What’s it actually like in Israel?

I get many comments on or about this blog, and I enjoy each one. Wait, that’s not true…I enjoy MOST of them. There are a few, like the one I deleted this morning (from yet another brave “Anonymous” who wrote jews=parasit ..jews=pig ...jews=dog kakakakak :) ), that I don’t enjoy – although I do enjoy deleting them! But most are supportive, sweet, complimentary.

This morning, I got a nice comment from Tom, who likes the blog, and then asked this question:

What’s it actually like in Israel?

I love this question because it suggests a genuine interest in my country. It doesn’t assume; it doesn’t condemn. It simply requests that I do something I love to do – explain what Israel is like. So here goes.

Israel is a country like no other. It is a country of joy, in a place where all others would think there should be none. It is a country of miracles, of unbelievable awe. It is a country built and sustained on faith – the deep kind that simply fills you with the knowledge that this land is yours and all is right with the world so long as you can awaken here each morning, go to sleep here all night and know your children will do the same.

Its people are warm and caring in a very honest and direct way. Perfect strangers will come up to you and tell you that you haven’t dressed your child warmly enough or that you really shouldn’t buy that candy for your child. And you don’t ever mind this because you know it comes from love -worse, you’ll actually be shocked to find yourself do the same one day and wonder how that could have happened.

Israel is a country of incredible beauty, of a variety you might not have realized existed before you came here. The beaches are lovely – yes, there are others that are more lovely in the world, but it doesn’t feel that way when you are seeing the sun kiss the Mediterranean waters while you sit on the shoreline.

There are tall mountains in the north of Israel – beautiful and green, that give way to amazing valleys. Within these areas there are many small towns with the most amazing views. I’ve always loved Kfar Tavor – a small town at the base of Mount Tavor and each time I drive through, I am so grateful that Israel is small enough that I can drive there and back in a day. When you drive up north, you see the desert fall away, and as the mountains rise up, the trees and greenery begin. Suddenly, the Sea of Galilee comes into view, a refreshing sight after the barren heat of the desert.

There are two “vacation areas” in Israel – way in the north, in the Galilee and in the Golan Heights where there are water falls, the Jordan river, mountain hiking and amazing views; and the southern city of Eilat, which opens to an under-water world you can only imagine exists. The fish are so incredibly gorgeous; the beaches so clean, the water so clear.

The Negev Desert fills most of southern Israel. It takes over the land gradually as you descend from Jerusalem and see the trees become fewer and fewer. You can drive along the Dead Sea and see the amazing blue-green of the water and blocks of salt just floating or attached to the seashore.

(opposite: Elie picking blueberries in the north years ago.)

The center of Israel is filled with cities and towns that are as modern as anything you’ll find in the US or England.

We have a huge hi-tech industry busy developing some of the world’s greatest innovative ideas. Medical breakthroughs and scientific wonders. Did you know the disk-on-key was developed in Israel? The Pentium? Drip irrigation? ICQ? All developed here, like parts of the cellular phone technology that began an industry that has changed how we live our lives.

And yes, amidst all of this, is the Israel you hear about in the news but is so small compared to the way it really is here. You’ll hear (and read) that a terrorist tried to attack a cafe or ram a tractor into a bus and you’ll think that that is all there is to Israel. It’s a part of what we live with, but so small that for the most part, our lives are amazingly peaceful. That’s right – peaceful. We walk even at night without fear – even children, especially women.

If I get stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire (three times in 15 years here), I know that some amazingly sweet young man will pull over within seconds and change the tire for me. He will never ask for payment, never expect it and should I dare to offer, will look at me as if I am insane. The most I was able to do one time, was offer him a home-baked cookie from the batch I was taking to friends.

It would never occur to me to fear this stranger who stopped to help; and it would never occur to him to harm. He is one of us; I am his sister, his mother, his wife, whatever. I am family. My husband had a terrible headache one night as we were returning with his sister, brother, and our children from the north. It was relatively late at night; all stores were closed. We pulled into the last place I thought I could find an open store and all was closed and so I knocked on one of the houses and explained.

Moments later, they came out with medicine, water, and an offer for my husband to come inside and lay down and rest for a short while. They were genuinely surprised when we thanked them for the medicine and water, but declined the place to rest. They were sure he would feel better if he would sleep for a short while. This is what Israel is actually like.

My son was coming on the bus yesterday when I called him and we figured out that the bus would actually take him further out of the way. He asked the driver if there was any way that he could stop to let him off. This is an express bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station – stop to stop…with no stopping. The bus driver promptly pulled to the nearest bus station and wished the soldier, my son, a peaceful Sabbath. This is what Israel is actually like.

