I was fortunate enough to be taken on a trip to Israel with a dedicated group that really knows the country. It was a longtime dream of mine to get to visit the Holy Land, and I was ecstatic when I received the phone call that told me I would be able to live out this dream. After all, almost 70% of millennials consider themselves to be adventurous, and I definitely fit into this group. I learned so much visiting the country, and it would be impossible to write it all down in a short blog post. It would probably take multiple books to really capture the whole of my experience. Still, here are a few of my observations from the country – some serious, some whimsical.
- Hummus is Everywhere
There’s no such thing as too much hummus. There’s also no time in the day that’s inappropriate for hummus. Lastly, the hummus for sale in American supermarkets is an insult to the name.
- Everything is Sababa
The most important word in the Hebrew language isn’t shalom or todah. It’s sababa, which can mean everything from “wonderful” to “cool” to “no problem.”
- Spiritual Traditions are Important
It’s easy to forget in the day-to-day how essential it is to embrace your spiritual heritage. 12 days on a trip to Israel serve as a clear reminder that spiritual wellbeing is indispensable to living fully. It’s easy to overlook this in America, where the oldest European buildings are 300 years old and spirituality is often seen as simply a part of the whole, but the thousands of years of history of the three great Abrahamic faiths in Israel makes it hard to overlook.
- Bamba is Addictive
Israeli kids are raised on bamba, a peanut snack that dominates the Israeli snack food scene. Don’t worry—you can become a bamba convert later in life, too. Most stores sell it and you might even be able to find some stateside when you return.
- Wifi is Everywhere
Wifi is everywhere in Tel Aviv and most of Israel, so if your definition of staying connected is checking your email and catching up with friends once a day, you can do that. However, there is a 7-10 hour time difference, so your friends will often be going to bed or sleeping when you’re starting out your day. It makes sense to get an Israeli phone or find some other way to access Cellcom and stay in touch with those back home at all hours of the day. We used this company to get Israeli SIM cards for our trip. I’ve also heard good things about this service.
- IDF Soldiers are Admirable
Drafted into the army at the young age of 18, these brave teenagers are on the country’s frontlines so that a modern Jewish state can live in peace and security.
- Experiencing Holiness in Person
There’s no comparison between reading about Judaism’s holy sites and then experiencing them right in front of your face. Being able to pray at the Western Wall is an incredible privilege that should never be taken for granted.
- Top Tier Beaches
The beach scene in Israel is fantastic, and even if there wasn’t a ton of time on the trip to indulge this pleasure, it’s worth returning to Israel just to hit up its beaches.
- Israel is Tiny
Driving on a bus from the northern region of Israel all the way to the beaches of Eilat is totally doable. In just a few short hours you can travel from the very northernmost parts of the country all the way to the Negev dessert in the south. Certain kinds of transportation can be hazardous no matter where you are. For instance, 5,172 motorcycle accidents took place in the U.S. during 2017. But public transit is a great option when you’re in Israel.
- Ice Coffee isn’t Ice Coffee
But it’s still delicious and worth buying every single time it’s in sight.
- Jews are Incredibly Diverse
If there’s one lesson that’s driven home everywhere you go in Israel, it’s that there’s no such thing as a “typical” Jew. Jewish communities have flourished all over the world and have been reunited in Israel.
- It’s Not What I Expected
The Israel that we experienced is totally different from the chaotic warzone that I had seen on TV news shows.
- Lafas not Pitas
Don’t make the mistake of ordering a pita when you could’ve had twice as much food by stuffing a lafa full of shwarma or falafel.
- Amazing Weather
Although we weren’t in Israel during this time, we learned that winter in Tel Aviv is absolutely gorgeous, and returning to the U.S. afterwards is painful.
- Don’t be Afraid to Push
Israelis aren’t the calmest when it comes to waiting on line. Don’t be afraid to show a little bit of Israeli chutzpah to get faster service.
- Friends Forever
It’s a cliché but it’s definitely true. Connecting with other people on a trip to Israel can create powerful, lifelong connections.
- Twelve Days is a Lifetime
The number of life-changing experiences that one can have in a 12 day span is truly unbelievable.
- Aliyah is a (Practical) Dream
Living in Israel isn’t nearly as far-fetched as I would’ve thought before going on my trip. With generous state benefits, and free education and healthcare, maybe living in Israel is more than a dream, despite the expenses of moving and high taxes.
- Mind-Blowing Diversity
For a country as small as Israel, it’s remarkable how much the scenery changes every time you’re in the bus for an hour.