Tag Archives: Israelis

Favorites

13 Jan
Image

Breakfast at a favorite cafe in Jerusalem. Notice the salads!

Things I love about Israel:

  • Amazing salads. Salads are so pervasive here – they are even served at breakfast. I am 100% behind this concept. I’m talking about more than just the standard Israeli salad (tomatoes, cucumber, lemon juice), I dream of Bulgarian feta, fresh sweet peas, red onions, assorted greens and my new favorite spice – za’atar.
  • Massive breakfasts. Do you enjoy leisurely brunches where you graze for ages as you chat with friends? That’s pretty much any breakfast outing here. Whereas England is defined by the Full English Breakfast (something I have been DYING to have – soon!), Israel has it’s Israeli Breakfast which consists of many, many plates and bowls full of tasty things. Everything from Israeli salad to tuna salad to cheeses to fresh fruit. Don’t forget the basket of assorted fresh bread! And most restaurants automatically include a hot drink or juice of your choice with your meal. If you can walk away from an Israeli breakfast hungry – you fail at life.
  • Mint Tea. I love tea with only fresh mint in it. No tea bag needed.
  • Juice! My new personal favorite is a half orange juice/half pomegrante. So so good. Though give me a fresh squeezed lemonade with mint and I’m a happy camper too.
  • Okay, okay – there really is more to Israel than the food. Despite all my food talk. And photos. The People. As I mentioned in a previous blog post – I love the upfront, direct nature of Israelis. They are not a meek people. There is a popular allusion here that native Israelis are like the local plant, sabra (prickly pear). They are tenacious and thorny on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. It is very true. It may take you a little while to make friends but once you do – you have a friend for life. They are emotional and not afraid to show it. They are all about touch – guy friends hug each other openly. A hand is almost always placed on a friend as you chat. There is a very strong sense of community here – unlike any other place I’ve ever lived. 
  • Shabbat. Though it can be a real pain to have everything shut down from sundown Friday until sunset Saturday – I really enjoy the concept of taking one day a week to stop, enjoy your blessings and eat with family and friends. Though I’m not Jewish – I enjoy the ritual of the lighting of the candles, blessing the bread and wine too. 
  • History. The history, the grandeur of the past can be seen everywhere you turn.  And, at the same time, you realize that you are a part of the history that is unfolding before your very eyes.
  • The Hebrew phrase – yiyeh b’seder. It translates to “it will be okay.” This is the Israeli response to just about anything life throws at you – Missed the bus? Yiyeh b’seder! Your dog died? Yiyeh b’seder! Rocket fire? Yiyeh b’seder! 
  • Cheesy pop music. I love that the randomest cheesy pop music is played everywhere. One day while having breakfast with a friend – the cafe went from Michael Jackson to Backstreet Boys to Wham. And no one batted an eyelash. Unfortunately, all this assorted music usually leaves me with silly songs stuck in my head at all times. 
  • Sports. I think it’s fantastic that a simple soccer game is more than just a group of guys kicking a ball. It’s politics, international relations and diplomacy all wrapped in 90 minutes. When a local team plays on an international level – it doesn’t matter if it’s soccer or basketball or what – the whole country stops to cheer them on. They are routing for the country of Israel as much as the boys out on the pitch.
  • Finally, I love this once in a lifetime experience. And I love even more, that it’s not over yet.
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Countdown!

30 Sep

I finished my final work trip as of 6 p.m. Friday. Now, I’ve got my final three days of work this week. I can’t believe I’ve only got three days left! The longest I’ve ever gone without working since I was 15 was the semester I studied in Germany. I can’t quite get my head around not working for a year.

I had a great conversation this week with my friend, Deb that I have been thinking about ever since. As we talked about my upcoming departure and how excited I’m getting, she made an excellent point, “Mary, while you mentally prepare for the culture shock you will face in your new country – I really think you need to spend some time preparing for the culture shock you will face within yourself.” Her point being that I’ve defined myself as a professional for the last decade, I haven’t been a student in a long time. I need to be able to let go of the idea of being a professional in a work setting and redefine myself as a student who must work hard to prove myself all over again. It was a very interesting observation that really resonated with me.

Last week, my friend Joy introduced me to her friend Ehud who is originally from Haifa. He came to the US five years ago to study at Wright State University in Ohio and is now teaching Hebrew in the Dayton, Ohio area. We talked for nearly an hour and a half about Israel, Haifa and Jewish people. It was such a great conversation! We talked about everything from how to shop in the shuk (the market that typically sells fruits, vegetables and bakery items — similar to Borough Market in London) to Israeli culture. No subject was off the table – he kept saying to me, “Tell me your worries and we will discuss them!” I did ask about how I will be treated as a non-Jewish person, especially after recently having a “not-so-great” reaction from someone who lives in Israel. He told me point blank that Orthodox Jews will shun me. That if I see them, I should just leave them alone and keep a physical distance from them. Especially if I am alone. That makes complete sense to me given their views on women, let alone Christians. He said that given the university setting that I will be in, most people will be very open minded and that people will be especially pleased to meet me given that female, American, non-Jews are a rarity and the few they see are typically very religious. He did preface this with – every country has their version of negative, close minded people so I may encounter them too but on the whole, he reassured me that I would be welcomed by most people.

I also broached the subject of pork. I was curious if they would even sell pork in Israel but given there are other religions there – including a large Russian Orthodox population in Haifa – I thought perhaps certain places would sell it. Nope, no such luck. Ehud told me that some Russian delis will occasionally sneak pork in but it’s really hard to find. Oh well. Guess, I will be a bacon eating machine until October 17th…

We also talked about how Israelis interact with people. He talked about how people like to go out in groups and they are always happy to add people to their plans. How if I want to do something – I just need to speak up and ask to join since all plans are assumed to be open invitation. This won’t be seen as being too forward – it’s encouraged! He told me that many Americans are surprised by how loud Israelis talk, how that are very direct, straight to the point and want to know all about you right away. I had heard this from my many people but within moments of telling me this – in quick succession he asked, “How old are you? Are you married? Have you ever been married?” As I quickly answered each of his fired off questions – his smile grew broader. Finally, he said, “See what I did there? Welcome to Israel!” I can only hope everyone I meet is as funny, friendly and welcoming as Ehud.