If you take all the pieces of the puzzle, you may begin to see what my country is like – too often, all you hear about is one tiny piece. It is a frightening one, a depressing one. Yes, we have no peace with our neighbors who have been on a 61 year campaign to rid themselves of us. But on a day-to-day run, their campaign is nothing compared to what we have built and will continue to build.

Israel is the most amazing country – strong because it has to be, caring because that’s what we are. Our emergency teams have flown around the world, at a moment’s notice. We have pulled survivors from earthquake-destroyed buildings, we have rescued survivors from the great tsunami a few years ago. And, because of all that we have suffered here, we have become world experts in identification and handling of dead bodies – giving them the honor and respect they were denied in death.

Israel stands for Jews around the world, so no where can a country attack its Jewish citizens without knowing Israel will respond. We have gathered our people from Yemen and Ethiopia and Russia, even under fire. And today, quietly while the world does little to stop the suffering in Darfur, Sudanese refugees know that if they can somehow get past the Egyptians (who have beaten them and shot them), these Moslem refugees may actually find shelter in Israel.

We welcomed the boat people from Vietnam, some of whom still live here, when the world debated and wondered. We stand, even if we stand alone, against Iran because we know what till happen if Iran goes nuclear.

And yes, we put our sons on the borders of our country and ask them to sacrifice three years of their lives defending our land at a time when they too would prefer to get on with their lives, have fun with their friends, go to bars, and do nothing that has anything to do with wearing a uniform and carrying a gun.

What is it actually like in Israel? A lot of times, it is like living in heaven here on earth – waking to the beauty of this land and simply thanking God that today, yet again, you were lucky enough to awaken here.

May God bless the land and the people of Israel with health, with happiness, with prosperity, and yes, with peace so that the day will come when our sons won’t have to go to war and those living outside of our country will come without fear and find out what Israel is actually like.

(Thanks for asking, Tom – I hope this in some small way answers your question.)

41 Comments on What’s it actually like in Israel?

  1. Lovely post. I’ve been to Israel 5 times, and each time I find something new to enjoy and love.

    But do watch out for the drivers, especially on some of the twisty roads in the north.

  2. Hi, greetings from Singapore!.

    Beautiful writtings.

    I do hope one day, I will have an opportunity to visit Israel.

  3. I have lived in Asia, Europe, and the US and traveled around to countries in those areas, but Israel is by far the most intriguing country i have visited. Not only is the land beautiful and so diverse, but the people themselves are as well. Where else can you see such a mix of people who have come from all over the world, with different languages and backgrounds, but who come together united in their support for their country. Even being American, i could feel the sense of national pride in my Israeli friends. I think that the fact that peaceful life cannot be taken for granted makes life more beautiful. i love Israel!

  4. Brilliant post! Don’t know what I’m still doing here really :o)

  5. Aaaaaaaah heaven on earth. Beautiful! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this one.

  6. I came across this blog recently by accident, but have enjoyed reading it very much. You are quite the talented writer!

    However, as a Mom myself, it puzzles me that you quite proudly (and you should be) post your son, the soldier’s picture. Guess my question is, with all the hate-filled terrorists perusing the web, can’t this be dangerous for him?

    Perhaps you should put your pic there instead of his? Just a suggestion.

    Keep up the great writing.

    A Friend

  7. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. What a wonderful description of Israel. I was blessed to be able to visit last November. I’m doubly blessed to be returning again this coming November.

    I am so very sorry that you ever receive comments such as the one you deleted. I detest the cowardice of people who are “brave” enough to leave those disgusting comments, but too cowardly to leave their name. That really pushes my buttons. What I love about many blogs and sites I read written by Jews and Israelis is that the writers have such an incredible ability to remain so loving! How on earth do you do it? I cry and I get very angry; it’s hard to let it go and move on.

  8. As always, you speak from my soul. After making aliya, we had to return for a short time because of finances and family issues, but we left our combat soldier son, and our hearts….we will be back.

  9. Being the mother-of-a-soldier myself, I feel a “connection” with you and your blog and find myself checking on you/your son to make sure all is well.
    I was moved to tears by your post –
    I thank you for putting into beautiful words the feelings that I have been trying to describe (unsuccessfully) to those I left behind when I made Aliyah over 25 yrs ago.

  10. I can’t wait to be home…physical beauty aside, as a single olah-in-process (planning on coming this winter), I have found everyone willing to help me and answer my questions and tell me what is best to do, and…you really feel the sense of family there.

    You put it so beautifully…it is a place like no other, and it’s so hard to put into words.

  11. I enjoyed the journey through your country that you offered us here. What strikes me the most is your deep love for Israel and the peace you describe. I too love my country. I know the United States is home to my heart as your country is to you. God bless you and Israel.

