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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

What I Love About Israel

It’s been surreal being here through the sirens. After each siren I marvel how people just continue with life. It so Israeli – and I can only imagine the contrast in any US city if there was just one rocket. The city would be in lock down with mass hysteria.

There are many more subtle things that I appreciate too. This issue closest to my heart is how much more integrated special needs people are in society. I only have to reflect on my experiences dealing with summer camp. The answer is simply yes and there is no drama around the fact that I want Caily included. I also love how uncomplicated the summer camp process is generally. There are no December deadlines and waitlists. In fact you can show up on the day. I enrolled Temira in horse riding camp. When I asked for the forms the person replied we just need mom and dad’s name and phone numbers. No medical forms, no allergy alerts etc. So I asked him how can they not have forms and he answered like an Israeli “If she has medical stuff you will tell me, if someone else is picking her up you will tell me and it’s my job to make sure there are horses and fun”. While this would not “work” in NY – camps here run pretty smoothly.

Perhaps we are just over anxious and paranoid in the US. It always fascinates me how so many kids have nut allergies in NY. You cannot even bring food made in nut facility, but in Israel the standard camp morning snacks include Nutella sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches and bamba. We have not yet encountered nut free zones. Similarly I love how my Israeli friends who are pregnant are shocked at the list of items we are told to stay away from during pregnancy…apparently Israeli fetuses can deal with honey, peanut butter, sushi, deli food and more.

I recently saw a show in Tel Aviv. The crowd was secular and the lead singer was a very Orthodox man with beard, payers and a black hat. This crowd adored him and I loved the fact that I can drink kosher wine in a jazz bar or watch the sunset with kosher wine when I am at a beach bar.

When Israelis are not rude or pushing they are calling each other Achi (brother), Tzaddik (righteous one) and giving each other lots of brachas (blessings). Kids play with kids in the neighborhood. Israeli moms laugh when they hear that I schedule playdates by email with my neighbor sometimes 2 weeks in advance.

Ok I confess that I do have a few pet peeves. Impatient New Yorkers like me struggle with waiting at lights but Israelis are obedient because of the large fines for j–walking. However there does not seem to be fines for drivers who fly through pedestrian crossings. My other big one is the fact that the person serving food, wiping his forehead and touching money is also the same person making my sandwich and he is not wearing gloves!

It’s definitely frustrating to ask for direction here as everyone says “yashar yashar” (straight straight) even when you cannot go straight – if I would have followed those direction just yesterday I would have walked through a wall but I do know that it was those frustrating directions that lead Gavin to ask me if I speak English and the rest shall we say is history.

Originally published: July 15, 2014


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