Sunday, March 20, 2011

Past the Tip of the Israeli Iceberg

I always thought I knew the real “ins” of Israeli culture because I was familiar with words like “sababa” and “achla” and musical artists like HaDag Nachash and Idan Raichel. Well, while I’ve certainly always had a familiarity with the culture here I think it’s fair to say that it was really just the surface of the culture that I knew well. It’s like I could provide a detailed description of the tip of the iceberg yet it was also just the tip of the iceberg. Make sense? I hope so cause it does in my head. Anyway, now that I live here one of the most fun parts of the experience I’m finding is that I'm exposed to this culture on such a much deeper level. I get to see it for it’s beauty, it’s corruption, and everything neutral and in between.

People who know I’m Jewish and have familiarity with Israel often ask: Isn’t it dangerous there? Don’t they ride camels everywhere? And, well, ha, that’s usually all people ever really ask. So, in attempt to dispel the myths, preconceived notions, and in the interest of sharing the beauty and depth of the culture here as I see it,  here’s a list of some of my favorite, most surprising, and most unexpected cultural nuances:

-         Shanti shanti is totally a common term here and I love it!
-         Weekends are Friday and Saturday which still totally confuses me
-         Water conservation is really valued. All toilets have 2 flushers and it’s expected when washing dishes to wash all them with soap before turning on the faucet to rinse. Same goes for brushing teeth – only keep the water on when rinsing.
-         Buses stop on Friday around 3:30 in Jerusalem so you better plan your next 24 hours and all that you’ll need (stores are closed in Jeru) in advance
-         It’s common to wish someone a “shavua tov” (good week) on Saturday evenings
-         Recycling is really encouraged here! Up and down some of the more popular streets you can spot plastic and paper recycling dumpsters
-        The elderly are treated with utmost respect – always invited onto buses before the rest of the crowd rushes on, seats are always given up by the younger passengers, etc.
-         Fresh produce is easy to find and infinitely tastier than produce I've had anywhere else around the world
-         There’s a trend when Israelis finish their military service to travel either to India or South America for several months
-          Iced coffee doesn’t mean coffee with ice but coffee blended with ice
-          Aroma is the Starbucks of Israel only the food at Aroma is much better
-          All the most gorgeous men in the world are concentrated in this country… it’s true :)
-          There’s a push here for many younger people to get involved in politics but there’s so much corruption in the government that younger people are really turned away
-          Already during the month I’ve been here I’ve read several news headlines about terrorist attacks against Israelis and I’ve been disheartened to hear from home that the news hasn’t made it outside Israel (Please take this at face value and don’t look any deeper – I’m making no other political statements or saying anything more other than just simply this.)
-          Many locals assume I’ve made aliya or plan to
-          J-Walking is super illegal—you can and will get a ticket
-          Some of the best sites in the world for bird watching are in Israel
-          While it’s about 3.6 shekels to the dollar the cost of living is just about equal to that in the States
-          Customer service is pretty awful by American standards just about everywhere
-          Tights pants and boots are high fashion
-          Israel serves as an asylum for many African refugees. People who think there’s no such thing as a Black Jew are completely uninformed.
-          It’s always a few degrees cooler in Jerusalem than in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is also known more for being an academic and religious city while Tel Aviv is where the parties are at
-          Purple is a totally acceptable hair color for Israeli women
-          And… despite popular belief and all the controversy there are actually Jews and Palestinians coexisting peacefully everyday
I'm sure the more time I spend here the more I'll learn about the cultural nuances and I promise to keep you all tuned... 
Aside from all that, take a look below at a few pix from some of my highlights here thus far:
Rach and I went to Binyamina for Shabbat last week to visit a long time family friend. We had an amazing visit full of laughs, rest, and wonderful company. Our last hours were spent exploring the beautiful coast of the Mediterranean Sea just 5 minutes from the house.

Me with Jen and her adorable son Ziv

Chag Sameach! It's Purim here this weekend so we went out last night to fulfill the mitzvah of celebrating the holiday... Rach was a cat and I was an aerobics instructor

We've been on a major health kick in the house and this is Exhibit A - Rach's and my breakfast! We've also now had family dinners at home for the last 5 nights with home cooked meals and contributions from all :)

This is what happens when you're in a house with 6 people and no one has a job yet or anything to do all day... you leave your underwear outside on the drying rack and then find it folded in the kitchen cabinets between the plates! We all better start work soon because I can't even imagine what kind of ridiculousness will otherwise ensue...

Getting ready to go out... from left to right we've got the cat, rock star, and aerobics instructor... so totally representative of our individual and totally different personalities... love it!

5 of my 6 sweet and adorable cousins I met this week! (L-R: Ephraim, Mordechai, Chaim, me, Racheli, and Menachem)

        Last thought: This week I've been missing India a lot... Rachel just wrote the most creative blog that so beautifully illustrates all my thoughts of the week. If it's not posted yet it'll be up in the next few days... Check it out here:

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