  12. What a beautiful post! Several years back a friend of mine visited Israel and when he came back he said it was the most amazing experience he ever had. Here in the states no one trusts strangers, but in Israel, he said, they know who their enemy is and everyone else is family. He told me that one day he was standing at an intersection waiting for the light to change and a young girl took a hold of his hand to cross the street. He said he was blown away!

    It’s very nice to know that every day lives are not necessarily impacted by the violence. Thank you for this post!

  13. The funny thing is that in spite of the wars and terror I always felt safer in Israel than in the US.

  14. Israeli Moms are the BEST!!!!!!

    Anyway, here’s a story I heard, similar to the flat tire story. Some American tourist got a flat on the road in Israel, and without any prompting two Israeli guys pulled up next to him and got out.

    They immediately launched into a tirade against this guy, his lack of common sense re: cars, his family background, the weather, the road, etc. All the while gesticulating wildly with their hands.

    At the same time they are doing this, they get a jack from the back of his car, take off the flat tire and replace it with the spare, then, without stopping their tirade for even a second they go back into their car and drive off. All the while yelling angrily.

    I love these guys.

  15. This is a GREAT post, and so true. I have had my “broken down car story” in Israel too. I love the fact that Israelis “interfere’ with each other’s lives, like a bossy big sister, but it is rooted in concern and love, that’s for sure. I was once on an intercity bus from Haifa to Jerusalem. At a large intersection, a lady had broken down on the slip road. The bus pulled over and the driver yelled over to ask what had happened. She replied she’d tried to contact someone to help on her mobile, but the battery was flat.
    The driver got back on the bus, and yelled for a mobile phone. A young female soldier got up and said she’d get off and stay with the woman until help came. Another regular day in Israel…..

  16. This is a GREAT post, and so true. I have had my “broken down car story” in Israel too. I love the fact that Israelis “interfere’ with each other’s lives, like a bossy big sister, but it is rooted in concern and love, that’s for sure. I was once on an intercity bus from Haifa to Jerusalem. At a large intersection, a lady had broken down on the slip road. The bus pulled over and the driver yelled over to ask what had happened. She replied she’d tried to contact someone to help on her mobile, but the battery was flat.
    The driver got back on the bus, and yelled for a mobile phone. A young female soldier got up and said she’d get off and stay with the woman until help came. Another regular day in Israel…..

  17. This is a GREAT post, and so true. I have had my “broken down car story” in Israel too. I love the fact that Israelis “interfere’ with each other’s lives, like a bossy big sister, but it is rooted in concern and love, that’s for sure. I was once on an intercity bus from Haifa to Jerusalem. At a large intersection, a lady had broken down on the slip road. The bus pulled over and the driver yelled over to ask what had happened. She replied she’d tried to contact someone to help on her mobile, but the battery was flat.
    The driver got back on the bus, and yelled for a mobile phone. A young female soldier got up and said she’d get off and stay with the woman until help came. Another regular day in Israel…..

  18. Yesterday was exactly 3 years since I made aliyah from Johannesburg to Hod Hasharon and I can say without hesitation that these have been the happiest 3 years of my life.

    Your post explains exactly why.

    Thank you for taking the time to enlighten others who have such a skewed vision of this feisty little country that I am so very proud to call home.

  19. Wow. I have dreamed of living in Israel for years–I’m counting the days until I graduate college. This post was amazing, and right now my heart hurts and I’m teary-eyed because what you have described is what I long to experience every day. Thank you for the description and the beautiful images that I have until I am finally able to board a plane for the place where my heart already is.


  20. Hello from South Africa, I can’t wait to visit your beautiful Israel.

  21. Hi from Canada,
    That was a beautiful description of Israel and I simply cannot wait until I have the opportunity to visit, if not live in Israel. Thank you so much for sharing.

  22. Beautiful post.

    My Israel stories include bus drivers who drove me to my front door. Once it was an intercity bus, who drove me home, because it was late and I was just visiting (aka clueless), and another time I got on the wrong bus in Jerusalem. It was the driver’s last route and he drove me home when he had finished his work.

  23. Beautiful words!

    Israel gives us all hope. Hatiqwah. God bless you all:)

  24. I’ve just re-read this post. Thank you for reminding me!
    (I’ll put this in my favourites because after 25 years I need to be reminded every now and then.)

  25. Nice article. All these short snippets of life in Israel is really true. Just like you I write about life here in Tel Aviv. Take a look at my blog: http://bit.ly/h0X7w – Real Life in Tel Aviv.

    Keep it going, I am sure that lots of people have these stories every day.

