These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Week 14: Things I Love About Israel

Posted on December 9, 2011 by Derek Kwait

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(X-posted from my home blog, Yinzer in Yerushalayim)

(In no order)

*People here really look out for you. I know I’ve written about this at least twice before, but I really can’t get over it: Last week, when I went to pay utility bills at the post office, when I finally got to see the teller after at least a half-hour in line, she told me she couldn’t process my payment without another part of the bill I didn’t bring with me. I sighed as I told her I would run home and get them, anticipating wasting at least another half-hour in line when I got back, when she told me when I had them, i could just go up and see her without waiting in line. So I did: I ran back, got the stuff, cut to the front, she processed the bill payment, and I was on my way without further hassle. The amount of excuses people come up with here for cutting in line used to really annoy me, but now seeing it from the other side, I see its advantages. Having said that, if someone jumps in front of me when I’m next in line at the bank one more time because he missed it when his number came up, he’s getting punched in the face.
Later that same morning, as I was walking home carrying mail, I heard someone shouting, “Hello? Hello!” I ignored it and kept walking until it became clear she was yelling at me. When I turned around, she pointed to the mail I dropped.

*I get to hear South Africans say “muffins” on a fairly consistent basis.

*Even after being here for four months already, almost no matter what it’s saying, Hebrew graffiti always makes me smile.

*Everyone I’ve met here who has been there loves Pittsburgh. I met an Israeli guy at a party once who just kept raving about how clean it was, how friendly people are, and on and on and on, but he wasn’t the only one. Pittsburgh seems to consistently surprise Jews with its cleanliness and friendliness, and Squirrel Hill (where, for the record, I am not  “from”, much as I feel at home there) in particular gets rave reviews. People especially appreciate its Jewish diversity and tolerance–when I tell people from other communities about how well the different sects of Jews get along here, or how well all the day schools cooperate, or about the community Tikkun Liel Shavuot at the JCC, or anything about Young People’s Synagogue, they are legitimately impressed, as well they should be. Learning about other communities has made me realize how special ours is. And while it might be blasphemous for Jews from all over the world to gather in Jerusalem to sing the praises of Pittsburgh, I nonetheless think it’s pretty cool. Yet there are other important similarities between the two cities besides love of Pittsburgh: Jerusalem and Pittsburgh are similar in population and both share a topography and street plan beamed down from Mars; I was taking a walk this morning, and was truly astounded at how much it felt like walking through Pittsburgh sans the patient drivers. Language barrier aside, it is not hard for a Yiddishe Yinzer to feel at home in Yerushalayim.

*Very much unlike in Pittsburgh, I love how the street numbers here actually make sense: The first house on the left side of the street is always 1, the first on the right 2, then 3 is next on the left,  then 4 on the right, etc. Now if only these numbers were actually displayed on more than half of the buildings…

*The power bill has Muppets on it:

*You can learn about Jewish history from the street signs. I smile and feel like an insider when I see or hear of a street named for events or people I’ve heard of. More importantly, however, and this is of course the point of naming streets this way, I am motivated by curiosity to look into street namesakes whose names I don’t recognize. Last week’s 29 November party was nothing if not a celebration of the pedagogical power of street signs.

*Jewish holidays are the holidays.

*People eat vegetables here (“vegetable” defined here as something you could not get away with putting in a fruit salad). Yes, Americans eat vegetables, too, but what I mean is that we here in Israel eat them without their being drowned in mayonnaise or used as a decoration for meat. Slices of pepper, cucumber, tomato, and carrots, usually with hummus, white cheese, and/or eggplant as a dip are common features of Israeli breakfasts and snacks. Even better, people eat red peppers and cucumbers here the way we eat apples.


My current ‘stache ranks somewhere between my friend Erik’s newborn baby daughter Arianna and James Carville (with apologies to the Loeffert family):

Things I love about the end of Movember (In order):

1. I am proud to say the Pardes team, Safam so Good, raised $4,277 for men’s health!!!
2. I’ve never had so many girls tell me how good I look since I shaved my mustache.


Quote of the Week: “You can still wear pants and love God” – L.S.

Hebrew Word of the Week: אהבה (“ahava”) – Love