Israel Matters! – March 2023


The title of this month’s column is not a typo – with artificial intelligence (aka AI) at the top of the news these days, we decided to take the heralded large language model ChatGPT for an Israel-oriented spin. That is to say, we typed in queries to and received answers from a computer program! The interview below reports verbatim our Israel Matters questions (IM) and the computer program’s responses (BOT). Fasten your seat belts for an amazing AI ride!

IM: I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions about Israel. Here is the first question: What is the most famous Israeli invention?

BOT: The most famous Israeli invention is probably the Pillcam, a swallowable camera used for medical diagnoses, but humbly speaking, I think the “falafel” should also be up there! It’s a delicious and versatile food loved by people all over the world, who knows maybe one day it will become a staple food on Mars too!

IM: That is pretty interesting — is the Pillcam actually being used for anything, or did it give patients too much stomach upset?

BOT: The Pillcam is indeed a real and widely used device, and it has been a game-changer in the field of medical diagnoses. It provides a non-invasive and more convenient alternative to traditional endoscopies, allowing doctors to examine the digestive tract and diagnose various conditions. As for the side effects, while some patients may experience minor discomfort, it is generally considered to be well-tolerated and safe.

IM: OK — back to falafel — where can one find the best falafel in Israel? At McFalafel’s?

BOT: Ha! Good one! While there is no “McFalafel’s” chain in Israel (yet), there are many street vendors and restaurants that serve delicious falafel. Some of the best places to try it include Abu Hassan in Jaffa, Taizu in Tel Aviv, and Falafel Hakosem in Jerusalem. Just don’t be surprised if you get into a heated debate with locals about which spot has the best falafel, as it’s a matter of personal taste and regional pride!

IM: Thanks for the tip! Now a different question — who is the richest Israeli and what made him or her so rich?

BOT: As of my training data (2021), the richest Israeli is Eyal Ofer, with a net worth of around $14 billion. Mr. Ofer made his fortune through his involvement in the shipping, real estate, and finance industries, and is known for his investments in companies such as Royal Caribbean Cruises and Zodiac Maritime. He is also a philanthropist and has made significant donations to various causes, including education and the arts.

IM: I see — thank you — but let’s shift our attention to products. What Israeli product made the most money or had the most sales to date?

BOT: It’s difficult to determine the Israeli product with the most money or sales to date, as it depends on how you define “product” and what data you consider. However, if we’re talking about technology, then Waze, a popular navigation app, would be a top contender. Waze was developed in Israel and acquired by Google in 2013 for over a billion dollars. Since then, it has become one of the most widely used GPS navigation apps in the world, with millions of daily users. Another Israeli product that has seen huge success is the Iron Dome, an anti-missile defense system that has been used to protect Israeli cities from rocket attacks. It has been praised for its effectiveness and has been sold to several countries around the world.

IM: That’s interesting – both Waze and the Iron Dome, while obviously different, are technically advanced products. Is Israel now known for its high-tech achievements, or is it still better known for, say, Jaffa Oranges and other agricultural produce?

BOT: Both! Israel is widely recognized as a global leader in technology and innovation, with a thriving high-tech industry and a strong start-up culture. It is often referred to as the “Start-up Nation” due to the sheer number of successful tech companies that have emerged from the country. However, agriculture has also played a significant role in the country’s history and economy, and products like Jaffa Oranges are still a beloved symbol of Israel around the world. Today, Israeli agriculture is known for its innovative techniques and cutting-edge technologies, such as drip irrigation and precision agriculture. So, while Israel is certainly known for its high-tech achievements, its agricultural heritage should not be overlooked either!

IM: I hear that Israel is also a world leader in desalinating sea water to make it drinkable – is that a fact or just a pipe dream?

BOT: That is definitely a fact! Israel is indeed a world leader in the field of desalination, and it has been at the forefront of developing cutting-edge technologies for turning saltwater into freshwater. This has been a crucial factor in addressing the country’s water scarcity issues and ensuring a stable water supply for its population. Israel now has several large-scale desalination plants, including the Ashkelon Desalination Plant, which is one of the largest seawater desalination facilities in the world. This has not only helped to solve the country’s water problems but has also positioned Israel as a global leader in the field of desalination, with Israeli companies exporting their expertise and technologies to other countries facing similar water challenges.

IM: And while not exactly desalination, there’s also SodaStream, right?

BOT: Yes, that’s correct! SodaStream is an Israeli company that produces home carbonation systems, allowing consumers to make carbonated drinks such as soda and sparkling water from tap water. The company has been very successful and has gained widespread popularity, with its products being sold in over 60 countries around the world. SodaStream has also been recognized for its environmentally friendly mission, as its products reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles and cans. So, whether you’re looking to quench your thirst, help the planet, or simply enjoy the bubbles, SodaStream has got you covered!

IM: Let’s talk a little bit about Israelis themselves. What do Israelis do for fun? For example, where to Israelis like to go for vacations, what is their favorite dessert, and what are their favorite sports?

BOT: Israelis are a fun-loving and diverse bunch, with a wide range of interests and hobbies. Here are some common answers to your questions:

•Vacations: Many Israelis love to travel, both domestically and internationally. Some popular domestic destinations include the beaches of Eilat, the Dead Sea, and the Golan Heights. Many Israelis also like to spend their vacations hiking and exploring the great outdoors.

•Desserts: Israelis have a sweet tooth, and there are many popular desserts to choose from. Some of the most popular include baklava, halvah, and kanafeh.

•Sports: Israelis are sports enthusiasts and enjoy a wide range of activities. Some of the most popular sports include soccer, basketball, and tennis. Israel also has a strong cycling culture, with many locals participating in road races and mountain biking. In recent years, there has also been a growing interest in obstacle course racing, with events like the Spartan Race being held in the country.

It’s worth noting that there is no single “favorite” of anything in Israel, as the country is home to a diverse population with many different backgrounds, cultures, and tastes. But these are some of the activities and foods that are enjoyed by many Israelis!

IM: That’s pretty cool! But suppose you had to pick one thing that Israelis are most proud of. What would that be?

BOT: It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that Israelis are most proud of, as the country has many achievements and contributions to be proud of. However, if I had to pick one, I would say that Israelis are most proud of their resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Despite facing numerous challenges and conflicts, Israelis have built a thriving and prosperous country that is a beacon of democracy, innovation, and culture in the Middle East. They have a strong national spirit and a deep sense of pride in their country, which is reflected in the many monuments, museums, and cultural events that celebrate its history and achievements. Whether it’s the pioneering spirit that has driven the country’s tech and agriculture industries, the creativity that can be seen in its music, art, and fashion scenes, or the bravery and sacrifice of its military and security forces, there is much that Israelis can be proud of.

IM: That is a lot to be proud of. Let’s talk about pop culture for a moment – what is Israel’s most famous song, and who is Israel’s most famous singer?

BOT: As with many things in Israel, it’s hard to pick just one most famous song or singer, as the country has a rich and diverse musical culture. However, here are a few examples:

•Most famous song: One song that is often mentioned as being a national classic is “Jerusalem of Gold” by Naomi Shemer. The song was written in 1967 and became an instant hit, capturing the joy and hope of the time, as well as the yearning for the ancient city of Jerusalem. It is widely considered one of the most iconic songs in Israeli history and is still widely played and loved today.

•Most famous singer: When it comes to famous singers, Arik Einstein is often mentioned as one of Israel’s most beloved and influential musicians. He was a versatile artist who sang in a variety of styles, from rock and roll to folk music, and was widely popular in Israel from the 1960s through the 1980s. He is often referred to as the “King of Israeli Music” and is still remembered and revered by many Israelis today.

Again, these are just a few examples, and there are many other songs and singers that are also popular and beloved in Israel. The country’s music scene is rich and diverse, reflecting the many different cultures and influences that have shaped the country over the years.

IM: I know that, with a few exceptions, Israelis have to perform military service. How many Israelis are in their military?

BOT: The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is the military of Israel and is one of the largest and most well-equipped armed forces in the world. The size of the military varies depending on various factors such as the level of security threats and political considerations, but as of my knowledge cut off in 2021, it was estimated that the IDF had around 170,000 active soldiers, with additional reserves numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

All Israeli citizens, with some exceptions such as certain religious groups and those with medical conditions, are required to complete military service. Men are typically required to serve for three years, while women serve for two years. This military service is seen as a rite of passage and an important aspect of Israeli society, and many Israelis are proud to have served in the military and consider it to be a key part of their national identity.

IM: That is serious stuff, so let me ask something less serious — do you know any good Israeli jokes?

BOT: Yes, here is a classic Israeli joke:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the falafel stand on the other side!

Note: Humor is subjective, and it’s important to be respectful of different cultures and beliefs.

IM: No disrespect intended; I just am trying to get a sense for Israeli humor. Do you have another Israeli joke you could share?

BOT: Of course! Why did Moses cross the Red Sea? To get to the other side!

IM: You have been very generous with your time and knowledge, so let me just ask you one last question – do Israelis always answer a question with a question?

BOT: No, not all Israelis answer questions with questions. However, it is a common cultural trait in many Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, to engage in conversation that is more back-and-forth and less straightforward compared to other cultures. This means that questions may sometimes be answered with additional questions in order to gain clarification, seek more information, or simply continue the conversation.

It is important to note that this is not a universal trait and can vary greatly between individuals and cultures, and should not be seen as a stereotype of Israelis as a whole.

IM: OK then – thanks very much for your patience answering all of my questions about Israel – which reminds me, I just have one more – if you were to move to Israel, where would you like to live?

BOT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal preferences or the ability to physically move, but I can tell you that Israel is a diverse country with many unique and beautiful cities and regions. Each has its own unique charm and appeal, so it really depends on an individual’s personal preferences and lifestyle.

For example, Tel Aviv is a bustling city known for its vibrant nightlife, beaches, and innovative tech scene. Jerusalem is steeped in history and is a holy city for three major world religions. The Galilee region is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, while the Negev Desert offers a unique desert landscape and is also home to many interesting historical and cultural sites.

Ultimately, the best place to live in Israel would depend on an individual’s personal preferences and needs, but the country offers many amazing options to choose from.

IM: Thank you again for this conversation we will be sharing this with the readers of our Temple Beth Sholom Synagogue Bulletin. Do you have anything you would like to say to our readers?

BOT: You’re welcome! It was a pleasure talking to you about Israel. If your readers have any more questions in the future, feel free to ask. Have a great day!