  26. Hi,
    I hope you are not gonna delete my post… Well, it’s your right, it’s your blog.
    After reading your post, I thought we live in a different country, even if currently my house is in Tel Aviv. And I can’t understand how so many people can like it, it’s obvious that you are absolutely partial, so your information is not reliable at all, I think.
    Anyway, it’s clear that you love your country. Good for you, and for the country, I suppose. Or maybe not, but doesn’t mind… And another thing: under my point of view, it’s true that life is not so bad in Israel as people can think from abroad. Funny, but one of the things that I really like here are the people, Israeli people. Really warm and helpful. Habal that they have to live in these tough conditions, they deserve better, much better. But it’s not their neighbour’s fault, it’s the Israeli governors’ and this blind Zionist propaganda. Israeli mums should stir up. It’s a crime to raise children to send them to the war. As you said in your blog, I don’t remember where, young Israeli people should be having fun and not carrying weapons…
    Well, that’s my opinion. Take care,

  27. I found this blog today, and I am already hooked 🙂
    I am a Jew by choice and although I live in the US, and cannot afford to make aliyah at this time; Israel is the home of my heart. I do, however, regret that I am too old to give my time to the Israeli Army.
    Thank you for these wonderful posts. G-D bless you, your family, every square inch of Israel, and each and every one of our Jewish brothers and sisters the world over.
    Shabat Shalom ~ Kimberlynn Shaffer

  28. Hi, I am from the UK. Liverpool to be exact. I am a Father of 6 and have read your blog with interest. I would love to visit Israel. I think we all should respect each others ideals and learn to live together as one “human race”. It saddens me the loss of life in the name of religion. I pray for a day when the walls and razor wire that seperates brothers and sisters be banished. Until then please push for peace and forgiving as much as you can. Its our only hope in this crazy world. Ian

  29. I visited Israel from New Zealand with my mother in 2010. We are not Jewish but she wanted to go there and wanted company so took me. I was hesitant at first having heard all the “news” stories. I loved it, from the Sea of Gallilee to Haifa, Tel Aviv beaches, Golan Heights I just loved it. The only place I didn’t feel safe was Bethalem which i can only describe as vile. Jerusalem was divine. And the food! Problem for me is I so want to go back there I can’t stop thinking about it! Best wishes to you. Love your blog which i found through Twitter..

  30. WONDERFUL POST!!! You cannot imagine how hard it is to sit at my computer in Texas, and desperately long for Israel….especially Jerusalem. Each time I return from a visit, I start thinking about my next trip. With a son about to enter the army (an oleh hadash, aged 28), I want to be there NOW. Reading your blog makes me feel like I am walking the streets of Jerusalem, there is no place like our homeland! Happy 2012! Jan

  31. Gostei de sua publicação! Eu não conheço Israel pessoalmente, porem sei que tem algo de especial neste País. Muitos imaginavam que nunca um dia este seria novamente retomado como País. Porem a força de sua união o reconstruiu 1947; e novamente estava ali o País reunido. Espero um dia conhecer esta terra…
    Muita Paz!

  32. This is a beautiful description of Israel. It made me cry. I just came back from Israel and cannot wait to go back.

  33. Just discovered your wonderful blog from a link over at Legal Insurrection. It is now in my “Favorites” list. I love this piece on Israel and look forward to making my way through your heartfelt writing over the coming days. From one member of our tiny tribe in the United States to another halfway around the world in Israel: Shalom.

  34. I stand with Israel!!

  35. thank you for sharing this about Israel. my aunt has a dream of visiting your country one day, and i’m hoping to bring her there myself. it’s amazing how you described your country, it left tears in my eyes.

  36. Paula… You make us all long to go there and see the Most Beautiful Land on earth!! Thank you!!

  37. jitendra paliwal // July 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm // Reply

    Really a great description of Israel… I would like to come there once in my life…. and also invite you to visit India …..

  38. What a lovely description of Israel! Thank you so much for sharing the beauty, integrity and general life in Israel with us. I too have been yearning to move to Israel from my childhood and hopefully, my dream will be realized in the next 2-3 years! I need everyone’s prayer for this and therefore through this post, request every Jewish heart to send out a small prayer for me on my behalf.

  39. Some day I hoop to go Home, been 3 times to Israel one time 8 years, now every day homesick.

    But your Blog takes the homesickness a little away.


  40. Hi, such a wonderful post. just confirms alot that i have heard, read and pictured of Israel. You are surely a very blessed Nation. I pray for your peace, and protection from your enemies.. I hope to soon pay a shortterm visit with my family and sample some of your beautiful and rich/ historical sites . Shalom shalom. from Kenya

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