67-plus-one new reasons I love Israel

Painting by Pepe Fainberg (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Painting by Pepe Fainberg
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
I’ve been writing these columns in honor of Independence Day for a decade and a half, but I never run out of new reasons I love Israel.
Here they are, for Yom Ha’atzmaut 2015, in no particular order: 1. Who says we’re not traditional? We consume 1,600 tons of honey and 15,000 tons of apples on Rosh Hashana.
The custom includes Ethiopian immigrants who eat yemarima yewotet bread, sweetened with honey and favored with spices.
2. Who says we’re not traditional? Seventy- three percent of us fast on Yom Kippur, 84% in Jerusalem.
3. Diabetic teens want to fast on Yom Kippur and Ramadan. A new protocol was invented at Hadassah University Medical Center to allow them to take part in the national abstinence.
4. My supermarket features pins and tape at the entrance before Succot, anticipating the need to hang up children’s artwork in the tent-like booths.
5. When ladybugs flew into the swimming pool on Passover, someone shouted, “Look, Moshe Rabbenu [our teacher Moses] in the water!” because that’s what you call ladybugs in Hebrew.
6. At Monday night women’s swim, the hijabs and sheitels (wigs) share space on the locker-room benches.
7. Robotic vacuum cleaners are advertised constantly before Passover.
8. The entire Cinema City in Jerusalem changed over to Passover mode on the same day.
9. When a new pharmacy opened on a trendy Jerusalem street, across from an old one, the buzz was about whether such close competition was allowed in Jewish law.
10. Israeli invention: a featherless chicken.
11. Far afield: An Israeli start-up is to going to build a wave-energy power plant off the Chinese coast. Israel’s GAL Water technology is purifying water for the Marshall Islands.
12. Our political, security and economic situation is serious, but politicians used humor to speak to voters.
13. Everyone in the country knows the prime minister’s favorite flavor of ice cream.
14. Seder guests brought me matza baked by the prime minister! 15. The news announcers say, “Moadim l’simha,” during Passover, and everyone knows that the greeting refers to the intermediate days of the holiday.
16. When a famous Hebrew singer dies, his/her music is played all day as a memorial.
17. We treat over 90% of our wastewater, more than any other country. Our biggest garbage dump has become a terrific park.
18. Our average public healthcare is ranked superior to that of the United States, and everyone, employed or not, has coverage.
19. Specials at trendy cafés and cinemas for seniors are called “Tuesday with Suspenders.”
20. We take in refugees from both Islamic State and al-Qaida and give them medical care – Sunni and Shi’ite.
21. When I filled up at an Israeli Arab-run gas station, a huge freezer of ice cream bars was marked “Kosher for Passover.”
Gas stations give out Haggadot, too.
22. Matza is a big seller in Arab neighborhood corner stores.
23. Reported in the newspaper: A speeding driver stopped by police explained that it was almost too late to burn hametz (the symbolic process of getting rid of leavened products on the morning of the Seder).
24. A new Israeli stamp features the Cyrus Declaration from 538 BCE, in which the Persian king allowed a return to Israel, as reported in the Book of Ezra.
The glue on the stamp is kosher.
25. Big signs off highways announce: “Shmita is observed here” – leaving the land fallow – and many hurried to plant before the sabbatical year began.
26. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund suspends tree-planting for a shmita year.
27. Importing vegetables from Hamas farms isn’t a peace initiative – it’s a shmita initiative.
28. An Israeli porcupine dug up a 1,400-year-old oil lamp.
29. Israeli invention: a suit that lets you rappel from your apartment building in case of fire.
30. Israel inventions: supermarket carts with smartphone chargers.
31. Our beggars frequently bless us.
32. The advertisement to encourage voting says you forfeit your right to gripe if you don’t vote. Over 72% of us vote, Jews and Arabs together.
33. El Al ground crew and flight attendants dress up for Purim.
34. TV news anchors wear costumes on Purim; TV marks Purim with Monty Python movies.
35. Our national junk food Bamba can prevent a child from developing peanut allergies.
36. Our tech companies had more than 75 “exits” last year, being bought out by international corporations. According to London’s Center for Policy Studies, we rank second in the world in producing self-made billionaires per capita.
