizing the lost property they have found and are hoping to return to their owners. Only in Israel do you hold off cancelling your credit card because someone out there will probably do a mitzvah to help you.
Chicken Head Woman
One week before Purim as the spirit of celebration was setting in, I saw an elderly woman well into her 80s walking through the Mahane Yehuda Open-air Market in Jerusalem with a full on chicken mask on her head as if it was the most normal thing in the world…and you know what it in Israel, that’s the point. Jewish identity and culture is not behind closed doors, it is a palpable, tangible reality of life that fills the streets, parks and public spaces. Whether it’s Rosh Hashanah with the sound of the shofar blasting, or sukkot with make shift huts popping up on every street, it is nothing short of remarkable that we have a Jewish State, after 2000 years, which brings Judaism to life in such a wholesome way. Only in Israel.
So yes, there are more women who fly F16s in Israel than drive cars in Saudi Arabia, and yes, it’s the only place in the world you can play Sudoku while floating on your back in the sea, and I’m not denying there are more start up’s than nut stands – which is saying something… but maybe what’s most impressive about Israel is its’ people and their heart and spirit which never ceases to amaze and inspire. Do you have any moments which could only ever have happened in Israel? If so please share them too!
Happy birthday Israel!
Am Yisrael Chai!