Upon announcing my move to Israel to family and friends last July, I garnered
about as much goodwill and encouragement from them as O.J. Simpson would likely
engender at a women’s-rights rally.
Not one member of my inner-circle
approved of the decision – and more than a few (not-so-subtly) took it upon
themselves to provide me with the names and phone numbers of New York City’s top
However, being incurably stubborn (and somewhat dim), I
refused to reconsider – even in the face of epic monologues, containing possibly
the most compelling arguments ever articulated about why I would be blown-up,
shot, kidnapped – or even worse: End up back in New York with my tail between my
legs, serenaded by a Schadenfreude-induced chorus-line singing: “Ha! We told you
so!” (With great inflection.) That said, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I’m pleased
to say that reports of my predicted demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Indeed, to my borderline shock, I have in fact survived one full year living in
Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that there have been
some decidedly difficult, unusual – and highly entertaining – moments along the
Don’t be fooled into thinking that soldiers – who face
the very real dangers of keeping watch over eager homicidal suicide-bombers and
angry seven-nation armies around here, 24/7 – have the most dangerous job in
town. They don’t. The most dangerous job in Israel is actually being a bus
driver. I kid you not.
These guys take multi-tasking and near-death
experiences to terrifying new heights.
For example, I once watched in
horror as a bus driver made change for a 50 shekel bill – while simultaneously
engaging in an argument with his girlfriend on a hand-held cell phone, scolding a
belligerent passenger, keeping an eye out for suspicious carry-on items,
cleaning his sunglasses, and making a right turn that would humble Mario
Andretti, while meticulously combing his hair.
The word “unnerving”
doesn’t quite cut it in this context.
However, to their credit, I’m
pretty sure if we could harness these bus-drivers’ unusual talents for the power
of good, we could cure cancer and solve the economic crisis inside a
This brings me to the second most dangerous vocation in Israel:
being a bus passenger. Unless you can summons some kind of Jedi-like mastery
over fear, gravity and the absurd, I highly recommend walking. At the very
least, this way you’ll reach your destination without battling extreme nausea,
and post-traumatic stress.Ciao bella!
I have a theory that to make up
for Israel’s arid climate, hostile neighbors and lack of natural resources, G-d
threw the men around here a major bone by adding some of the world’s most
astoundingly gorgeous women into the mix.
The jaw-dropping beauty of
these women cannot be overstated – and would no doubt cause more car accidents
in New York City than a puppy-crossing epidemic on Broadway during rush
But don’t get too excited, fellas: These women are nobody’s fools –
and far more than just eye candy.
Most of them are highly educated and
have serious boyfriends who are all too willing to showcase their elite military
training if you get too close. Then again, so do the women themselves, so
there’s that to consider, too.
Undoubtedly, there are few things in life
that serve as a more effective deterrent from getting out of line with the
ladies than upsetting one who knows 10 ways to kill you (while effortlessly
using one hand to adjust her mascara).The black crows
I have never seen
a species of bird with more attitude or aggression than Israel’s enormous black
crow population. These ominous-looking creatures are everywhere – and they make
falcons look like chumps.
In fact, I’m positive that if they could, crows
here would proudly sport black-leather biker jackets with their various gang
names proudly stenciled on the back, pack switchblades under their wings, and
narcissistically grease their feathers back with a comb using side-view car
However, they’re also the most intelligent and industrious birds
I’ve ever seen – bar none. The true “MacGuyver” of the skies, I’m certain that,
given the opportunity, some of these birds could diffuse a nuclear warhead with
little more than their beak, a rusty paper clip, stick of chewed-up gum, and a
They’re also very discriminating eaters. I swear I once saw
a crow flying with what looked like a really good slice of pizza in its
clutches, while simultaneously picking off objectionable pieces of anchovies and
onions with its beak. Hard core, man.Tough love
Israelis may be the only
people in the history of the world who could make the words “I love you” sound
vaguely threatening. I have had countless conversations with sabras about
subjects as innocuous as the weather that made me feel like curling up into the
fetal position in fear.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they’re trying
to scare you, it’s just that initially, their matter-of-fact speech and
intonation could make even the most flowery of poetry sound like the apocalypse
is around the corner.
On a serious note, while this country’s critics
will argue that Israeli soldiers – past and present – are anything but heroes,
let me be clear: These men and women are among the bravest, most selfless
individuals on the face of the earth.
They are incomparably outnumbered,
unfairly vilified in the press and chronically libeled – yet maintain a sense of
humanity and core decency that I would defy any other nation in the world to
In short, they are the reason Jews will never be subjected to gas
chambers and extermination campaigns ever again, and they deserve the utmost
respect – particularly considering the unprecedented challenges they face, and
meet with great dignity, day in and day out.
In the final analysis, this
past year has been the most rewarding of my life. I have never met more
courageous, genuine, intelligent and strong men, women and children. I have had
the privilege of living among them, and forged some of the most special,
irreplaceable friendships I have ever known.
Israel and its incredible
people have changed my life forever. And, dare I say, made me a better