37. When a Nigerian man insisted on giving his kidney to an Israeli, only an ultra-Orthodox rabbi believed him. The recipient was a Druse law student.
38. The mayor of Jerusalem tackled a terrorist to the ground and protected the city.
39. No hametz allowed. There’s a hametz guard keeping bread out of the hospitals on Passover, and certain seafood restaurants didn’t serve beer over the holiday; non-kosher McDonald’s branches switched to matza buns.
40. Israel news headline: Holocaust survivor has 100th great-grandchild.
41. Israel news headline: Baby saved from café terror attack grows up to serve in IDF.
42. Despite complaints about cost of living and security threats, we have nearly twice as many babies, three per woman, as the average in other developed countries.
43. Seven species: Israeli scientists have figured out how to grow grapes in winter – and they’re seedless, too.
44. Seven species: Israeli scientists have shown that pomegranates help fight hypertension, heart disease, brain deterioration and heart disease – not quite 613 cures, but getting close.
45. Upbeat Israeli research suggests – with cautious optimism – that cannabis may kill or slow the development of cancer cells, not just ameliorate the tough treatment.
46. We have a gazelle herd in a park in the middle of Jerusalem.
47. Israeli invention: a robot that picks watermelons.
48. Don’t tell those who shout “apartheid”: Gaza farmers attended a seminar in northern Israel and learned to double their watermelon crop.
49. Israeli designers of Pastel Brasserie and Bar at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art won the 2014 International Space Design Award – Idea prize for the world’s best-designed restaurant.
50. No wonder folks in Tel Aviv enjoy a beer. Bronze-Age beer mugs were recently discovered in the city.
51. Saveur Culinary Travel Awards 2014 named Israel’s airline a winner of the Inflight Wine award.
52. National Geographic listed Tel Aviv as one of the top 10 seafront city meccas.
53. In 2014, Twitter users from around the world labeled Tel Aviv one of the top 10 hottest destinations to visit that year.
54. Despite all the beer, beaches and partying, Tel Aviv won the World Smart City award as part of Smart City Expo in Barcelona, beating 250 competitors.
55. Nonetheless, the biggest export city isn’t Tel Aviv; it’s the pioneering city of Petah Tikva, literally the “opening to hope.”
56. The Israeli bridge delegation beat out professional players from around the world, taking the gold medal at the Sportaccord World Mind Games in Beijing.
57. In Jerusalem, Hebrew University professor Elon Lindenstrauss won the Fields Medal, the “Nobel Prize” in math.
58. Yshai Oliel won the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl games in Coral Gables, Florida – considered the unofficial world championships for tennis. He’s from Ramle.
59. When in Rome: Noa Raviv was chosen as the “Best Fashion Designer of the Year” at the international 3D Printshow in Paris. Sarah Avraham of Kiryat Arba won the Women’s World Thai-Boxing Championship in Thailand; Vladislav Bykanov won the gold medal at the European Short Track Speed Skating championship in Holland.
60. The IDF gives telephone and roof-knocking warnings to civilians to evacuate areas while warfare is going on.
61. The Knesset has the largest solar field of any parliament in the world.
62. The Israeli drama Shtisel, about a family living in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood, was purchased by a Swedish TV channel.
63. The Pango app lets us pay parking fees from afar and helps New Yorkers reserve a spot at Lincoln Center.
64. Simha. We score high on the world’s happiness tests.
65. We offer sports tours, wine tours, chocolate tours and now the healthy Salad Trail tour of our country.
66. Israeli road safety company Mobileye (MBLY) raised $1 billion on NASDAQ. It helps us avoid accidents, but it also showed a car could go 900 km., from California to Nevada, without a driver. Israel is also the largest exporter of unmanned aerial systems, surmounting aerospace giants in the US.
67. Jewish Deaf Multimedia produced a YouTube clip of the Four Questions for Passover, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” in sign language.
68. Jewish Agency statistics for 2014 show that immigration to Israel hit a 10-year high with the arrival of about 26,500 new immigrants, the largest group arriving from France. Welcome my brothers, welcome my sisters.
■ Hag Atzmaut sameah! The author is a Jerusalem writer who focuses on the wondrous stories of modern Israel. She serves as the Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. The views in her columns are her own.