I had by no means visited Israel earlier than August of 2020. Nonetheless, when the pandemic began and my plans to go straight to varsity have been known as into query, a spot yr in Israel grew to become my most interesting possibility.
Over the previous 19 years, I had heard concerning the nation from household, mates, and members of my synagogue who visited yearly. I’d seen footage of my dad mountain climbing Masada and my rabbi on the Kotel, however I solely had a obscure concept of what Israel was actually like.
From the second I landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, I discovered myself in a perpetual state of shock. There have been features of the nation that have been vastly completely different from how I had imagined them and different elements that I hadn’t anticipated in any respect.
- There may be way more non secular variety than I anticipated
When studying about Israel within the information or seeing it depicted within the media, I noticed it portrayed as a homogenous state comprised solely of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Whereas these teams do have a presence all through the nation, many others comply with different streams of Judaism or completely different faiths altogether.
To my shock, I’ve discovered that Israel exists at an intersection between faith, spirituality, secularism and individuality. There is no such thing as a one option to be non secular in Israel.
- Many Jews listed below are way more secular than these I do know again residence
Yom Kippur was one of the best lesson of this. On a vacation when most of my Jewish family and friends quick for the complete day, I anticipated Israelis to do the identical. As an alternative, many younger locals of Tel Aviv have been perplexed by my choice to quick.
“Are you Orthodox?” I used to be requested on a number of events. Once I replied that I’m not, I used to be met with extra questions of, “Then why do you quick? Do you all the time do that? However aren’t you hungry?”
Past Yom Kippur, there have been a number of different cases the place I’ve seen Israelis determine with Judaism extra as a tradition than as a faith.
- Israelis are among the most hospitable individuals I’ve ever met
Shifting to a rustic I’d by no means traveled to earlier than was no small choice. I had no mates or household right here and could be residing 1000’s of miles away from residence. Nonetheless, any concern that I had earlier than arriving right here was instantly assuaged.
The primary strangers I met whereas in line for customs started suggesting one of the best spots to go to across the nation. It felt as if each Israeli I bought to know provided me a seat at their Shabbat dinner desk. Although I didn’t communicate their language and wasn’t but aware of their tradition, I felt protected and welcomed by a neighborhood of people that appeared to genuinely wish to assist me.
- The entire nation is only a brief street journey away
The proximity of the complete nation coupled with the accessibility of its public transportation has made seeing numerous locations round Israel a breeze. I’ve been fortunate sufficient to see over a dozen cities in my six months right here due to how straightforward they’ve all been to succeed in. Whether or not it’s a practice trip between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or a bus right down to hike in Mitzpeh Ramon, the choices to maneuver across the nation really feel countless.
- Israel’s meals scene displays the range of its individuals
I anticipated to be residing off hummus and falafel for my complete yr right here. There’s been no lack of both of those fantastic meals, however I’ve additionally been shocked by my publicity to different cuisines. Whether or not it’s sushi in Tel Aviv, Mexican meals in Jerusalem, or Italian meals within the Galilee, I’ve been in a position to pattern meals from internationally inside Israel.
I’ve additionally discovered about and tried recipes that I by no means had earlier than, together with Ethiopian and Yemenite meals! With Israelis hailing from throughout the globe and bringing their genuine recipes with them, Israel’s delicacies choices have surpassed all of my expectations.
- A superb portion of Israelis are usually not really from Israel
For a lot of, being Israeli isn’t one thing they have been born into, however one thing they selected. With such excessive immigrant charges per capita, Israel welcomes new residents from numerous international locations. I’ve gotten used to listening to Israelis say one thing alongside the strains of, “Properly I reside in Jerusalem, however I’m initially from…” This merging of cultures and origin tales has created a neighborhood of individuals with numerous and thrilling histories to convey collectively.
- Health isn’t only a interest right here… it’s a life-style
Whereas I performed my justifiable share of sports activities in highschool, nothing I’ve carried out compares to Israelis’ dedication to being energetic. I didn’t as soon as stroll down the Tel Aviv boardwalk with out being surrounded by locals working out on the outside health club gear or practising yoga on the grass.
It wasn’t simply the common push-ups and crunches that one would possibly count on–I typically noticed individuals balancing on tightropes, practising headstands and competing in video games of matkot. This inclination in direction of health stunned me as a common expertise amongst Israelis.
- Being within the military is an incredibly regular a part of rising up
Obligatory conscription is a ceremony of passage right here in Israel. Whereas my US mates who’ve simply graduated highschool are heading off to varsity, the current highschool graduates right here put together for the military.
Seeing individuals my age strolling down the road in uniform was a jarring expertise at first. They appeared far too younger to be leaving residence and coming into such a international surroundings. Nonetheless, as I bought to know just a few Israelis my age, I noticed simply how normalized the expertise is.
I’ve come to grasp that becoming a member of the military on the ripe age of 18 and never beginning school till mid-20s–although completely different from what I do know–permits Israelis to bond via shared expertise and mature shortly.
I’m now in a position to see why my expectations of Israel have been thus far off from the fact: Describing the wealthy layers and intricacies of this nation is almost unattainable.
It’s distinctive in its individuals and surroundings, which makes studying about it firsthand so stimulating. Having my preconceptions about Israel disproven time and time once more has opened my eyes to this nation’s surprising truths.