The same question every year – can you really find 68 new reasons you love Israel? I looked back at the kick-off column of 2004, and saw that Reason 7 of 56 was, “25 percent of Israelis have been close enough to hear a bombing, yet two million of us were out vacationing on Passover.” We were in the second intifada then; this year we’ve had the “wave of terrorism.”
Here are 68 plus one new reasons I love Israel, in no particular order.
1. Israeli-founded Desalitech, which provides technology for reusing waste water, won the 2016 Global Water Awards. Coca-Cola is among the companies using this technology.
2. “Israel is definitely my guru,” says India’s water minister. Israeli companies are helping India with its water crisis.
One is already bringing water to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal.
3. Not just water: An Israeli performer of Sufi Muslim Qawwali devotional music of the Rajasthan region of northwest India is the subject of a documentary by a famous American filmmaker.
4. The Israel Water Authority texts us to check our pipes before a possible freeze.
5. The Israel water company isn’t allowed turn off water for those who can’t pay. That’s the law.
6. Israeli NGO innovation: Africa is bringing electricity through our solar technology to remote villages. So far, they’ve reached 108 villages.
7. An immigrant from Ethiopia who came here at age 19 without speaking Hebrew heads the medical operations branch of the IDF and completed the course as company commander.
8. When a Christian toddler taking refuge in the Kurdish areas of Iraq needed heart surgery, a Christian organization suggested taking her to Israel, where her life was saved.
9. When the father of a Palestinian toddler who fell headfirst into a vat of boiling jam was told to dig a grave for his son, the IDF brought him to Hadassah University Medical Center, where he’s recovering. His skin is growing back with the help of the National Skin Bank.
10. The doctor who heads the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit immigrated from Belgium.
11. Two days before the bombing in Belgium, a trauma expert there requested a guest lecture from trauma orthopedic expert Rami Mosheiff, an Israeli who has headed the European trauma association.
12. Prof. Mosheiff is taking care of the two Israelis injured in the Brussels bombing. They are Belz Hassidim, and their rebbe advised them that there was no reason to remain in the hospital in Belgium. They should come home to Israel where their limbs will be saved.
13. The only registry for Arab bone-marrow donors for Muslims all over the world is located in Jerusalem.
14. BDS baloney: Israel even saved an ailing lion from a zoo in Gaza.
15. Israel was named “gastronomical leader of the world” by Today’s showhost Kathy-Lee Gifford.
16. The shopping carts before Jewish holidays give overload a new meaning.
Shoppers are busy comparing recipes as they wait at the checkout.
17. When the announcement in my supermarket changes from suggesting gatherings for afternoon prayers (minha) to evening prayers (ma’ariv), I know I’ve been shopping too long.
18. Shopping carts become protective weapons in our supermarkets.
19. Science has come to recognize the wisdom of Israeli parents. Research shows that the peanut snack Bamba is good for babies and can help prevent allergies.
20. The newest Bamba advertisement shows the Bamba baby mulling philosophical questions. The young talmudist! 21. Prayer arrangements at the Western Wall are a subject of national concern and a government can rise and fall over who prays where.
22. A retired bus driver continues one route, making sure the grandmas reciting pre-dawn psalms have a safe ride home.
23. We have an Oud Festival, and it’s often sold out.
24. The Andalusian Orchestra plays Sephardic religious poems. It’s often sold out.
25. The Cantorial show sings Ashkenazi favorites. It’s sold out, too. The top cantors are as popular as rock stars.
26. Rock stars sing songs from the Passover Haggada and prayer books.
27. Passover songs are broadcast on the radio so kids can practice; Megilat Esther is read on the radio and TV for those who can’t get out.
28. Wonderful street musicians play every genre. A street musician in Tel Aviv bashed a terrorist on his head with his guitar, and received offers of guitar replacements from near and far.
29. Sidewalk readings of Megilat Esther pop up on Purim, even on trendy streets.
30. Reported in Herzliya: Muslim women cashiers in a clothing shop wearing butterfly wings for Purim. What would Herzl say? 31. In the week before and including Purim, hundreds of people show up at hospitals to give Purim sweet food gifts to the sick children.
32. There are “no smoking” signs and “no littering” signs on the Jerusalem Light Rail and “no knife” signs. No one blinks.
