Though it’s been some time, I remember living in Israel as a great experience. I moved there in my early 20s and barely understood what a change it would be. I thought it was going to be my “second Erasmus”, but I’m glad it didn’t. I wrote a few lessons from living in Israel that helped me improve my life, even long after I left the country.
Maybe you wouldn’t expect this from a country that is mostly desert, but they highly encourage local agriculture and products. Going to the markets is an experience in itself, on top of getting fresh veggies and fruits. Even in the supermarkets, the locally grown veggies are cheaper. They have tags to tell you which ones are local and which ones are foreign.
As a student, I was on a tight budget. But the awesome thing is, in Israel, it’s the cheapest to eat healthy! Veggies are very affordable and you can buy the famous hummus at every step. Then you add the freshly made, warm pita, and you know the menu is complete. The meat is more expensive, but given the heat, better to avoid heavy meals anyway.
I didn’t realize how much my diet had changed while living there, I noticed it when I came back to Romania. I was eating less meat and less fried/oily dishes. I added more salads and hummus to my routine. I still keep some of my eating habits since then!
On a funny note, once you had lived in Israel, it’s a very high probability you will come to love hummus. It can’t be avoided, everybody loves it and it’s the best you will have. I don’t know anyone who moved there and resisted its charms. All my friends who go to Israel, they have a place in their luggage reserved for hummus. So beware, it’s addictive!
Water is a very important resource and growing in Europe I didn’t think much about it. I mean, yes, you do learn in school about it and how scarce it is in other parts of the world. But learning about it as a fact and experiencing it is quite different. I think nowadays it’s getting more awareness, but still.
Israel is the top country in the world in recycling water. It recycles around 90% of the water, four times more than the second country on the top. Very faar behind. So when you realize how much effort it’s being made to provide people with the necessary water, you can’t just ignore it. I decided to do my best at saving water as well.
I got myself into a habit of turning off the tap while brushing my teeth and when soaping in the shower. Basically every time I was not actively using the tap, I was switching it off. In the end, it’s just a matter of routine. Though I must admit, I became loose on this one, I’m still better at keeping it than I used to be. I don’t live in Israel anymore, but in general, I think it’s better to save than to waste.
Plan for the future
If you meet Israelis, they definitely don’t seem patient. But if you look at the community, they do plan well ahead and work towards it. They understand the importance of planning and how the little, consistent steps will make a difference. Well, at least that’s my view.
An impressive example is that Israel actively works on desertification. That’s right, they really want to turn the desert into usable land and they are making it happen. Progress is made year by year. There really is a use for everything and there is no such thing as “too big” of a dream. One of my favourite quotes (not travel related) is Lavoisier’s “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. It makes me think that we have all the necessary means to “transform” the world into a better place 😊
I was always “a bit” of a planner. Ok, I love planning. So I didn’t become a better planner after my experience in Israel, but I did become more confident in planning big. The example above is just one of many where Israel or the Jewish community achieved something, against the odds. It might look like luck, magic, or conspiracy, but I think it has more to do with planning, making great use of resources, work and commitment.
Read the news
Given the volatile situation and the constant threat, Israelis always keep an eye on the news. Everybody is well aware of what’s happening in the political sphere (at least what you get from the news). They know what is their country position and what is their own. Opinions are usually strong, one side or the other, fact or experience based. And one thing I learnt here is, before judging someone’s view, remember there is a reason behind it. They base their reasoning on something. It might be not obvious or good enough for you, but everybody is different.
Although this civic education/ awareness is learnt the hard way, it does have some benefits. I think it encourages you to have an opinion, debate and keep searching for the latest information. These are good habits and while it may not make a difference for the country in discussion, it does make you think more. And it gives you good and engaging subjects to talk about, leaving weather talks or gossip way behind.
While I was there, I was reading the news every day. Even if I missed something, there was always someone I would talk to and be like “Did you see the news?”
I lose on this one too, but I’m trying to get into the habit again. London is good at this too. People read the news and try to stay on top of things, but I think this is more particular to big cities. In Israel, it is felt at a more personal level, because truly, it can have a great impact on their daily lives or their dears’ ones.
Unfortunately, yes, it matters. When I was young, I would say “Who cares about religion?” I thought it’s for elder people, to smooth the old age worries. Yes, young and ignorant. So for me, studying about different belief systems and moving to Israel brought a lot of learning and awareness. Religion is such a delicate topic, yet so powerful, making people kill or get killed for it.
If you go to Bucharest and someone asks you “What are you?”, it probably refers to your nationality or region. If you go to Jerusalem, it refers to your religion or confession. At least this is what I heard, I’ve never lived in Jerusalem. I always thought it’s a bit too intense for me. The thing is, while in other countries you don’t have to talk about your religious views, in Israel you will have to, at some point. People are not meant to be intrusive, it’s just this matters a lot to them.
But even in Tel Aviv, I had the opportunity to make friends with people with very different religious views. If you had asked me before, I wouldn’t think there was any common ground. But there is, there is always a common ground if the two people are willing to try to understand the other. And what was fascinating to find out was, on some topics, we had reached the same conclusions. It was just the reasoning we used was totally different.
Would you be up for the challenge? 🙂