Israel is something you have to experience in order to truly understand. This land is both less and much more than people tend to assume.
These are some of the things I learned living in Israel:
In Israel, I learned that “no” means “maybe.”
Rules are for the boring.
There always is a better way, there has to be a better way. It’s just a matter of finding it.
Stubborn isn’t a bad quality (necessarily). Neither is pushy. They are just ways to get things done.
In Israel, I learned that just because people complain doesn’t mean they aren’t happy. Loud doesn’t mean that people are angry. In Israel, loud means that people are passionate, that they care (it may not be what you care about but there is always passion about something).
Israelis love to criticize and complain about politics, the country, “the situation.” They say that there is too much division, prejudice etc. Looking around one discovers a society that is actually extraordinarily egalitarian, where anyone can succeed – if they are willing to work hard enough. Gender, age, race, cultural background, socioeconomic background, and religion are not barriers for those with the drive to succeed. Just ask Golda Meir, Karin Elharar, Rami Levi or Col. Rasan Eliyan.
In Israel, I learned not to “judge a book by its cover”. For example, an impressive looking restaurant is not a sign that it is good. The question is whether or not it is full of people. The person sitting next to you that is poorly dressed may be filthy rich or a Nobel Prize winner. You never know. Israelis always appreciate content, achievements over making sure things look nice. Or organized.
In Israel, I learned the true meaning of generosity. People will smother you with advice, give you the clothes off their back and food from their mouths. There is always room for one more at the table – “pull up a chair, take a plate” – it doesn’t matter that the plates may not match, what matters is being together.
In Israel, food means love. It means life. People whose grandparents starved feel most satisfied seeing other people eat. Lots means that you care. If bread isn’t still hot it’s not really fresh. Israeli food is really good. Especially our fresh fruit and vegetables. Coffee tastes better here too.
In Israel, strangers can become instant best friends and tell you their most private thoughts.
It’s not weird, they are just family you haven’t met before.
In Israel, children are loved. They should be seen and heard. The more, the better. Old people are also appreciated. Just seeing someone old makes Israelis happy, especially if they are lucid and still active. Living is an achievement. Knowing that there are new generations, growing strong and free is a source of joy.
(I suppose that what happens when so many of your relatives have been murdered…)
In Israel, I learned that heroes don’t look like action figures. Often it is not their physique that is impressive, it is their strength of character. Interestingly, most true heroes object to being called heroic or even brave. They will tell you: “I just did what I had to do. What else could I do?”
I learned, as inexplicable as this sounds, that just because an Israeli defines him or herself as an atheist doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God or the necessity of the Jewish people to be a “light on to the nations.” They have different ways of explaining why this is so. The concepts are different but the bottom line is the same: morality, decency, personal responsibility, being judged by history.
I learned that miracles are real. They aren’t a thing of the past. Not burning bushes but miracles nonetheless, things that should have happened but didn’t. Things that defy all laws of nature and statistics – like Israel itself. There is no other explanation for this country.
Most of all I learned that other countries might be easier or more comfortable but there is no place like home.