The Human Spirit: 58 reasons why I love Israel

dancing yom haatzmaut  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dancing yom haatzmaut
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
1. Big news here was our success in getting a 2,000-year-old date seed to sprout on Kibbutz Ketura. The tree is now 92 cm. tall and 65 cm. wide. Myrrh and frankincense are next (really!). 2. At Kibbutz Revivim, water from fish tanks nourishes alfalfa for ostriches. Go figure. 3. Over the past 25 years agricultural output has increased sevenfold with hardly any increase in the amount of water used. 4. We have no natural ice but we compete in Olympic ice-dancing competitions. 5. You can pick up fresh rolls at the corner store before 6 a.m. (and pay for them later). 6. Before Purim, media report on costume choice as a parameter of cultural trends. 7. Prayers like Adon Olam and Shabehi Yerushalayim can become popular songs here. 8. Because we love kids, we provide free in-vitro (test-tube) fertilization for childless couples for up to two children. 9. The whole country is excited about the birth of a baby elephant by artificial insemination. 10. The doctor who briefed the world press about the prime minister's health report was really an obstetrician. 11. The most popular name given to both boys and girls is Noam, which means pleasantness. 12. Israeli delivery rooms prepare for more babies before Pessah because zealous cleaning induces labor. 13. Before Pessah, toy stores advertise afikoman gifts 14. Bread sales escalate in the week of Pessah cleaning because so many families are reduced to eating sandwiches. 15. We have problems of our own, but this year we undertook life-saving model projects to treat AIDS in Africa and help hurricane victims in the US. 16. No matter what's happening outside, inside our hospitals disease is the only enemy. 17. Its value may fluctuate, but we called our money "shekel" just as we did in biblical days. 18. We have 120 members of the Knesset because that's how many seats there were in the ancient Sanhedrin. 19. The site of the Sanhedrin is now being excavated in Tiberias, 17 centuries after it was built. 20. Soldiers ride free on buses. 21. The interim prime minister leaves his house early in the morning so security won't disturb the school traffic on his block. 22. We stick together. Israeli backpackers go halfway around the world to hang out with other Israelis. 23. Along with the inoculations backpackers get before going to exotic countries, the Health Ministry includes a parental lecture from a nurse about safe habits. 24. Jerusalem offers free wireless Internet in cafes to lure back wary diners. 25. Hospitals install extra antennas so we can use our cellphones and call our families and friends (84 percent of households in Israel have a cellphone, much of the software for which was developed here). 26. Israel boasts the first computerized hip replacement and the first Hebrew hip-hop music. 27. After experiencing the trauma of an incapacitated prime minister, we went in an orderly manner to the polls. 28. Our old-fashioned hand-counted voting system ain't broke, so we don't fix it. 29. Young adults care enough about old adults to vote for their political party. 30. Said the BBC: The Economist Intelligence Unit, a leading research and advisory firm, recently ranked Israel first among 20 Middle Eastern countries on 15 different indicators of democracy and political freedom. 31. Some may claim we're militaristic, but according to Dun and Bradstreet the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem (the Biblical Zoo) is our most popular site. 32. Finely chopped Israeli salad was the kibbutz pioneers' answer to scarce vegetables, but now they're growing candy-sweet Israeli-developed cherry tomatoes that you don't have to cut. 33. We're incessant travelers; no wonder the ultimately portable (USB drive) computer disk-on-key was invented here. 34. While the debate about the security barrier was going on, an Israeli company in Herzliya invented a radar system that sees through walls like Superman. 35. The Western Wall is reportedly more popular than ever with locals and tourists. A legendary lizard appears at midnight. 36. Parents can now watch their kids' nursery school through hi-tech Internet cameras but they still sing exactly the same Hanukka and birthday songs. 37. The most common margarine changed its wrapper design after 50 years and made the news. 38. We don't debate immigration. We're the world's largest per-capita immigrant absorbing country. 39. To sell apartments, real-estate ads tout "succa porches." 40. In Israel, an obscure holiday called Succot is high season; book a year in advance. 41. Popular jewelry artist Michal Negrin has a successful shop at Ben-Gurion Airport. No wonder. Ben-Gurion was her great-grandfather. 42. New history museums about the Palmah, Theodor Herzl and Menachem Begin continue to draw crowds. Who says we're post-Zionist? 43. On Hanukka, the light from hanukkiot with the correct number of candles shines from store windows and rooftops as well as private homes. 44. Cafes here offered "upside-down coffee" way before cappuccino was trendy. 45. Corner greengrocers have forever carried kohlrabi, quince, pomelo and fresh coriander. 46. In the Land of Milk and Honey, we have so many kinds of cheeses that we're advising New Zealanders on making sheep cheese. 47. You can buy Holy Cheese in Safed and Holy Bagels in Jerusalem. 48. You can buy kosher chicken schnitzel in the shape of dinosaurs in the supermarket and still believe in the story of Adam and Eve. 49. In the first year since Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names has been online more than eight million visitors from 215 countries and territories have accessed the site - 250,000 visitors a month. 50. In 2005, 563 persons were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, six decades after the Holocaust. 51. A hundred thousand Diaspora students have received free trips with birthright Israel and most of them have fallen in love with the country. 52. Senior citizens regularly enjoy the pubs and nightlife in Tel Aviv alongside young adults. 53. Even those bereaved who don't consider themselves religious take a week to sit shiva and men grow mourning beards. 54. We have the highest computer ownership per capita and can read the news on-line, but still keep 32 different newspapers in business. 55. In the early years, the State of Israel was so poor that it once had to borrow money from the women of Hadassah to finish the month. Today we have an annual GNP per capita of $17,400. 56 At Ben-Gurion Airport's new terminal, those arriving see those leaving because the architect knew that the drama of arrivals and departures in Israel was greater than in other lands. 57. Our word for "welcome" means "bless you in your arrival." 58. The term habayta, means "coming home," no matter where you are, no matter how old you are.