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The little things I’ll miss about Israel
I always had a sense that I’d come up against a seven-year itch; and lo and behold, after 93 months in these parts, I’m packing up shop and heading back home to Los Angeles to open a new chapter. Naturally, there are plenty of aspects about life in Israel I’m happy to leave behind, but on the flip-side, there are so many little things about this place I’ll miss once I’m gone…
Vegetables for breakfast.
The “everything is possible” attitude.
The tranquility of an entire country slowly shutting down and settling into Shabbat around 4 pm, every Friday.
Words for which there are no translation in English (davka, titcadesh, b’teavon, lefargen) – how will I congratulate people on new stuff now?
Proximity to dreamy Sinai.
That bizarre feeling of cooperation when, without asking, people pass your money up to the driver on a monit sherut, then pass back your change.
Cloudwatching all that gorgeous sky above my roof.
How almost every year I went to a family of a different background for Pesach, and saw vastly different Seder customs.
Lemonade with rose water at Café Yaffa.
The smell of the orange groves in bloom near the airport.
Foxy Israeli men.
Tel Aviv roof parties.
Tea with fresh mint and honey.
Interesting points of cultural intersection, like Anna LouLou bar.
Tel Aviv shel pa’am: painted tile floors, high ceilings, lace curtains — a waft of Europeanism melting in these hot Levantine sands.
Fruit and fuzzy green unripe almonds for sale by the side of the road in the North.
The directness and intensity of people’s communication, wrath and warmth.
How all the hametz is covered up in the supermarket during Passover.
Haaretz’s “Family Affair” feature.
Having participated directly, in some small way, in the conversation of what this country is, and what it can be.
Flip-flops, suitable everywhere, year-round.
Glimpses of “Zion.”
Putting groceries on the tab under my name at the local minimart, and paying for them later.
The important reminder of the muezzin’s call to prayer, five times a day.
Fresh half pomegranate/half orange juice.
Israeli creativity as expressed through fashion, art and design.
The powerful mechanism of the siren on remembrance days.
Funny words Israelis make up in English, like crowdy (crowded), loudy (loud) and the nature (nature).
That distinct, apocalyptic smell of Lag B’Omer, and seeing kids on the street gathering scraps of wood for their bonfires, days in advance.
Giuseppi’s pizza after a night of drinks the end of Vital St. in Florentine.
Israeli brides, one after another, rocking their bling around Suzanne Dellal on a Tuesday.
Having relationships with my neighbors and vendors around my house – not being anonymous.
Folk music on the radio, just before the holidays come in.
Knaffe at Haj Kahil.
Knaffe everywhere, actually.
Wandering around the four quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City, and the view from the roof of the Austrian Hospice.
The quest for the perfect “resh.”
The strange experience of being part of the majority, after being raised as a minority.
The bat poo-splattered Bauhaus architecture, falling sticky berries, and crowded benches along Rothschild.
Talking with one-staters.
Sixteen-spice halva from the Mahane Yehuda shuk.
Arak and grapefruit juice on sweltering summer nights.
Funny menu translations.
Pretty much never having to “dress up.”
Over time, accessing a more and more nuanced understanding of this very complex place.
The smell of eucalyptus out in the wilderness.
Calendars with the Jewish holidays already in them.
Big vegetarian-friendly Shavuot feasts.
The cage-on-wheels thingie that nursery school teachers take their kids out for a stroll in.
How Sylvester pales to Rosh Hashanah.
The perfect blend of falafel in a pita and Coca Cola.
That often when you ask someone how they are, they reply, “Bless G-d.”
Great cultural institutions like the Israel Museum, and smaller ones like the Center for Contemporary Art.
The way my street in Jaffa is so very quiet all throughout the week, but then on Friday turns into a f-ing zoo when all of Tel Aviv descends for Abu Hasan hummus.
That no one will understand me when I say yalla, nu, kaha ze, ma la’asot? – or make that sorta clicking noise that means “no.”
When Israeli commercials reference Jewish culture.
The Ramle shuk’s parking lot, which is basically among crumbling crusader-era ruins.
The sweet potato pancakes with yogurt sauce at Orna V’Ella.
106 & 88 FM, especially on Friday afternoons.
The “golden hour” light in Jaffa’s Old City during the late afternoon.
The romantic, yet lonely, feeling of being thousands of miles from home – and realizing what a powerful concept “home” is.
Floating in the Dead Sea.
Charming little cafes like Tmol Shilshom in Jerusalem and Café Sheleg in Tel Aviv, and the thousands of others that are packed at any hour of the day.
The way Israelis shake their hand from side to side with their palm upwards, asking “Which is it?” or “What do you want?” – and if they do it closer to their head with a scowl, meaning “What are you, crazy?”
