Twenty-five reasons to live in Israel

‘There's nothing quite as lovely as walking in short sleeves on a temperate summer night in Jerusalem.’

‘There's nothing quite as lovely as walking in short sleeves on a temperate summer night in Jerusalem.’  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
‘There's nothing quite as lovely as walking in short sleeves on a temperate summer night in Jerusalem.’
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Yesterday was our “aliyah-versary.” A quarter of a century ago, on October 10, 1994, my wife, Jody, and our two young children immigrated to Jerusalem from Berkeley, California. A third child – our only Sabra – was born a few years later.
So, on this, the silver anniversary of our Israeli citizenship, I present 25 reasons to make aliyah (not in any particular order).
1.     Bilingual children. For every moment I’m frustrated that I can’t speak Hebrew decently, I am so proud of my children for being completely comfortable in both languages. Even if it’s difficult for me, I appreciate the unprecedented renaissance of our ancient tongue.
2.     National health insurance. Whenever I hear a story of a friend in the US having to fork out a huge co-pay or being denied coverage for a critical cancer treatment, I am grateful for the universal healthcare we have here. I’ve never been turned down for medicine and I don’t stress about $15,000 deductibles.
3.     Properly spiced food. We took a luxury cruise out of Miami earlier this year. The food was plentiful and prepared beautifully. But it was always missing something. Israeli food – whether it’s local or an Israeli fusion spin on an international delicacy – is always a well-spiced delight for the palette. Also: falafel.
4.     Tel Aviv as the vegan capital of the world. In a Jewish world where the rabbinate’s kashrut department has become irredeemably corrupt, vegan is the new kosher.
5.     The Start-Up Nation. Israel’s bustling hi-tech scene always gives me plenty to write about. Plus, making aliyah no longer entails career suicide.
6.     Dress code. Admittedly, no one in Silicon Valley wears ties anymore, either. But I love not having to dress up to go to work or a wedding.
7.     Medical breakthroughs. CAR-T was invented here. It’s saving lives for people with blood cancers. Maybe someday it will save mine.
8.     Mandatory army service. After nearly three years in the army, our young people enter college older and having shouldered incredible responsibility compared with their peers elsewhere. The army is also Israel’s ultimate melting pot.
9.     Proximity to cool travel destinations. We’re just a few hours from nearly everywhere in Europe, on the same time zone as Africa and there are direct flights to all over Asia. Ben-Gurion Airport is manageable, efficient and attractive. And you don’t have to take your shoes off or dump your water at security.
10.    The cost of education. $3,000 – that’s all it costs for a year of school at a top university. Public elementary and high schools are also so much less expensive than Diaspora Jewish day schools.
11.     Israeli television. Netflix just can’t get enough: Fauda, Shtisel, False Flag, Prisoners of War. Move to Israel and you can watch them here first.
12.     Religious pluralism. Yes, despite the Orthodox monopoly, post-denominational congregations across the country are reinventing pluralistic prayer, with rock & roll piyyutim moving onto the bima.
13.    Datlashim. When you leave religion, it’s a statement of status, a shift still within the national-traditional spectrum, rather than a pejorative like “Off the Derech.”
14.     The weather. There’s nothing quite as lovely as walking in short sleeves on a temperate summer night in Jerusalem. And when much of the world is buried in snow, Tel Aviv is still warm in the winter.
15.     A kid-centric country. Our children walk to school, take the bus, go camping alone at age 15 and hang out until the wee hours of the night without fear of kidnapping. Strangers care about your kids (sometimes too much).
16.     The calendar. The national and Jewish holidays are one and the same. Shabbat is (mostly) a day off. You don’t have to burn your vacation days to take off for the Jewish holidays. And keeping two Passover Seders – forget about it.
17.     The Israel Trail. One-thousand kilometers winding through deserts, forests and cities. Hiking is a national pastime shared by young and old.
18.     Jacob’s Ladder. This musical weekend at the Sea of Galilee has been a huge part of much of our aliyah. It lives up to its reputation as Israel’s friendliest festival.
19.     The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center and Refanah Healing Holidays. If you have to get cancer, these two organizations can make a huge difference, with discounted massages and free vacation nights in Israeli hotels.
20.     Being part of something greater than ourselves. Israel as a national project began before we were born and will end (hopefully) long after we’re gone. That gives intrinsic meaning to life here.
21.    Pardes. Pluralistic, egalitarian Torah learning in Jerusalem. It’s where Jody and I met.
22.     History. Every time you pick up a rock, you might discover a new archaeological site. We don’t go to the Western Wall much these days, but we’re glad it’s still there after 2,000 years.
23.     Israeli music. Attending a concert in Israel, where everyone knows and loudly sings along to the lyrics in Hebrew, is an unmitigated blast. Bands like Kaveret and Gazoz stand up to the best of ‘60s and ‘70s Brit pop.
24.     Gun control. It’s remarkably difficult to get a gun license, and mass shootings at schools are virtually unheard of.
25.     Friends and community. This is a hard one to quantify, but we have undoubtedly made the best friends of our lives in Israel and found supportive Jewish communities of interest. I don’t know if that would have happened everywhere.
Bottom line: after 25 years, this is home.
The writer’s book, Totaled: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.