33. Even in non-kosher restaurants, if a waiter drops a tray of dishes, everyone shouts kapara or mazal tov.
34. The archeological site in Caesarea offers free wi-fi. (Thank you, Kira Sirota.) 35. The land of hidden treasures: A hiker finds a 2,000-year-old coin.
36. Beating that, a seven-year-old boy finds a 3,400-year-old statue.
37. Digging in the Schneller compound in Jerusalem where religious housing is going up, an ancient wine press and a mikve are discovered.
38. Olive pits from the 10th century BCE are found in Khirbet Qeiyafa, in the Eila Valley.
39. Hebrew writings from the 10th century BCE are found in Khirbet Qeiyafa.
Six hundred jug handles indicating that taxes were collected show that King David was a big chief, not just a small chieftain.
40. Books disappearing? Not in Israel.
We’re dedicating a huge new National Library! 41. The National Bake-Off on TV was postponed for Passover.
42. When Apple refused to help crack the cellphone code of the San Bernardino terrorist, everyone guessed who could help. Celebrate the Israeli company Cellebrite.
43. US space agency NASA is collaborating with an Israeli artist to create the first-ever sculpture designed for zero gravity in space.
44. Israeli Sky-Fi nano-satellites will bring the Internet to remote places in the world. They were revealed at Microsoft’s Think Next annual gathering, also an Israeli invention. The satellite creator, who wears a kippa, says he’s aiming for tikkun, to repair the broken world.
45. At the Microsoft gathering, Bill Gates – who beamed in – said that the decision to open the first international branch of the company in Israel was a great idea.
46. Gates said he did it because so many of his brilliant employees, despite the opportunities of America, simply wanted to go home to Israel.
47. Think of the Israeli conversational style: Is it any wonder that the Google function that finishes sentences and comes up with search ideas for you was invented by an Israeli? 48. An Israeli scientist is showing how elephants’ genes can help cure cancers in humans.
49. A Get Sufganiot App helps locate Hanukka doughnuts.
50. When New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visited an octogenarian hassid who’d been run over by a car and bludgeoned by an axe, the terrorism victim took the mayor’s hand and blessed him for “taking care of all the Jews in New York.”
51. Dressed as Rapunzel on Purim, I am nearly out of gas near the village of Isawiya. The attendant is startled but wishes me a Happy Purim.
52. Kibbutz Yizre’el, founded by demobilized Palmahniks in 1948, produces a third of the robots that clean the world’s swimming pools. The kibbutz, named for the ancient town Jezreel, is also a center for rugby.
53. Not sedentary: Nearby, at Ein Gev, archeologists have found a city that allegedly shows the cultural transition from smaller, mobile tribes to larger, sedentary communities took place here 12,000 years ago.
54. The Norman hotel in Tel Aviv was named American magazine Jetsetter’s top boutique hotel.
55. In Jerusalem, the Yehuda Hotel offered a free wedding, brit, or bar/bat mitzva to the first two couples who conceived a child while staying on February 29. (I assume that’s for the child conceived.) 56. The shutters in Mahaneh Yehuda show heroes of Israel and the Jewish people, including my heroine Henrietta Szold.
57. When Henrietta Szold Street is being renovated for the light rail, the builders take the trouble of putting up a poster with her picture and accomplishments.
58. The national garbage dump is now a popular park.
59. The news is sometimes shocking, but I like living in a country where nobody is above the law, even high government officials.
60. The IDF encourages adults with autism to enlist and serve.
61. Overhearing a phone conversation on the train, a stranger pays NIS 2,000 for a soldier’s mom’s electric bill.
62. A test of morality: When a person pretending to be blind asks for change for a NIS 100 bill, not one person cheats him. Many offer him free advice.
63. When an elderly Holocaust survivor died and had no one to sit shiva for her, the Nazareth police showed up, said kaddish and had a memorial meal.
64. Thousands come to the funeral when a lone soldier is killed.
65. At Gush Etzion junction, guards are stationed, but just in case, there is also a box with Psalms booklets.
66. Women’s night at the Jerusalem pool: Women in hijabs and sheitels.
67. The weather forecaster adds a wish for a quiet evening.
68. Slogan for new immigrants: “Living the dream.”
And one more...
69. Among Jewish Israelis, the most popular girl’s name is Shira, which means song and poetry. The most popular boy’s name is Itai, an acronym for, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.”
Thanks to many Facebook friends and contributors. 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.