The beach, at night.
Friends who have helped me gain tiny insight into Palestinian identity and experience.
The sweet labor of getting to the heart of a pomelo fruit.
Camel crossing signs in the South.
Never feeling afraid to walk alone at night, anywhere.
The multisensory overload that is the shuk.
That the trees and land get a break every seven years.
How Israelis sorta swish the air over their shoulder with their hand when talking about the past.
Seeing grown men walk around sucking on little bags of chocolate milk, with no hands.
The rain, when it comes.
The group of in-line skaters that glide around Tel Aviv once a week in a pack.
Seeing beardless men become beardful during the Omer.
Kosher for Passover bread in the cafes.
In what can be such a deeply divided culture, moments of unity – the joy and relief at Gilad Schalit’s return, for example.
Hot laffa with labane and tabbouleh, fresh off one of those convex Druze pans.
Pop-up fashion festivals like T:Market.
Seeing all the notes rolled up tightly and stuffed into crevices in the Kotel.
That a fruit shake is always somewhere just around the corner.
How when someone in an American movie yells “Jesus!” they subtitle it “Elohim!”
Neve Tzedek boutiques.
Breslover revelry in the middle of the street.
Ingredients like za’atar, pistachio, tehina, chickpeas, halva, burguhl & sumac.
The feeling of walking around a kibbutz, even if it no longer functions as such.
Still never knowing which button does what on the Israeli toilets.
Seeing waiters light menorahs in restaurants during Hannuka.
The prototypical Tel Aviv young lady: bun on top of her head, mix of vintage and new clothing, a kind of poise you don’t often see in American women in their early 20s.
Olives with my beer.
A little nargilla now and then.
The freedom that children have to walk the city by themselves at a very young age.
The gesture of thumb and first two fingers together, telling you to wait.
Vaniglia ice cream – in every flavor.
“Ha ex ha mythologi.”
Tea time at the American Colony.
All of the random weirdness that Jaffa has to offer: a flatbed truck piled four feet high with garlic, the horse that rides down my street daily that jingles with all kindsa small bells, super creative parking spots, the guy at the hummus place who yells “Oh-kay!” at the top of his lungs at least a dozen times a day, the divine smells from the bakery under my place, the old Jewish Moroccan men who play music and sing in Arabic on Thursday nights in an alley near the clock-tower, and how one day there was the call to prayer, church bells and a shofar being blown, all within an hour.
Feeling at once deeply connected and deeply alienated from the culture.
How people will start wishing each other “Shabbat Shalom” starting around Wednesday night.
The craft fair on Nahalat Binyamin.
Turkish coffee served in tiny cups.
Multiple-day Purim festivities.
How Israelis will put all of their fingers into one point, then open them and spread all their fingers apart (sometimes with two hands), and repeat this three times, to tell someone to turn on their car’s lights at night.
Cracker-thin crust pizza at Agvaniya.
How sometimes there’s an intermission at the movies.
The fluidity of what “being on time” means.
That kind of post-army Israeli nature guy: Army t-shirt with the collar cut out, khaki cargo shorts, Teva sandals, squatting and making coffee with his portable finjan.
How even the most official rules are somehow bendable here if you ask nicely.
The plump green grapes at their peak for a few weeks in the mid-summer.
The particular way people decorate their cars before a wedding.
Wondering why the dramatic views from the cliffs in Haifa aren’t part of the international lexicon of amazing places.
The surprise of my first funeral here – that there wasn’t a coffin.
Those bunches of red, pink and purple wild flowers with the black center that they sell before Shabbat.
Foods I never heard of before coming here, but that I now love: malawah, futeh, majadra, sabih.
Old apartments with toilet and sink in different rooms.
The chance to explore Ramallah further.
My time in the South, the stillness and beauty of the desert, and that after seven months there in the beginning, Arad somehow feels like my Israeli hometown.
Clever Israeli street art.
Feeling at times like the Holy Land is a state of mind, not necessarily a place.
People, on both sides of the conflict, working toward a better shared future.
Marak artishok yerushalmi.
The way people respond to that “Ayin Makom Acher” song by Mashina at parties and weddings, and how it makes me a little melancholic.
The mystery of sponga and how I never quite got the hang of it.
“Im tirtzu ayin zo agada,” as a principle.
Watermelon and Bulgarit.
The ferocity of celebration here.
Sparklers at birthday parties.
Sweaty dancers at weddings.
Cab drivers, bank clerks, airport security, etc. always asking why I came to this country, and smirking when I tell them “’cause I’m crazy.”
Some very, very dear friends.
This little olive tree.