Humous, café hafuch and spy sharks

Soon after making aliya 5 years ago, American immigrant Benji Lovitt began compiling slightly warped, but endearing aspects of what he loves about his adopted country. Here is his fourth annual list.

By BENJI LOVITT
May 9, 2011 16:15
Yom Haaztmaut barbeque

Yom Haaztmaut barbeque 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

1 I love the awesome Israeli breakfast served up at cafes around the country.
Salad, cheeses, cafe hafuch and more. The only way red and green is seen on a plate in America is in a bowl of Lucky Charms. (I have no idea how I missed this in the previous years’ lists. I think someone dropped a pan of shakshuka on my head.)

2 I love the “camels crossing” road sign in the Negev. That, and the “Dangerous Curves” sign, which sounds like an action movie starring Bar Refaeli as a cop.

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3 I love that when I called the wrong number on Purim eve, the guy had the courtesy to say “hag sameah” before hanging up.

4 I love how the Bezeq guy gave me Internet service only after kissing the mezuza on my doorpost. I appreciate the service, but how about kissing my bill down NIS 50 a month?

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5 I love how our start-up nation created the Iron Dome defense system to shoot down enemy rockets. And is it just me, or does “Iron Dome” sound like the name of an Israeli condom?

6 I love making my fellow olim laugh more than anyone.  Totally gratifying.



7 I love that you can talk to a complete stranger for five minutes, ask if his sister is single, and not get punched in the face.

8 I love how you can talk on a first date about how many kids you want to send to the army.

9 I love that during the summer, you could hike 40 kilometers underground and somehow still end up at an ice cream truck.

10 I love that I contacted Pelephone via Twitter, and within 24 hours, they had arranged for Ori, the customer service guy, to come to my house to pitch me their deal. (By the way, if you’re ever entering a hotel for a Twitter event and security asks you what you’re there for, just lie. Nothing sounds dorkier than “Tweet-up.”)

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11 I love that Israeli DVD players can play discs from all zones. Why download? (Oh yeah. Because I’m not willing to admit that I paid money to see Twilight.)

12 I love how after the recent tsunami, Israel was one of the first nations to send aid to Japan. Who knows better how to get excess water off the floors than Israelis?

13 I love the use of gematria to refer to everything from days of the week to class grade levels. Take that, Romans.

14 I love that I couldn’t understand why my Israeli friend kept saying “which makolet (grocery store)” in conversation until I realized he was trying to say “whatchamacallit.”

15 I love that the Kinneret recently topped the red line. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'll be in the shower till July.

16 I love that despite an average annual rainfall of approximately 1 cubic millimeter, we manage to grow organic tomatoes and other delicious vegetables in the Negev. (Did I mention that the Negev is a desert?)

17 I love how you could sneeze in almost any direction and hit a country that serves as an affordable, lastminute hot spot. Hey, even Zionists need a vacation.

17 1/2. The desert!?! Are you kidding me?!

18 I love that I almost asked my oleh friend’s sabra kid what his favorite Jewish holiday was before realizing how bizarre that would sound to an Israeli child. (Me: “Hey, John Smith in Biloxi, Mississippi – what’s your favorite Christian holiday?” JS: “What the hell are you talking about?”)

19 I love Rosh Hashana and Pessah, where the office gets together for a toast. (Hey, I’m not gonna lie – the gift cards ain’t bad, either.)

20 I love that the produce is so good here that fruit salad makes a delicious dessert. Because how healthy can something called “Death by Chocolate” really be?

21 I love when the guy behind the counter offers you a free felafel ball while you’re waiting to be served. Ahi, I’m already sold. You’re just teasing me now.

22 I love how the Tel Aviv nightclubs play religious music put to a dance beat. Even if someone hasn’t stepped into a synagogue since his bar mitzva, he’ll shake his rumpus to the “Mashiach! Mashiach! Mashiach!” song till 5 a.m.

23 I love the visibly improving customer service in this country, such as the guy at the Sambooki bakery on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road who let me have the takeout price despite my eating in.

24 I love that Natalie Portman admitted that she consumes her own weight in humous every day. As if she wasn’t hot enough already.

25 I love that I have never once ordered a cafe hafuch and been disappointed.Incidentally, I’d like to open a coffee shop called Cafe Herzl with our slogan being, “If you spill it, there is no cream.”

26 I love that even if I don’t know how to say something in Hebrew, I can add “atzia” to the end of it and be 75.6 percent certain that it’s actually a word.“Demonstratzia.” “Confrontatzia.” “Conflagratzia.” (If you’re talking to me and I look like I’m not paying attention, I’m probably repeating something you said in my head.)

27 I love having a benefactor. His name is Mr. Misrad Habinui (Construction Ministry) and he seems determined to put money in my bank account till the end of time. Thank you, Mr. Habinui! Are you French?

28 I love that even aliens found reason to come visit our country, descending above the Temple Mount. I hope our security guards interrogated them thoroughly. “Did anyone give you something before you entered our atmosphere?”

29 I love that if I wanted to, I could take out tefillin on an El Al flight without the flight crew having to make an emergency landing. Let’s review this again: “If El Al doesn’t do it, no one should do it.”

30 I love that blissful moment near the end of the wedding when Mashina’s “Ein Makom Aher” (There’s No Place Else) comes on and limbs start flailing around the dance floor.

31 I love the little girls on Rehov Emek Refaim who sell cookies to raise money for their youth movements. That’s just cute.

