July 14, 2016

11 things I learned after 11 years in Israel

As yesterday marked my 11th-year anniversary of making aliyah to Israel, here's 11 observations about life here.

1. The weather is amazing. Day in. Day out. Pure sunshine and heat. Ahhh. For a former sun-deprived Canadian, I just can’t get enough.  Ever. It is so bright here, I feel the urge to put on sunglasses when I open the blinds each morning.

2. You must learn to drive at high speed in reverse here. The roads can get so congested and the drivers can become so stubborn, someone has to give in. And the only way out of such a mess is to drive in reverse….unless someone is behind you and if this is the case, prepare to wait a while. Blast the music as the honking will quickly get out of control.

3. Cars reverse and shopping carts go sideways. Yep. As not one cart can be steered in a straight line, we shop sideways here. And when that cart is full and you need to get across the parking lot to your car, watch out.

4. Do not expect water when you arrive at a restaurant. There is nothing more refreshing that getting a cold glass of water when you sit down at a table, sipping as you peruse the menu. Just forget it. You can order a five-course meal but you must still ask for water. Or stay parched.

5. Avoid the post office like the plague. After over a decade here, I still dread visits to the post office. Case in point: we received a card that we have a parcel to be picked up from the post office. It did not specify which branch and the hours stamped on the card were wrong. After a second attempt in a line up of a half hour, we were told that the pick up was not there but was in the supermarket. Who ever decided to stock mail with melons and mandarins? (We once picked up mail at the back of a candy store and when we went back there a few months later to get mail, the candy store cashier looked at us as if we should be committed to the loony bin.)

6. Be ready to hold a stranger’s baby. In what other country would a mother confidently place her loving bundle of joy in a total stranger’s arms? I heard this so many times, I thought it was an urban myth….until my daughter got off the bus at 11pm in Givat Shmuel last week. “Slicha,” she heard and when she turned around, a woman delivered a baby into my 15 year old's arms while she went to get the stroller from the bus storage. Guess we really are all family.

7. If someone yells at you, they do not mean it. This has taken me 11 years to get used to and I still want to cry. People will get up really close and start to yell. Except they are not yelling…they are just talking loudly. Why? It’s the Middle East.

8. Israelis love to chill out in crowds. When it’s time to relax and be one with nature, do not follow an Israeli (instead, read the last tip below). Israelis will be heading to the centre of a crowd or straight into a traffic jam or to a beach filled with matkot players, beach volleyball, soccer games and trance music. Duck and watch out!

9. Hummus is a serious food here. We now cannot eat a meal without hummus on the table and have become such connoisseurs, we boil our own chickpeas and make it at home…except it’s never as silky or velvety as the hummus they make down the road—we asked them why and they refuse to divulge their culinary secret.

10. Israelis grocery shop by parking their carts at the check out and then filling them up. (As the carts move sideways, this is a doubly efficient strategy--see point 3.) Israelis hate standing in lines and why waste a moment?

11. The above are what I learned, yet there is one paramount thing I did not learn. I did not learn Hebrew. In fact, the crumbs of Hebrew I have seem to be drying up. Living in Ra’anana does not improve one’s Hebrew. When people hear my accent and ask me when I arrived, I always say “higati b’kayitz” (I arrived in the summer) and I get that warm ‘welcome to Israel’ smile. They needn’t know I arrived in the summer 11 years ago.  TMI.

I look forward to the next 11 years and offer one tip to those seeking Israeli bliss: drop your matkot bat, park your shopping cart, pack up some hummus and head to the desert.

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