What is it that makes Israel so special? What are the things you can find only in Israel? The answers to these questions differ when you ask Israelis as opposed to non-Israelis. We conducted a little survey among our Israeli friends and our Facebook non-Israeli readers of our fan page, “I love Hebrew”. Here is what we found:
Photographer: Sam Horine
That Special Shabbat Atmosphere
Both Israelis and non-Israelis appreciate the special Friday and Shabbat atmosphere – “the whole country celebrates Shabbat!” “90% of everything STOPS on Friday eve for the Shabbat. Shabbat morning feels like a true Shabbat, peaceful.” Israelis in particular enjoy smelling the rich aroma of special Shabbat foods being cooked, relaxing with the weekend newspapers, spending quality time with the family and waiting for young soldiers to come home for the weekends.
Amazing Food and Entertainment
When talking with Israelis away from home, they mainly miss their friends and family, but they also long for the food - various kinds of soft cheese, delicious brunches, salads, krembo, bamba and so much more. Israelis also feel most comfortable with Israeli entertainment: Israeli songs, military bands (לַהֲקוֹת צְבָאִיּוֹת, lahakot tsva’iyot), and special Israeli humor like the Gashashim comedy group or more current stand-up artists.
Photographer: Dave Temple
One of our students, a musician, noted that,“all art forms are very highly valued in Israel… The most amazing thing is, only in Israel do you hear happy songs in minor keys, such as ‘Am Israel Chai’ (עַם יִשְׂרָאֵל חַי) , ‘Hava Nagila’ (הָבָה נָגִילָה), and ‘Hine Ma Tov’ (הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב).
Yearning and Spirituality
There is always yearning for Israel even before visiting it for the first time. While visiting Israel, there is a spiritual feeling of coming home, of it being a home away from home, that, “the soil kind of welcomes you” and that “the land of Israel itself incredibly magnificent and beautiful; it feels as if it is alive...speaking to you, loving you, offering you its greatest blessings!” After visiting Israel, there is always longing to come back, to visit again, to relive the experience.
The spiritual experience crosses religions and country of origin. Many people feel that Israel is “a tiny piece of land that God chose for Himself...forever “. Some Jewish visitors were “amazed to see a mezuzah on almost every doorpost and knowing that for once I was not in the minority.” They also feel “at home with my people. I am no longer alone in my corner of the world; I am one of millions in the same place at the same time.” While walking through the streets of Jerusalem, Christians felt that they wanted “to caress the walls, the roads...I think ‘He might have walked here!’...’He might have touched this’.”
Photographer: Dave Temple
History and Culture
Beyond the spiritual experience, people are amazed to see so many ancient archeological findings that verify the words of the Torah, right alongside more current history, as well as modern, day-to-day life in Israel. All of these features tell the long and varied story of those who lived and loved, visited, fought, concurred and built the land of Israel.
Last but not least are the Israeli people themselves. Although most Israelis do not perceive themselves as being friendly but rather more as honest and direct, many of our readers gave a very positive review of Israelis as being warm, welcoming, hospitable people. You can read more about this in a previous newsletter. “Strangers treated me like family” wrote one. Another reader was hospitalized and “everyone, nurses, doctors & aides all called me Sarahleh. I am a grandmother! That for sure helped my recovery! Only in Israel!” Our readers experienced Israelis as “passionate people, so driven to survive and rise above all the challenges they face!”
One reader summed up his daughter’s Israeli experience and most of the aspects we talked about: “the McDonald's were strange, the soldiers her age were strange to her, and the people were friendly to a fault, whether they were Jewish, Christian or Muslim. She lived the old world vs. new world culture. We want to go now.”
לַשָּׁנָה הַבָּאָה בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם!
LaShana haBa’a biYrushalayim!
Next year in Jerusalem!
Hebrew Teacher @ eTeacherHebrew