On one of my last nights in Tel Aviv, my cousin and I went to dinner and he asked me what I will miss about Israel. It’s a difficult question to answer. This is a place I have visited 14 times – giving a whole new meaning to the term “second home.” In fact, one of my favorite memories is celebrating Israel's 50th anniversary in Jerusalem with my family. It happened to coincide with my 5th birthday and the city came to life. All I remember is blue and white decorations, music playing everywhere, and feeling like Golda Meir.
I’ve visited for a variety of reasons but amazingly enough, each trip has been unique. I’ve gone for weddings, bar-mitzvahs, and youth programs. I even had the privilege of going with Holocaust survivors. Last summer I gained more personal insight as a volunteer EMT in Jerusalem yet these last six months have made up my longest and best trip to date.
So, what more could I possibly have to say? Well here is a shortened list:
I will miss…
1) The distinctive smell of a Roladin bakery
2) The fact that you can always expect a “botayavon” (bon appetit) as you begin to eat (Israelis take this very seriously. You will hear it more than “have a good day” or "take care")
3) The magical hour in Jerusalem when the stone walls are orange-lit and the sky is cobalt blue
4) Feeling at home on Ben Yehuda because most all of the vendors are Persian – and feeding into stereotypes (drinking hot tea in August and playing tachteh (backgammon))
5) The vivid greenery of the Golan Heights
6) My Israeli family, shabbat dinners, and their unbelievable generosity (and leftovers)
7) Random free food from café and grocery store cashiers just because (apparently this has yet to happen to Nadav so this may only apply to women)
8) The emotional honesty (some call it harsh but I love knowing exactly where someone stands)
9) Ice cafes (the original Frappuccino) and Anita’s frozen yogurt
10) The fact that the best coffee kiosks and juice stands are in the middle of the road
11) Old men and women wearing shirts that read “YOLO” and “It Wasn’t Me”
12) The abundance and mastery of cauliflower (get on that, America)
13) Trying to figure out what the protest of the week is by Dizengoff Center
14) Mizrahi pop music (it’s still as amazing as I thought it was at age 12)
More than anything, I will miss the people. Israelis are loving, hardworking, loud, and hilarious. They solve world problems (leading startups, medical research/tech, drip irrigation, international relief missions, etc.) while being labeled as the world’s problem. They work long hours and still make time for family and friends (their first priority). Israelis celebrate life because they understand its value and I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had to learn from them.
So there you have it. These are the reasons I will miss Israel…and why I will keep going back.