Friday, May 20, 2005

Barbara Sofer: 57 reasons I love Israel

1. At Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo the loudspeaker announces "Afternoon prayers (minha) are now being held near the lions."

2. The Biblical Zoo is kosher for Pessah. The primates eat matza, but the parrots get rice.

3. The nation mourns when a distinguished songwriter dies.

4. The prime minister invites not only survivors, but their soldier grandchildren to the March of the Living at Auschwitz

5. Thousands of free loan societies flourish. You can borrow wedding dresses and pacifiers.

6. Fourteen years after Operation Solomon, the first plane's pilot still volunteers to teach Ethiopian youth.

7. When the tsunami struck, we sent medical assistance the same day.

8. We also added flights to bring home our backpacking children.

9. The president of the US touts the book of Israel's former minister of Diaspora Affairs.

10. The president of Israel spends Shabbat in a development town, and the first lady does the cooking.

11. A week before Yom Kippur, forecasters speculate on the weather for the fast.

12. Strangers still invite you for a home-cooked Shabbat meal.

13. We entertain at home, but so many Israelis travel abroad that duty free shops advertise on municipal billboards.

14. Before Shabbat a siren marks our country hitting the brakes.

15. Municipal decorating contests feature succot, not trees.

16. Jewish soccer players for Bnei Sakhnin compete against Arab players for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

17. Volunteers pass out sandwiches at the hospitals, not for the patients, but for their families.

18. Childbirth and burial are free. Even the homeless have health insurance.

19. We have a Museum of Psalms, but at every bus stop someone is reading them, keeping the tradition alive.

20. Mrs. World is a Jewish Mother from Tel Aviv.

21. Stem cell research isn't controversial here

22. Fifty years after draining the swamps, we invented a one-pound aerial surveillance vehicle called the Mosquito.

23. Fifty years after we drained the swamps, we're considering bringing them back.

24. Desalinization is finally happening.

25. Per capita, Israel has the highest number of publications in science and Talmud.

26. Sufferers from Jerusalem Syndrome think they're King David or John the Baptist. Could be worse.

27. Disputes with Europeans notwithstanding, we've invented a urine test for mad cows.

28. You can hold an outdoor wedding all summer.

29. Designers create European fashions in real women's sizes.

30. Corner grocers know what type of hallah every family in their neighborhood eats on Shabbat.

31. At the corner grocery, you can often hear a discussion of the Torah portion.

32. We charge our food at the corner grocery, but Israelis invented the check-out technology for America's largest supermarkets

33. Everyone feels compelled to tell a parent to put a hat on the baby in a country where we wear scarves, snoods, spodiks and streimels; wimples, fedoras, berets, tarbushes, homburgs, mods, kippot and keffiyot.

34. Israeli teens like to party, but they won all the top prizes in the international robotic firefighting contest.

35. Our first Nobel Prize laureate chemists are both really doctors.

36. We invented both the chat room and the silent prayer.

37. Israelis take kids everywhere. "Please wait for the strollers to be unloaded" is a standard announcement on El Al.

38. Even the fanciest cars fly blue and white flags.

39. Fabulous boutique kosher wineries are arising on the sites of ancient wine presses.

40. Globalization means a Russian-born Israeli nurse coming in first for her age group in the "run up" the Empire State building.

41. A Beduin kiosk in the middle of the desert stocks kosher-for-Pessah snacks.

42. Our ATM machines speak many languages.

43. Everyone knows where the secret intelligence offices are.

44. Combat soldiers aren't embarrassed to phone their moms.

45. Kindergarteners stand for memorial sirens, and know what they mean.

46. You can find someone to fix small appliances and alter clothing.

47. People mark their birthdays by the Jewish holidays they're closest to.

48. We're still egalitarian: When you go for a blood test, a Knesset member or Supreme Court justice might be in line with you.

49. In Jerusalem, the person offering tefillin shares space with the person selling red strings.

50. Take-out food is called "take-away" in Hebrew, and you can get kosher kubeh, sushi and tiramisu.

51. On Saturday night the radio summarizes news for all those who don't listen on Shabbat.

52. A popular TV contest this year sought someone to explain the case for Israel. A popular movie was Ushpizin, the ancient Aramaic for "sukka visitors."

53. A municipal pool in Tel Aviv is crowded at 4:30 am.

54. Throughout four years of war, we refused to give up essentials like outdoor book fairs.

55. After four years of war, we still feel safest here.

56. "Shalom" means hello or goodbye, and it can be a first name or a last name, but it's primarily our elusive dream.

57. In this ancient land, there's always something new to love.