‘Only in Israel’ moments

(Amos Ben Gershon/GPO photo)

Anyone who has spent some time in Israel has come home with stories about a country full of pushy and caring people, dedicated and very opinionated citizens. In other words, their ‘Only in Israel’ moments. Well, you are not alone. As Yom Yerushalayim approaches, where to find those moments online – and how you can share yours.

I am a big fan of the Quora website, which is basically a huge community of people sharing opinions and arguments on thousands of topics. (What makes it special is that the discussion is done in a civil manner rarely seen on the web.) Here are a handful of the ‘Only in Israel’ moments Quora members have shared.

You know you are in Israel…

  • When nobody sees anything strange in asking you how much you paid for your house or how big your mortgage on it is, or for that matter, how much you earn.
  • When an elderly lady stranger comes up to you while you are holding your infant child and zips up the child’s coat and says it’s too cold for a little one to be outside like that. And then she takes your cab.
  • When you get on a plane at Ben-Gurion airport and cry because it feels like you’re leaving home rather than going home.
  • When the siren sounds on Remembrance Day and EVERYONE stops what they’re doing and stands in silence.
  • When a complete stranger says, “Hey, do you mind watching my baby for a minute? I’ll be right back.”
  • When your banker tells you that you could earn 2% interest in long-term savings, or you could invest in bonds, and also her son is around your age and happens to be single, and would you like to come over for Shabbat?


Have you got your own stories to share? Many people are waiting to hear them. All you have to do is join Quora or Facebook’s Only in Israel Group.

One of the wonders of Israel is the revitalization of the Hebrew language. Hebrew is full of modern words adapted from ancient ones. For example, the Hebew word remez means “hint” and ohr means “light.” When you put them together, you get the modern word ramzor which means “traffic light”.

However there are many perfectly good Hebrew words that Israelis choose to ignore. They just use English words like: deodorant, hippopotamus, comics and GPS. So how do you get across to Israelis that there are genuine Hebrew alternatives out there? I found the answer on the Only in Israel website. That’s where I learned that the Academy of the Hebrew Language recently teamed up with dairy giant Tnuva and has printed these modern Hebrew words and illustrations on the side of milk cartons. Here are the answers for Hebrew-philes: al-rayach (deodorant), soos-ye’or (hippopotamus), alilon (comics) and navtan (GPS).

I did a double take when I came across the site titled, Chelm-on-the-Med. I mean what does Israel have in common with the fabled Polish town, Chelm? Daniella Ashkenazy explains, because in so many ways, Israeli public and private life seem modelled after Chelm … “a paradise filled with life-embracing fools.” I learned…

  • about the IDF draftee who was afraid of the dark, whose ultimate Jewish mother snuck into boot camp to accompany him on nighttime guard duty, slipping out undetected at dawn…
  • the senior Israeli minister who chose to enchant the press by hypnotizing a chicken, leaving the bird on its back looking like an oversized zapped cockroach…
  • and a court ruling on a divorce settlement requiring the divorcee to pay his former spouse one pregnant goat a year for the next 35 years.

Daniella Ashkenazy concludes, “I knew if there truly was a Chelm, it was here at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean – in Israel.” Alas, it seems that Ashkenazy has stopped collecting stories but you can still browse through her archive of thousands of incredible tales.

Where would we be without Israeli inventions that have changed the world like drip irrigation, the Waze navigation system, the USB flash drive or the PillCam – a medical camera that can be swallowed?


How Bamba is made


Now let’s get to the important stuff – where would we be without Israeli snack foods? Thankfully, the following are not strictly ‘Only In Israel’ because the best Israeli foods can be found on our supermarket shelves. Here are the top three Israeli snacks:

3. Bissli – These crunchy pasta-like snacks come in six flavours: grill, barbecue, onion, pizza, falafel and Mexican – each with its own unique shape.

2. Krembo – This chocolate-covered, marshmallow cream-topped cookie treat is referred to as Israel’s national winter snack.

1 Bamba – Was there ever a question that the peanut-flavoured puffed corn snack would top the list? Aside from claiming almost one quarter of the country’s snack market, studies have shown that this treat plays a role in preventing peanut allergies.


How a Tel Aviv car got towed for parking in a legal – oops illegal – spot

If I had to choose my favourite ‘Only in Israel’ story, it would be about the car in Tel Aviv that was towed because it was parked in a handicapped spot. So what’s the big deal? Hila Ben-Baruch had been parking there for months and knew it was legal for her to do so. But one day her car was gone. Towed! After she retrieved her car, she called the city to complain, but got nowhere. Lucky for her, she spotted a security camera that had been pointed toward her car. And the video told the rest of the story. It seems that eager municipal workers had painted the handicapped markings around her legally parked car. They then had the car ticketed and towed since it was now parked in a handicapped space. Shown the evidence, the mayor apologized.

OK, since I’m on a roll, here’s one more ‘Only in Israel’ parking story. When bombs were raining down on Israel in 2014, a Ramat Gan man left his car to dash to the security of a shelter. When he returned to find his car safe and sound, he also noticed a 250 shekel parking ticket on the windshield. Happy ending. The city agreed to cancel the fine.

Chag samayach. Happy Yom Yerushalayim.