Judi's Journal 05-20-2011

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In Honor of Israel’s Independence Day

By Judi Siegal

I recently received an e-mail, which I would like to share with you. It is a humorous look at Israeli life but it gives you an idea of the day-to-day life that Israelis experience even as it gives you a glimpse of what makes the Jewish State so special. The comments in the parentheses are mine.

1.      Israel is a country surrounded on all sides by enemies but the people’s headaches are caused by the neighbors upstairs. (While it is true that politically speaking Israel does, indeed, have enemies, Israelis are more likely on a day-to-day basis to have problems with their neighbors.)

2.      Israel is the only country in the world where one is unlikely to dig a cellar without hitting ancient archeological artifacts. (The national hobby in Israel is archeology. While when I lived in New England, I could dig up Indian arrowheads, in Israel one can easily find Roman coins or pottery shards. Burnt House in Jerusalem was discovered when apartment renovations were being done. The house dates back to the burning of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.)

3.      Israel is the only country where everyone on a flight gets to know one another before the plane lands. In many cases, they also get to know the pilot and all about his health and marital problems. (Jews are a very hamish, i.e. friendly people. We like to play “Jewish geography” whereby we ask if one knows the so and so family from say, Ocala, and next travel all down the Floridian peninsula looking for relatives. The Jewish people is one big family. When I was in Israel many years ago, a shopkeeper picked up on my last name and asked me if I was of the Levite tribe since “Siegal” is a Levite name. I laughed and said my husband’s family was indeed a Levite. Only in Israel would this have been important!)

4.      Israel is the only country in the world where reservists are bossed around and commanded by officers, male and female, younger than their own children. (In a small country like Israel, national defense is an obligation that is shared by all. Israeli reservists serve until age 50.)

5.      Israel the only country in the world with bus drivers and taxi drivers who read Spinoza ad Maimonides. (Jewish philosophy is woven into the fabric of Israeli life.)

6.      Israel is the only country in the world where “small talk” consists of loud, angry debate over politics and religion. (Israelis are demonstrative people. Every one is a maven (expert) on something. Politics is fair game because of the leanings of the different parties. Religion is another hot topic because most Israelis are secular but have to deal with the various branches of Judaism from the most Orthodox to the most liberal. While the Orthodox opinion is the law of the land, liberal groups are trying to offer a more progressive approach to religious matters like divorce, marriage, schools and Shabbat observance.)

7.      Israel is the only country in the world with a National Book Week during which almost everyone attends a book fair and buys books. (While it is true that here in the U.S. there are events that feature books such as National Library Week, Israel with its literacy rate of 97 percent ranks very high among the nations of the world. With education for its citizens a priority, it is no wonder the country loves books.)

8.      Israel is the only country in the world where no one has a foreign accent because everybody has a foreign accent. (The Israelis that speak English have a British “clip” to their speech, a throwback to British Mandatory Days, pre 1948. When Israel became a state, she welcomed immigrants from 70 different countries. On any given day in Israel, you can hear a virtual babble of languages even though Hebrew is the official main language of the country.)

9.      Israel is the only country where patients visiting physicians end up giving the doctor advice. (I can see it all now: The Jewish mother visits Dr. Cohen because her sciatica has acted up again. She takes one look at the doctor. “Dr. Cohen, you look terrible. Does your wife feed you? You should try my chicken soup. It will make your cheeks bloom”! Her sciatica is now completely “cured”!)

10.   Israel is one of the only countries that likes and admires the United States. (Let us not forget, that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and both the U.S. and Israel share a Judeo-Christian heritage.)

11.  Israel is the only country in the world where people read English, write Hebrew and joke in Yiddish. (This is a little complicated to explain because it has to do with Jewish culture. Israelis read English because so many works of note are in that language. They write in Hebrew because it is the lingua franca but joke in Yiddish, because, well, Yiddish is funny, it is found in the Jewish soul.)

Happy birthday, Israel. Od yavo shalom aleinu v’al kulam. May peace come to us and to the whole world!