The Human Spirit: 61 plus one reasons I love Israel

Sign in a Jerusalem gym: All invited for the mezuza hanging ceremony next Tuesday

0805-sofer (photo credit: Bloomberg)
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
Every year around Independence Day when I begin this list which expresses my appreciation for our country, I'm a little worried that I won't find enough new reasons that I love Israel. But then in no particular order, they appear on my screen. Dear readers, feel free to contribute. 1) The prime minister and IDF chief of General Staff take active roles in the annual Independence Day Bible Contest. 2) We're only 61, but we view our national history as beginning with the creation of the world. 3) At soccer games, crowds shout, "Thank you, hakodesh baruch hu." 4) One of my favorite clothing stores gives a 10% discount on blue and white clothes before Independence Day. 5) An advertisement for kitchen remodeling on the back of Jerusalem buses: "Guaranteed to be completed for Passover Seder night." 6) Ben-Gurion Airport has hi-tech scanners that read the license plates of all incoming vehicles so I feel secure. 7) Ben-Gurion Airport decorates with genuine 1,600-year old mosaics from Beit She'an that say, "Blessed be you upon entering and upon leaving." So I feel secure. 8) Synagogue services end earlier than in the Diaspora, but cantorial concerts sell out fast. 9) The eve of Remembrance Day is marked by thousands of soulful young people singing their hearts out in somber songs to remember their fallen friends. 10) In a country with a surfeit of news, the year's total quantity of matza sold domestically and shipped to the Diaspora never fails to make headlines. 11) Who says most Israelis are secular? Customers caused a stampede when super bargains on matza were announced at a supermarket. 12) Who says most Israelis are secular? Visit the Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv on Purim. 13) There are free loan societies for arbis, the chickpeas served on the Friday night after a new baby is born. 14) Sign in a Jerusalem gym: All invited for the mezuza hanging ceremony next Tuesday. 15) A rest home in the Jerusalem suburb of Motza bears the name Arza because Theodore Herzl supposedly planted a cedar tree (arza in Hebrew) when he visited in 1898. In fact, the tree was a cypress, but tradition is tradition. 16) Despite many arguments that the date was all wrong, tens of thousands of Israelis got up before dawn to bless the sun as it reached the spot at which it was created, which happens once every 28 years. 17) Okay, we don't have oil, but we're the world leader in the use of solar energy per capita. (Our first solar heater was invented in 1953.) 18) A pioneering solar plant is operating on a kibbutz near Eilat, and another on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. 19) An Israeli company has even developed a solar-energy-powered talking Bible. 20) Okay, we don't have oil, so Israeli Shai Agassi has invented the world's most promising electric car. 21) Okay, we don't have oil, so tenacious Israelis have discovered natural gas off the coast. 22) We argue a lot, but when it comes to protecting our children and grandchildren by going to war we're strong as Cast Lead. 23) We argue a lot, but when it comes to following Home Front Command's war instructions, we're cooperative and save lives. 24) While the missiles were falling, teen volunteers entertained school kids in shelters so parents could go to work. 25) Even non-observant soldiers added ritual fringes to their battle gear. 26) The missile alarm in Sderot was changed from shahar adom, "red dawn" to "red alert" to spare girls and boys named Shahar from teasing. 27) The Independence Day dance group danced the hora to a first-century kabbalistic poem Ana B'koach. 28) For NIS 10 a kid on the street will sell you an Israeli flag that lights up with four different psychedelic settings. 29) Despite being seed lovers, we invented the seedless watermelon to serve at barbecues. 30) When we hear that Israeli guards thwarted Somali pirates, we're proud but not really surprised. 31) When we hear that the grandson of a righteous gentile from the Ukraine was getting cancer treatments in Israel, we're proud but not really surprised. 32) Our religious deputy health minister won't say the words "swine flu," but in Petah Tikva, scientists have invented a sensor fitted to a pig's ear that checks if the pig has the flu. 33) Israeli sandals last forever; those found in archeological digs are still wearable. 34) We produce 93 percent of our own food requirements - pretty amazing when you see what we serve for wedding smorgasbords. 35) We're not always so agreeable with our neighbors, but then we trek halfway around the world to relax, eat shakshuka and hang out with other Israelis. 36) We can spot Israeli trekkers everywhere because they're wearing Israel-invented hiking sandals with a unique X-strap configuration. 37) We're castigated as warmongers, but compete at the Eurovision song festival with a peace song in Arabic, Hebrew and English. 38) We have a tiny film industry, but we're getting used to having Israeli films nominated for Oscars. 39) A start-up of Hebrew-speakers in Rehovot translates Twitter messages to and from Chinese, Hindi and Japanese. Go figure. 40) Tel Aviv is 100 and has been dubbed "the Mediterranean's new capital of cool" by important travel writers. 41) Tel Aviv's Levontine 7 hip jazz club was co-founded by the Israeli-born conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. 42) Tel Aviv black humor: If a missile falls on your neighbor's car, hurry, you might get a parking space. 43) Bar Refaeli, our gorgeous locally grown supermodel's first name means "natural." 44) The train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv might be slow, but the ride is beautiful and there's a daily minyan on board. 45) We build sheltered playgrounds to keep our children safe during rocket attacks, while our enemies are using money donated for playgrounds to build rockets. 46) Plain chopped vegetables with tehina remains a popular salad choice even at trendy cafes. 47) My cellphone wake-up alarm offers a choice of Sunday-Thursday that suits me perfectly. 48) Personal testimonies air all day on the radio for Holocaust Remembrance Day, and even children listen. 49) During rationing, a Knesset law in the 1950s allowed a 10th egg per person per month for every Israeli; today we export automatic egg collectors. 50) Despite difficult soil, little water and a harsh climate, our greenhouses produce more than 3 million roses and 300 tons of tomatoes per hectare per season - four times the yield in open fields. 51) In the Meir Shfeya Youth Village near Zichron Ya'acov, high-school students built a traditional Ethiopian village to honor their Ethiopian classmates. 52) In a country with major water challenges, we won an Olympic medal for windsurfing. 53) The speaker of the Knesset is a sabra whose family came to Israel in 1809. The foreign minister is an immigrant from Russia, the ambassador to the US is an immigrant from America. 54) Our politicians give new meaning to the term "comeback." 55) We export Fox T-shirts to Puerto Rico, Beautifeel Shoes to Beverly Hills. 56) Who says most Israelis are secular? Even on a popular reality show, the contestants make Shabbat dinner. 57) Top musicians are studying Kabbala and piyutim. 58) Who says most Israelis are secular? Even in Ramat Aviv you can find Ben and Jerry's ice cream certified kosher lemehadrin. 59) You can eat "Tunisian"-flavor sushi in Tel Aviv. Your average juice bar serves exotic pomegranate and date drinks. 60) My first-grader grandson came to Jerusalem with his class to get his first siddur at the Western Wall. They already knew how to pray from it. 61) Grandparents - even if they are Knesset members or Supreme Court justices - sit on those little chairs for nursery school parties to kvell (gush) over the next generation singing a Hanukka song about banishing darkness. 62) Six degrees of separation? Never! As the saying goes, kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh.