Tag Archives: Israel

Shvilists

27 Mar

Shalom! I write to you from the Mador stream night camp. (Not so much a stream here so I just took my first ever hose shower…it was amazing.) We started this week in Mitzpe Ramon and we have walked around 45 kilometers over the past three days. Sunday I was on volunteering duty so I didn’t walk but I did load the trucks, clean up the campsite, and enjoyed a few gas station mini marts. Oh and I helped to make dinner…I was in charge of the mashed potatoes or purée as everyone who wasn’t American was calling it.

So this brings me to something I think I haven’t shared so much about which is the experience of being an American and a female reform rabbi. I’ve never felt “exotic” before in my life until this trip. I would say for the first two weeks and whenever new people join our group they say they have never met a woman rabbi and then want to know if I do “rabbing” for a living and how does this all work. Also, I have been called “rabbey” “rabbit” and “rabbah.” Obviously, rabbit is my favorite. Sharing my identity and how it all works has gotten a little repetitive, but I know it’s important teachable moment each time.

In Israel there is often two categories of people religious and not religious (hiloni and daati.) I’ve come to see these as two poles on a continuum that I definitely fall in the middle of. I feel like I have the most in common with the Israelis who were once religious and are now secular. They know the language of faith and also modernity.

I’ve also been very aware of my Americanness. Out of a group of around 40 I am one of three Americans. It’s amazing how when I’m home in American I think I am in the center of the world, but the truth is the world is huge and wherever anyone resides that is their center. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about American arrogance.

In so many ways though, current context dictates identity and right now we are all “shvilists” or “shvilistim.” This means we are walking the Israel trail, we share our water, we help each other down mountains, and we listen to each other’s stories. Some of my favorite moments with my fellow shvilists these last few days have been:

1. Jaco from Mexico City reminding me that when we are going downhill you don’t have to do it with style, you just have to do it.

2. On Friday night I sang Kabbalat Shabbat songs with fellow shvilists on the top of a big camel lookout.

3. Walking back to our nightcamp 12 ibex surrounded us and we thought this was the best Shabbat gift.

4. And yesterday me and my fellow shvilists walked to ein akev, a gorgeous spring with lots of water. A true desert oasis!

Tomorrow is supposed to be the hardest day of the entire trail when we hike Mt. Karbolet. Wish me luck! I am amping myself up to conquer it and write about it on the other side!

Going at my own pace

23 Mar

Shalom from the Mifar Gvanim night camp! So far I’ve walked 91 kilometers this week. After Moa we headed to the very very very small town of Sapir. We stayed across the way from Sapir in a “Bedouin” style night camp…I use the word “Bedouin” lightly since there was a large restaurant there we could eat anything from a hamburger to pizza (Israeli style of course). I opted for shnitzel. Oh and there was cold drinks! My apologies to those who are on the east coast experiencing more snow. It’s been almost 100 degrees here everyday and anything cold feels magical.

From Sapir the trail (and us on it) headed west for Mitzpe Ramon. I write to you one day away from reaching Mitzpe one of my most favorite places in all of Israel!

I think one of my biggest lessons this week is to be ok with going at my own pace. I hate feeling “behind.” My Mom has often reminded me I was a late adopter of walking in general. I think I didn’t start until I was almost 2. But she also tells me that once I started I never wanted to stop. So here I am walking Israel!

Over the past week some of the people who were keeping my pace left the group so I had been pushing myself to keep up with some of the faster hikers. I even left one morning so early with them I didn’t drink coffee. Big mistake. I was miserable trying to keep up and also miserable without any caffeine. Not to mention that it was a challenging day on the trail in general.

So I finally decided I needed to empower myself to feel comfortable to go alone and be at my own pace. So I ripped out all the pages I don’t need of my trail book and started to study the pages I do need. I got more comfortable reading the map and how to know who is before me and who is behind me. Most important not to day dream when I’m alone so I keep track of the shvil signs.

I’ve had two glorious days going at my own pace with meeting new folks and not making myself crazy to get to where we are camping and sitting around for hours. I’m enjoying being with the trail more and my much stronger arms and legs as opposed to worrying about keeping up.