32 I love that the Israeli company Better Place seems like a sure thing to revolutionize the world by creating electric cars. Shai Agassi, if your creative/marketing team is hiring, I think we should talk.

33 I love that someone gave me access to a website with the password “chumus1948.” Only in Israel.

34 I love the things Israelis are willing to help with out of the goodness of their hearts, like when my friend Idan helped me move two hours before Shabbat. Not only did the dude carry my stuff up a flight of stairs while I was busy talking with my landlord, he looked at me like I was crazy when I tried to buy him lunch afterward. I don’t know what strange affliction you people have, but it’s a beautiful thing. (“Afflictzia.”)

35 More insanely nice behavior: I love that after a fire in my apartment, a random city hall worker personally invited me to his house for Shabbat. Israelis, if a robber breaks into your house, do you call the police only after offering him a hot drink?

36 I love the new deal-of-the-day websites like Groopbuy, Groupon and Baligam that help us shoppers find great discounts. I plan to start the site Lobaligam.com, where I sell a goat, used dental floss and a cup of dirt.

37 I love that our intelligence services are so good that our neighbors actually believe we’re employing sharks and vultures as Mossad agents. That explains why we have so many cats in this country. They’re doing intel.

38 I love that Tel Aviv is so great, Duran Duran wrote a song about it. Now when is The Knack going to come to Israel to perform their hit song “My Dimona”?

39 I love that I came across a job advertisement seeking someone possessing “expertise in shwarma.”

40 I love that Stanley Fischer helped keep Israel from suffering as much as many other countries during the worldwide economic crisis. Thanks to Stan the Man, I can maintain the “cafe hafuch” column in my personal budget.

41 I love the random stands on the side of the highway selling strawberries, flowers and more. It’s like the shuk decided to set up satellite offices around the country minus the screaming.

42 I love that before Pessah, the television jingles are sung to tunes from the Haggada – like the special Bamba ‘pyramid’ snacks. (This deserves its own discussion)

43 I love that the Schusterman Foundatzia in Israel paid for 700 children from the South to see Justin Bieber after their communities were hit by rockets. (Insert gratuitous joke along the lines of “Haven’t they suffered enough?”)

44 I love different ethnic groups’ observances, like Mimouna or Sigd, which this Ashkenazi Jew had never heard of before making aliya. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Jews from Antarctica celebrate Hanukka by eating fried snow cones.

45 I love that people here are named after characters from the Bible or things in nature, rather than a quarterback who five minutes ago won a playoff game. (Little known fact: If you’re an Israeli woman named Noa, there is a 92.3% chance that you’re hot.)

46 I love that the Knesset approved free dental care for children up to the age of eight. Now where can I find me an XXL Hannah Montana shirt?

47 I love that even though I have been here almost five years, I can get free Ulpan from reading the subtitles to old Seinfeld episodes. “Hellooo, Newman.” ניומן הלווו

48 I love having an epiphany about the English origin of a Hebrew word. “Mastik”... “masticate.” Ahhhhhhhh!

49 I love having an epiphany about the Hebrew origin of an English word. “Maven”…. “meh-veen.” Ahhhhhhhhh!

50 I love that if I had to hitchhike, not only would it probably be much safer than in most other countries, but I could also find a mutual friend in the driver within the first five minutes.

50 1/2: We grow tomatoes in the desert! Jeez!

51 I love that when I clicked “Contact” on Ivri’s Lider’s website to ask a question, I got a reply within one hour from Ivri himself. The moment Bono returns one of my e-mails is the moment felafel flies out of my tusik.

52 I love the Israeli iPhone apps: Waze, Fooducate, and most importantly, iHummus. I don’t care how big a bowl of humous Lebanon can make – can they carry it around in their pockets? Suck it, Hezbollah.



53 I love that when I accompanied a friend to shop for a dress, she didn’t have to explain what “tzanua” (modest) meant.

54 I love that the public transportation system is growing before our eyes, with the Jerusalem light rail, better bus maps, and digital displays of upcoming stops. Now if they could open the in-flight shwarma bar by 2013, we’d all be happy.

55 I love that restaurants manage to stay open during Pessah while serving kosher food. Hey, it may not taste the best, but at least it’s our not-great-tasting food.

56 I love that somehow, despite my having already thought of 183 things in the three previous years, there is still enough beauty to somehow churn out 63 more things I love about this wonderful country. I don’t know how I’m going to keep this going next year. (This list would have been so much easier in the 1950s. “Happy third birthday, Israel! Here are three things I love about you: I love that you exist. I love speaking Hebrew. I love being a majority. Hag sameah, everybody!”)

57 I love the resilience of the guy who reopened his kiosk near Binyenei Ha’uma after suffering the second terror attack to hit his store. I’ll buy Bissli from you any time, my friend.

58 I love that no matter your level of religious observance or where you are – be it Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or anything in between – Shabbat is more than just a weekend.

59 I love the tight bond and feeling of togetherness I share with the fraternity of people who have made aliya. You could introduce me to a blind septuagenarian Eskimo immigrant and we’d have hours of shared experiences to laugh about.

60 I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: I love cafe hafuch and I love humous. God, I love them.

61 I love that on August 10, I’ll be celebrating five years in Israel. Eich omrim “holy schnitzel?”

62 I love that no matter how much time passes, our society refuses to let Gilad Schalit fade from our consciousness even one iota.

63 I love that I’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime experience and that it’s not over yet.

Benji Lovitt is a stand-up comic and writer.

www.benjilovitt.com.


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