The Fella always says I see Israel through tourist goggles, and therefore everything is wonderful, whereas day-to-day life isn’t much of a picnic (or, in Hebrew, “picnikim”). Sure the produce and dairy is amazing, the healthcare is topnotch and FREE, and the climate is 100% better all the time. But a war breaks out every two years, the cost of living is high because everything has to be imported, the people are taxed 50%…and most of the world hates them. So, The Fella likes to remind me, it’s not always a picnikim to be Israeli.
Still, I think there are a few things we could learn from Israelis:
Vegetables. Every Israeli I’ve met who has been to the US has asked me why our vegetables are so tasteless. I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know. Having not had anything to compare American veggies to until I started coming here, I had no idea I was being shorted in my produce experience. But, my friends, we are, we are being robbed. We deserve better.
It’s no wonder that vegetables have become the “I guess I have to” part of every meal–they don’t taste like they should.
People eat vegetables here. Lots of them. Even kids. There’s a salad with every meal, even breakfast. Whenever I visit Roy’s family there’s a bowl of fruit on the table, which everyone picks on throughout the day. When I visit my family there’s a little bowl of Hershey minis. Kiwis and apples, not candy bars.
A little research found that 70.9% of men and 61.9% of women in the United States are considered overweight or obese. In Israel that number is 14%. Don’t get me wrong, they have junk food here, they have super tasty junk food, but they don’t eat it in the amounts we do, and they far surpass us in the fruit and veggie department.
Resources. I guess I’m spoiled, but I expect all the lights to be on in my apartment building all of the time. One of the most interesting things I’ve encountered in Israel is the fact that communal electric is on a timer. When you walk into a building, you put the lights on, the lights stay on for about a minute, and then they go off. That way you have enough power to get you to your apartment, but they aren’t on all night zapping resources when no one is using them. The water heaters for showers are also on a timer. And, because it’s warm here, the majority of apartments have drying racks to use instead of a dryer—saving electricity again. There are also recycling bins on every corner of every street. There’s no excuse not to recycle. And, while many people have cars here, most people use public transportation, bike, and walk around.
Education. To be fair, I don’t know much about the education system here in Israel—although it does rank in the top 20 worldwide educations systems (the US does not, sadly), but I can see it in my interactions with the people here. For starters, everyone here is fluent in English. I don’t just mean that they can give directions and help me at the grocery store, I mean they can have in-depth conversations in a language that is not their native tongue, and they have a deep understanding of world leaders and policy. They know what’s going on around the world.
There are three national languages here: Hebrew, Arabic, and English, and kids start learning them as soon as they start school. There’s also television available in each language, and for shows that are filmed in one language there are subtitles in the others.
Also, like most of Europe, the public University system here is practically free, and considered of superior quality to private education.
English is the international language of travel, but I do think it’s time our system really encouraged us to not only speak second and third languages, but to know more about the governments and cultures of other countries.
Voting. Election day was yesterday here in Israel. You probably know that already it’s kind of a big deal worldwide right now. I voted (okay, I didn’t, but I put Roy’s voter slip in the box)! Israelis vote en masse, consistently. Their voter turnout was 72%. We haven’t seen voter turnout like that in the US since the 1800s.
What I do appreciate about Israelis is that they love to talk about politics, to fight about politics, it usually gets very heated, but also no one really cares about your politics. Political affiliation doesn’t seem to separate folks the same way it tends to in the US. There’s definitely a sense of community in this country that I haven’t experienced at home on a large scale.
I’m actually pretty surprised at the outcome of this election, when we landed it seemed almost assured that Herzog would win, at least that’s what all of the pollsters predicted. Just goes to show, you never know. Whatever happens in Israel’s future, I hope it’s peaceful, although it doesn’t seem likely. The Fella is pretty convinced that a big war is coming. That scares me for a lot of reasons, not the least of all because my husband is still a reservist, and if a conflict is big enough they would call him back from the states to serve.
I don’t think I’ll be giving up the comforts of America any time soon, but I do think I can try and incorporate more of what I like about Israeli culture into my American life.
Have you ever lived away from your native country?