Today as I result I got to see a little small pool of water in the desert, which is like finding gold and spent a nice time chatting about parts of the Haggadah and permaculture with an ex religious man who has recently joined our group. And going at my own pace also means I still have some energy at the end of the day! Erev tov (good night) from Givanim night camp!

Only in Israel (רק בישראל)

19 Mar

Shalom from Moa, an ancient Nabatean resting spot. The Nabateans were from Northern Arabia and created a spice route from Petra to the Mediterranean. Like the Nabateans, we too are resting here for the night!

It’s amazing to me that our campsite is from the 3rd century BCE and this got me thinking about some other unique things about our journey that feel particularly Israeli! Here are some more:

There is a dog named Tina who has walked with us since Eilat. I have no idea who Tina belongs to. I was told she is a desert dog who has done the shvil more times than anyone else. She certainly is the fastest in our group and knows the way without ever looking at a map.

Yesterday, after climbing out of a big canyon we came across a large group of yeshiva boys learning passages from Jeremiah while eating their lunch and then as they cleaned up they davened mincha.

Last night I fell asleep to someone playing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” on the flute.

And the other day a plane flew so close that I thought I could reach up and touch it.

And then there is the food…no cup of noodle here! Everyone helps cook three meals a day. The Israelis are a little territorial over the “kitchen,” but I did help roll out pit that we made over the fire. There’s cous cous and vegetables, homemade hummus, salad, and lots of tehina. Tehina on everything.

In addition to all of this unique Israeli stuff, I’ve had personal moments of incredible magic and uniqueness. Yesterday, I finally had some alone time on the trail and I put on my headphones and turned on my “Walkin” playlist. The playlist ranges from “Truckin” by the Greatful Dead and “Ramblin Man” by the Allman Brothers to a little Madonna and Enrique Inglesias. Just as the sun started to make its way down and a cool breeze rolled in, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” (George Michael and Elton John) came on and it felt like pure perfection. Actually, it was divine. Me and the desert and no one insight with an amazing soundtrack.

I decided to adopt a Nabatean name: “Gamally.” I’m trying to get others in the group to do the same…we shall see how it goes. Now I will try and rub my feet a bit…I would trade a bucket of Tehina for a massage! L’hitraot from Moa!

Body and Soul

16 Mar

I’m about to complete my first week on the shvil and as I was walking this morning I reflected that I spent a lot of time this week worrying about my body. Could my body really handle 10-12 hours of walking and hiking 6 days a week? Will my knees hold up? (I’ve had two knee surgeries on my right knee.) And lucky me this first week was also my time of the month so there was all of those logistics as well. (Hope that wasn’t too much information.) A few things pulled me out of my worrying this week.

First, a member of our group shared that it was good to take off your shoes and dig your feet into the sand. This allowed my sweaty feet to not only dry, but also he suggested it teaches my feet where I am…thus, informing my whole body where I am and what I’m doing. I loved taking the time to really feel the earth below my bare feet. The desert sand cradling their aches and cracks as well instructing them how to manage the ground.

Second another member of my group gave me some essential oil to rub on my knee, but he said I couldn’t just put it on without intention. I had to slowly rub it in and spend sometime loving my knee. This was a challenge since all I wish was for my knee to work like a healthy knee, but I finally opened myself to the ritual. I rubbed the oil and said thank you to my knee for holding me up while I’m on this journey. I also asked it if it could hold it together for the next several weeks. 😉 (And beyond!)

Finally, yesterday (Thursday) I decided to give my body a break and take a rest with a few others from my group and do a bit of a shorter route to our camp that night. So I stayed back and as a result two hikers not from our group appeared at the campsite and it turned out to be the author of a book I read about the trail in the fall. Whenever I meet an author of a book I like or an actor/actress I love I always get a little giddy…ok a lot giddy! So I met Judy who wrote, “Walk the Land” and her husband John. More about them here. I chatted with Judy about her story and her process for writing her book. And definitely I thought it was beshert (meant to be) that I gave my body a rest.

John and Judy gave a group myself and four other women a ride to road 90 where we caught a bus for a couple of kilometers to Kibbutz Yotvata. I didn’t have any chocolate milk (Yotvata is the chocolate milk capitol of Israel), but I did have a cappuccino and a sandwich. 🙂 Then we took out our map and forged our own way to the night camp and the Israel trail. Five hours later…(so maybe it wasn’t the easy day I had hoped for) we arrived to the Israel trail and then the night camp feeling incredibly proud of ourselves. Along the path we forged we saw amazing views and crystals amongst the rocks (perhaps one might be coming home with me even thought I know you are not suppose to take rocks from the land.)

