Years ago, when I was still a teenager and Benji (see my previous post) was probably in diapers (if around at all), Ephraim Kishon, the writer and satirist, wrote a piece called Happy Birthday to the State of Israel. I was thinking about the uniqueness of this tiny country, very, very different from the daily living experience in the United States, unless perhaps if you're in a very small town where everyone knows everyone else. In Israel, it seems that the entire country is a small town, and everyone is a member of the "family," greatly extended, like your uncle's mother's sister's son kind of related. I wrote a little about this in a previous post about my daughter (formerly known as 'Rambo'), when she consciously changed her attitude to think positively, be good to herself, and open to others. But truth be told, the good things that have happened since then, including what I've personally encountered, are more unique to Israel and Israelis than any other place I can think of.
So, here is my personal, short little list, of Only In Israel:
Only In Israel:
1) Does another shopper in MEGA (a large supermarket chain) not only help you get 1 item off a shelf you can't reach because you're in a wheelchair, but announces that 'you don't have to worry--he will shop with you for the rest of your shopping trip and get you everything you need and help you to check out'-even though he finished his own shopping and was ready to leave.*mishloach: delivery
2) Does the manager of HomeCenter (a store similar to Home Depot in the States, but much smaller and with less stock and fewer departments) greet you by name with a big "how are you, haven't seen you in a while, and is everything all right?" -and then tell you not to worry about paying for a mishloach* of all that stuff (folding chairs, bbq grill, garden hose, etc.), because he is going to deliver the stuff to your door, in his personal car, when he leaves work today. And he did.
3) Does a total stranger-a random cab driver, while driving you to your doctor's appointment, decide to 'adopt' you as his daughter after you and he converse about your story and life in general. From that point on, he becomes a surrogate father, taking you in his cab to many of your appointments, calling you every other day to find out how you are, bringing you vegetables every Friday for Shabbat, and spending 3 hours putting up your new bamboo sheeting to cover your chain-link fence. And refusing payment.
4) Does the electrician who comes to your home to fix your chashmal* which shorted out, turn out to be a religious Yemenite Jew who learns Torah twice a week and who, after having an interesting conversation with you, asks if it's all right for him to ask you out for coffee. And then becomes your boyfriend (she's still going out with him...).
5) Only Israelis, no matter where--can you meet at the Carlebach shul in Manhattan on the holiday of Purim, strike up a conversation with the nice middle-aged couple, he a community center director and she a social worker, who grew up in the neighborhood your daughter is living in in Tel-Aviv; who then write down her phone number and promise to call her, visit her and bring her food (they've already called her,twice, and are planning a visit after Yom HaAtzma'ut*).
*Yom HaAtzma'ut: Israel Independence Day
Told you my list was short. It's enough. There are no strangers in Israel: they are all family. Below, is Ephraim Kishon's take on it.
Happy Birthday to the State of Israel
(In: »Sorry we won«)Israel is a country so tiny that there is no room to write its
name on the world map.
It is the only country in the world which is financed by its
It is a country which all the time eats up its inhabitants, and yet
does not grow fat.
It is a country of boundless boundaries.
It is a country where mothers learn the mother tongue from
It is a country where the fathers ate sour grapes, and the
children's teeth are excellent.
It is a country where one writes Hebrew, reads English, and
It is a county where everybody has the right to speak his mind,
but there is no law forcing anybody to listen.
The State of Israel
It is the most enlightened country in the region, thanks to the
It is a country where all the capital is concentrated in Jewish
hands--and there is much grumbling because of this.
It is a country where one can buy anything in the world for his
money--except an apartment, which is very expensive.
It is a country where any babe in arms may contradict his
papa's political views.
It is a country of elections, but no choice.
It is a country which is an organic part of its trade unions.
It is a country where nobody wants to work, so they build a
new town in three days' time and go idle the rest of the week.
It is a country where a slip of paper can move mountains, but
all the mountains beget is speeches.
It is a country which produces less than it eats, and yet, of all
places, it is here that nobody has ever died of hunger.
It is a country where nobody expects miracles, but everybody
takes them for granted.
It is a country where one calls ministers simplyMoishe--and
then almost dies with the excitement of it.
It is the only country in the region whose political regime is the
It is a country whose survival is permanently endangered, and
yet its inhabitants' ulcers are caused by the neighbors from
It is a country where every human being is a soldier, and every
soldier is a human being.
It is the only country in which I could live. It is my country.