I’m not normally into pithy list-based blog posts but today I am making an exception. There are less than two weeks before I leave Israel and I still have a ton of school work to do. So in the interest of procrastination I give you the 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming to Israel.
1. It is possible to become bored with Hummus… And all mediterranean food.
I found my culinary experiences in Israel quite lacking. Yes, being here turned me on to a variety of ingredients I wouldn’t otherwise have learned to cook. And, yes, the food here is good (most of the time). But…
I have gotten bored with pita and hummus. There is only some many months one can live on pita and hummus before they lose their charm.
And I swear to god if I see another olive — someone’s eye will be replaced with it!
Israeli sandwiches are gross. I still do not believe that hard-boiled egg and tuna salad are a valid sandwich combination (Sorry Adi!)
Also, cucumbers. The winner of the Most Wasted Veggie Award. I hate you because you lure me in with your sweet siren song of, “I’m cheeeeaaaappp!!”.How do I cook with you? You aren’t a cookable vegetable. You are only good cold and in salads. And you go bad to fast.
2. I would become racist.. against everybody.
I have learned an equal opportunity dislike toward everyone: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Arab-Israelis, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Jewish-Israelis, orthodox people, Ethiopians, Yemenites, Russians, Americans, Druze people, Arabs, Europeans, etc.
(I think there might be something in the water here.)
To expand on one group particularly close to my heart. There is nothing like leaving the United States to make me realize what a unlikeable bunch Americans can be.
We feel more comfortable traveling en mass. We are loud as hell and can be incredibly disrespectful towards local customs and people. We perpetuate the stereotype of the drunk, slutty American woman. I know that I am an offender of all of the above at one point or another, however, I try to at least recognize when I have made a mistake. Sometimes, I suspect my introspective qualities might be more the exception than the rule.
3. How beautiful this place is.
Israel is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I have never lived in a place where the sky was so blue or where the top of every hill offered a beautiful view. Even the Negev Desert, the most barren wasteland I’ve ever seen, has its own stark beauty. No one told me how beautiful it would be here. The Mediterranean is gorgeous. Even when it rains it is beautiful.
I was totally prepared for a dry and dusty desert. Basically, Fresno, CA with and abundance of camels and a dearth of Mexican food. What I got were rolling hills, lush greenery, wildflowers, and sandy beaches!
4. More people die in car accidents than terrorist attacks.
Even at the height of the Second Intifada this was true. (I have a reference for this… Just to lazy to link to it. If you want it, email me.)
Israeli drivers drive stupid fast and believe the lane lines are just for decoration. Throw in bus drivers with something to prove, general Israeli bravado, and you have a recipe for death with a side of road rash.
I thought India was bad but I think this might be worse. Israeli driving is deceiving because, unless you look closely, it looks like American driving. People stop at stop lights, avoid flattening pedestrians, and follow basic right of way rules. Then you get in a car or a bus with an Israeli driver and begin to reconsider all of your life decisions.
One quickly learns the skill of sizing bus drivers up and rating the likelihood that their driving will result in death or serious injury.
5. I’m jealous of Jewish people.
This country is very hard to live in if you are not Jewish. I feel like most Israelis are warmer and more open with Jewish students than they are with non-Jewish students.
When meeting a new Israeli the conversation will inevitably turn towards religion. This is always my least favorite part of the conversation because it can completely change or derail it. One of the parties (Normally, me. Because I want to rip the band-aid off fast.) with ask the other, “So, are you Jewish?”
“Yea, I am. What about you?” they ask.
“No, I’m Christian,” I say, waiting for the Inevitable Shoe to Drop.
“Oh. That is good. I guess.” they say as I watch the Welcome-Sister-From-Another-Country expression in their eyes fade. From here the conversation will turn to the usual questions, Why are you here? How do you like it? And the conversation is essentially killed.
One is assumed Jewish until proven otherwise. When one is Jewish, people will speak to you with a little added bit of warmth, they will invite you to Shabbat dinner, they will find out who your relatives in Israel are, they will tell you the best places to visit in Israel. When when is not Jewish, people relegate you to the category of amicable stranger. They are polite but there is always a distance. The easy amiability is lost.
It sucks watching Americans with a different religion get a warm reception, while I am pushed to the sidelines.