I think I’ve come to realize that there is only so much worrying about my body I can do and focusing on nourishing my soul actually takes me out of the worry. Being open to beshert moments, sending love to my body, connecting to the ground I am walking is soul work which I think ultimately leads to a good and healthy body.

And also…while at Yotvata I picked up some Advil. 🙂

This afternoon we head into Shabbat. We will camp by two streams and I will have traveled around 90 kilometers by foot. If you are following me on the map I will be just north of Kibbutz Neot Smedar.

Shabbat shalom from the shvil!

Beginning the Journey

14 Mar

Shalom from the Israel National Trail (Shvil Yisrael)! So far I’ve walked or hiked (cause the trail is definitely not flat and paved) from Eilat to Timna National Park…around 56 kilometers or around 36 miles. The first few days have been beautiful and challenging. I’m not one who loves “first days.” As one of my best friends reminded me we didn’t become friends until the second day of college. There has been much to get used to…no bathrooms, no seamless, no bed at the end of a long day, and a whole new group of people to get to know and learn how to give and receive help from.

Now a few days in I am used to a lot of it and developed routines. I know now when to take my first break after starting the trail in the morning (about two hours in), who from the groups walks at around my pace, and what I need to do to keep my little tent from blowing away at night in the desert wind. One night I did loose my camping chair to the wind, but luckily found it the next morning and now I know if I’m not sitting in it something heavy better be.

The walk itself so far is gorgeous, magical, and definitely hard. There have definitely been moments where I basically have been rock climbing and then there have been moments where I am surrounded by the most magical enormous mountains who feel intimidating and full of strength and comfort all at the same time. I have been singing the words of Psalm 12 often.

I find the downhill the hardest, which I have realized makes sense for life in general. When things are going downhill that usually means things are not so good. So here are a few tips I’ve learned:

1. Walk sideways – sometimes it’s better to take it slow and zig zag as opposed to going down with the path.

2. Keep a soft body- when you tighten up it feels like the trail does too and instead of flowing with each other it’s as if you are opposing sides better to try and relax into going down.

3. Face the mountain – when you are on the side of a steep downhill facing it is better and makes it way less scarier.

4. Trust the downhill- I’ve come to realize my body does not want me to fall so I try and trust that it knows what to do to keep me safe.

Lastly, this group that I’m walking with is called “Walk About Love.” To me this has come to mean I’m doing a walk about love for Israel and I try and keep that love in my heart as I walk so that I remind myself that my feet are on holy ground.

Why I am walking the Israel National Trail

5 Mar

Israel Trail MapFor me, Israel is another “home.” A place I visit at least once a year
because Israel is a part of my identity. If I didn’t go visit often I wouldn’t be
nurturing this part of myself. Yet, I feel that something even stronger pulls me
there year after year…and that is my belief that connection to Israel is central to
what it means to me to be a Jew. During my youth, my Jewish identity was tied to my family and the synagogue where I grew up. Judaism lived in those distinct places. This changed when I traveled to Israel for the first time when I was 16 years old on a NFTY in
Israel trip. Once I was there I realized that the words of Zachariah rang true for
me. Israel is admat hakodesh, a holy land (Zachariah 2:16).  When I am there…when I walk the land…I believe the sacredness is palpable, so much so, that my draw to the land, is actually what is shaping my upcoming sabbatical. This coming spring I plan to walk shvil yisrael, the Israel national trail, 683 miles from the southern tip of Israel to the northern most point in the Golan Heights. I am thrilled that I am able to take this journey during Israel’s 70 th birthday as I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a place I love by being in such close connection to its vast and diverse landscapes. Not only will
this journey be a physically challenging one, I also see it as a sacred pilgrimage, an
act of devotion to a place I love.

Hiking the Land of Israel through vast and diverse landscapes will provide me with an immersive and holistic experience that will strengthen and complement my skills as an educator and more specifically as a teacher of Israel studies. For so many generations before me, Israel was more than just a political and cultural center. Israel was and I believe still is today the physical and spiritual heart of the Jewish people. I want to walk the land of Israel in order to deepen my connection to this spiritual heart and expand my love of Eretz Yisrael beyond my intellectual and material connections. During the trek I plan to cultivate and deepen my spiritual practices of mindfulness, meditation, and paying attention to the experience of awe. I also believe that “unplugging” from the daily routines of city life and challenging myself physically will be invigorating and provide for spiritual renewal and transformation.

I am looking forward to joining Walk About Love an organization dedicated to bringing groups of people together to walk the INT. You can follow my journey on this blog and also on the Walk About Love website

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Zionism: Jewry’s solution or problem?

11 Jun

Zionism: Jewry’s solution or problem?

Reflections After Our Brooklyn Heights Synagogue Women’s Israel Trip

Originally Published in the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue 2014 Spring Bulletin

By Rabbi Molly G. Kane

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue Women’s Trip spent their last day in Jerusalem visiting Mount Herzl Military Cemetery. While Har Herzel (as it is known in Hebrew) is often a stop on many Israel trip itineraries, our visit felt significant as it was erev Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for soldiers and victim’s of terror. We were not able to visit some of the graves we had planned to see due to the preparations for the next day’s ceremonies. We tried to go to the grave of Hannah Senesh. Unfortunately, we were unable to make our way to pay our respects. So we walked around other parts of the cemetery looking for some shady spots to talk about the cemetery itself and visit soldier’s graves. We found ourselves a place to gather and we read the words of Hannah Senesh from her diary as we looked out at the graves of too many fallen soldiers. She writes in her diary,

I’m convinced Zionism is Jewry’s solution to its problems, and that the outstanding work being done in Palestine is not in vain.

As I prepared to travel back to New York with so many memories and thoughts in my mind these words in particular were echoing the loudest. They are a snapshot of a belief system that rang true for Senesh and many others. Today, a paraphrase of her words seem to ring true for me:

I’m convinced that Zionism has become one of Jewry’s biggest problems, and as a result do we take Israel in vain?

I see Israel as one of the greatest achievements of Jewish people in the modern period. A Jewish nation state devoted to the protection and advancement of world Jewry. Yet, we often overlook this achievement as Israel struggles…how to be both a Jewish and a democratic state…how to protect its citizens while working for peace…how to be both a western and an eastern country.

Israel’s struggles plague us and divide us.

A few days into our trip we heard that the influential Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations voted against admitting J Street, a leading political advocacy organization with the mission of supporting a two-state solution. While I am not sure of the set of principals that the voting members use about who should be “in” and who should be “out” of such an organization, it is clear from the 17-yes versus 22-no vote the conference was divided. The vote feels indicative of a divided North American Jewry that questions who can sit at the table when it comes to discussing Israel.

In March, I witnessed a similar rift at the Central Conference of American Reform Rabbis. In a discussion about Rabbi Rick Block’s presidential sermon, colleagues heatedly debated how critical one should be of Israel from the pulpit. They argued about what lines should be drawn when it comes to letting organizations like BDS (Boycott and Divestment) speak at our congregations.

Rabbi Block said, “Israel needs a many things, but one thing it does not need is more public criticism, which is ubiquitous. Some is legitimate, but lacks context.” I support his use of time during the convention to speak about Israel. I prefer we talk about it then we don’t talk about it at all. And while I am not sure I agree that we should silence our criticism, I do think we must always speak with context and I would add from a place of hope and love.

Yet, so often we don’t want to talk about Israel or we talk and feel on the defensive. We feel we have to defend one side or another or we share a personal experience that we feel makes us right in order to negate some one else’s.

This type of dialogue leaves us feeling unheard, unwelcomed, and with little enthusiasm to return to the discussion. I wonder if this is what the peace talks look like. Each side with their grievances and their narratives, neither side actually willing to listen. It is too bad our leaders can’t model behavior for us. To me this is a sign that we must model it for them.

Throughout our trip to Israel we visited with community leaders and political leaders who focus on listening to their constituents and figuring out ways to create programming and policy to improve their quality of life. From the principal of an Arab school in Lod who makes it her personal goal to see that her students feel like their existence matters in this world to a Jerusalem city councilwoman who despite the difficulties of being a woman in politics seeks to make sure that all inhabitants of Jerusalem have equal rights.

Their examples are instructive. Peace comes when people make peace not when heads of state do.

When we invite everyone to the table we send the message that even if we don’t agree we know we can’t move forward if we do not find common ground. Zionism doesn’t have to be the problem that divides us. It can be the problem that unites us. It can force us to figure out new paradigms of what it means to be a people with a state.

During Hannah Senesh’s time the Jews needed Zionism. They needed an ideology that gave them hope and that politically reestablished the Jewish peoples right to a nation in Eretz Yisrael. And now we must re-think the outcome of what our ancestors achieved. We must passionately decide that we can be both critics and participants.

A few days into our trip our guide joked that this was not the, “Disney Land Tour of Israel.” Meaning we were not seeing Israel in its ideal, rather we were seeing it with its rough edges and cracked surfaces. We were seeing both its failings and its successes. And when we heard and saw things that made us quiver as we asked questions…we did not shy away. And when we saw things that made us optimistic and gave us hope…we were inspired.

We allowed ourselves to be open and experience, and as a result we left as a strong cohesive community of women. Perhaps divided internally, but not externally… ready to continue our learning and participation in the unfolding narrative of the State of Israel.

65 Things I Love About Israel

16 Apr

65 Things I Love About Israel

In Honor of Yom HaAtzmaut – Israel@65

(in no particular order, except I am counting up cause it’s the Omer.)

1. Galgalatz – there’s nothing like a radio station whose playlists sound like old mixes your camp friends made for you.

2. El Al – despite the screaming babies and the feeling that you are on a pick up truck bound for the shtetl, it’s all worth it as soon as you see that little white airplane on the map, bound for Tel Aviv.

3. Israeli Dancing – Even though you don’t land in Israel anymore to find people dancing the Hora on the runway (did that ever happen?) Our early Israeli pioneers brought us many a ways to put aside our rhythm challenges and slowly follow the person next to us in such classics as Mayim and Yoya.

4. Super Sol, Super Pharm, etc. – they are all just super, not for any particular reason, but just cause who doesn’t like saying “super” in an Israeli accent?

5. The kova tembel – it’s like peter pan meets a fly fisherman…you can crumple it up easily and shove it in your pocket, it provides shade from the hot Israeli sun, and it may look foolish, but it’s a Zionist classic!

6. Bedouin tea – is it the sugar? Or those small Middle Eastern tea glasses? Or the one mint leave? Who knows?….but, I love it.

7. Israelis feel like your mother – I once was laying out on the beach in Tel Aviv and the guy who charged us for our beach chairs told us we better put on sun tan lotion or we are going to burn. And maybe that day we got one of the worst sunburns ever…best to listen to your “mother” everyone once in awhile.

8. The presentation of condiments – Classic Israeli dining décor…all the little dishes Israeli restaurants use for salt, pepper, jams, you name the condiment and Israelis have a cute little dish for it.

9. Kan kan mayim – along the same lines Israelis love a real nice pitcher of water, but only in Israel can you get a salad in your pitcher of water. I love cucumber, lemon, mint water. So refreshing!

10. Heshbon b’vakashah – I don’t mind asking for the check. I think its actually kind of nice that it’s up to me to decide when I’m done dining as opposed to impatient American culture that asks me to eat and pay as fast as I can.

11. HaTikvah – I’m a sap. It gets me every time.

12. Hadag Nachash –  You can’t get much for free anymore in Israel, but for some reason I always feel like Hadag Nachash is doing a free concert somewhere. Although, sometimes I get nervous that American Jewish teens think Shirat HaSticker is right up there with such classsics as Shir HaShalom and Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.

13. The Israeli Scouts – These are really the happiest Israelis I have ever met.

14. Israeli breakfast – I essentially could eat Israeli breakfast everyday for years and not get sick of it. Eggs, salad, cheese…brilliant.

15. Israeli movies –  After most Israeli movies I feel like killing myself cause they are usually so depressing, but I still watch them anyway cause it’s Israel and it’s Jewish and it’s Hebrew and I am just happy to see Israeli culture on screen.

16.  Nana – How’d “mint” get such a cute name? This is an amazing herb that the rest of the world should learn to use as much as Israelis do!

17. Pargiyot – When this is translated on english menus in Israeli restaurants it is often written as “young or baby chicken.” It’s delicious, but I sort of wish they would just call it chicken.

18. Festivals – Israel knows how to put on a good festival from arts festivals to film festivals to the light festival in the old city. It’s always quirky and a lot of fun.

19. Choco – move over Nestles there is nothing like chocolate milk in Israel. It’s rich, but light all at the same time and it doesn’t taste like chemicals.

20. Culinary explorations with the sweet potato – I learned from Israel the wonderfulness of putting sweet potatoes on salads and in ravioli. I am sure they have done more and I hope to experience it!

21. Israeli Wineries – Move over Nappa Valley, Israel’s wine country (I actually feel like most of the country is wine country), is tasty, a great way to explore Israel, and  get to know Israelis outside of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

22. Matula – I know what you’re thinking…why on earth do I love Matula? Well, it holds a special place in my heart as it is where I spent a good several hours figuring out how to use my Orange cell phone I also am proud to say I have met the former mayor of Matula. Different trips, but both special times.

23.  Mitzpe Ramon –  Israel’s very own “grand canyon” only with alpacas instead of donkeys.

24. Sesame coated pretzels with hummus – an absolute love and Israeli snack classic.

25. Volcano Chocolate Cake –  on every desert menu in Israel and they all describe it as unique to that eating establishment.

26. Neve Tzedek –  Williamsburg meets a cute street in Europe. All I want to do is sip a coffee here and feel like an artist.

27. Nescafe – I mean it’s not the best cup of coffee ever, but it’s such a distinct taste and it is often the free cup of coffee you are offered whenever you are at a meeting or a conference in Israel.

28. The road to the Dead Sea – I love the moment when the scenery completely changes and one second you had the backdrop of Jerusalem and the next it is the desert.

29. The Elvis rest stop in between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – Post cards of Elvis in some of Israel’s most famous tourist destinations. The King lives!

30. Café Afukh – I love that ordering a coffee in Israel automatically means a latte!

31. Nachalat Binyamin – This artists market never gets old. From great jewelry and judaica  to more kitchy stuff like Artik bottles turned into clocks or toilet paper holders from old Zionist posters.

32. Orna V’Ella – This Sheinken street restaurant has two amazing things…gay waiters and the best sweet potato pancakes (yeah there’s that sweet potato again). The pancakes come with this chive sour cream sauce that I essentially could bathe myself in…it is that good.

33. Ein Bokek – When I came to Israel in 2002 during the end of the second intifada Ein Bokek felt like the safest place in Israel. It will continue to always hold that place in my heart as sort of a refuge and is my favorite spot for taking a “dip” in the Dead Sea.

34. Israeli Supreme Court  – this is sort of an unknown tourist attraction, but it’s really cool to take a tour of the architecture that used the bible for inspiration and when I went to visit I was even allowed to sit in on a trial.

35. Abu Shukri – it’s worth getting lost in the old city in order to find this place for what I think is some of the best hummus and falafel in Israel.

36. Austrian Hospice – Nearby Abu Shukri is the Austrian Hospice, which I highly recommend you go into and head up to the roof. Bring up a Tuberg or a Goldstar and just stare out at the wonders of the Old City.

37. The Colony Hotel – This is what Israel was like during the British Mandate period. British tea here in the afternoon and the hope that Ari Ben Canaan could come by. #ExodustheMovie

38. Mount of Olives – You know that church with the golden tops…be the person who has actually seen it up close!

39. Temple Mount – This may be a controversial love, but I liked the idea of thinking about being closer to the holy of holies and seeing the old city from this point of view.

40. Kesem HaMaga – is a really wonderful spa in the North in a moshav called Beit Lehem Haglilit. There are hot tubs and bottles of Tishbi wine to relax with.

41. Decks Restaurant in Tiberias – I know Tiberias is not the most happening city in Israel. Although if you want to fall in-love with Tiberias I highly recommend the movie, “Ahuva Ahuvati.” Anyways, Decks is worth going to Tiberias for. Great meat and great fun.

42. Zichron Ya’akov – I love walking on the main drag of this town just south of Haifa. I have many art pieces hanging in my apartment from Zichron. Not to mention the Tishbi winery is there for good wine and food.

43. The beaches of Tel Aviv – Whether you are sitting in front of the Sheraton, the Hilton, or the Dan…the beaches of Tel Aviv are such a fun scene. The people watching is the best and who doesn’t love the sound of matkot (paddle ball) as you bask in the sun or go for a swim.

44. Amirim – this vegetarian yishuv is a wonderful place to get away in Israel. All vegetarian, beautiful views, hippies, and the best of Northern Israel.

45. The english edition of the Ha’aretz magazine on Friday – this is kind of like reading the Sunday times. The best sections are the features on a particular town and when they spotlight a particular family.

46. Tekkesim (ceremonies) –Israel is really good at creating meaningful ceremonies. Whether it’s for Yom HaShoah or Yom HaZikaron or for a Birthright event…Israel knows how to mark a moment real well.

47. Machaneh Yehudah – Beyond Marzipan and all the fruits and vegetables the shuk in Jerusalem has actually gotten quite schmancy and European. There are cute places to eat and drink coffee and I believe one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem called “Machaneh Yehudah” is located there.

48. Eilat – The Jersey Shore of the Middle East; trashy and no sales tax! It may be far, but it’s fun to say you’ve been in the Med and the Red!

49. Avatiach (watermelon) – in both its fresh form and in it’s popsicle form. Love, love, love.

50. Hapoel Yerushalayim – this one is dedicated to my friend and colleague Rabbi Jonathon Prosnit who helped me become a fan of Jerusalem’s basketball team. We went to see Hapoel play in Israel’s basketball finals. I have to say with all the cool lights and smoke it was almost like we were at a Phish show, well except for the basketball part.

51. Yom Kippur in Israel – life literally stops. In Jerusalem, folks are dressed all in white and when evening services are over everyone just gathers in the streets and greets each other. It is magical.

52.  The bike lanes in Tel Aviv – psyched that Israel has become so bike friendly and even though Israeli drivers have not gotten any better and I am petrified to be on a bike on the streets of Israel, I’m glad there are now dedicated bike lanes for bikers to stay as far away from cars as possible.

53. Israeli’s charm – sometimes this American Jew is put off by Israelis directness. And then sometimes this American Jew is completely turned on and wishes all Jews could just tell it like it is and be so good looking while doing it.

54. Intermissions during the movies – I love that there is a hafsakah (intermission) during movies in Israel. I don’t have to conserve how much I drink or run to the bathroom before the movie starts because there is a bathroom break built in to the film. Although it’s funny how abrupt it can be.

55. Pants that flare – the 70s will forever be “in” in Israel and I am glad that I can wear all my flare jeans proudly when I’m there.

56. The wide selection of kippot/yarmulkas – as a kippah wearer it’s great that there is literally millions of color combinations, sizes, and sport logo kippot available in the Jewish state.

57. Desert wind in the Negev – just feels like G-d or for the more technical Hebrew term ruach elohim.

58. Magnum ice cream bars – I always thought this was an Israeli company, but I guess it’s British or Dutch anyways, these things are a must next to a big bottle of Ein Gedi water after a long hike in any Israeli park or at a gas station on the side of the road.

59. Aroma – brilliant that they give you a little piece of chocolate with your coffee.

60. Oral hygiene – it’s so much cheaper in Israel to get your teeth cleaned. I do it every time I’m there! Is that weird?

61. French Fries/Tzips – there is something about eating french fries in Israel. They taste so good…whether its’ on the beach, at a bar, or in a falafel sandwich…it’s the best!

62. Hebrew – I love that there are far less words in the Hebrew language than in English and that therefore each Hebrew word is filled with so many meanings.

63. The quick reflexes of an Israeli– I once spilled hot water on myself at a friends in Tel Aviv and before I could feel the last drop spill he had torn off a leave from his aloe plant, cracked it open, and put it on my burn.

64. Directions in Israel – everything is just smola, smola, yamina, yamina, away…trouble is even when I have done that I don’t get where I’m going without asking three more times.  And when I ask each time the directions, funny enough they still remain the same – smola smola, yamina, yamina.

65. Israeli toilets -The half flush or full flush depending on the occasion – brilliant and so smart in how it conserves water. You can learn a lot about a country by its flush.