Imagine, if for some weird reason the USA would have to accommodate the entire population of Italy (58 Mil) and provide everyone with social benefits like medical coverage, food stamps, incentives and financial gifts used toward the purchase of the housing. Sounds like an impossible task. Israel did it. It “s called Aliyah – any Jew from any country in the world has the right to show up in Israel and immediately become an Israeli citizen. People with limited budget are entitled to lots of benefits that really help in settling down here.
Lots of Jews (more than one million) have arrived to this small country during the last 25 years of the last century. Aliyah is a mix of people with drastically different cultural and educational backgrounds. I “ve heard a story that black people in America made a deal with Israel, which went to Ethiopia and brought a number of mostly uneducated people to Israel explaining them that they are Jews. I “m sure many of them were caught by surprise, but didn “t resist.
Doctors, scientists, musicians represent another group of people who, for various reasons, decided to live in Israel. But Russian-speaking people dominate as newcomers (alim hadashim), they made their careers, opened successful businesses, went to politics and seriously changed the rules of the game called “Living in Israel rdquo;. For example, I took this photo in a supermarket.
You may not see anything special in it, but I took it on Saturday, and this is a photo of pork steaks. Before the 70-90th Aliyah, people here didn “t eat pork and none of the stores was open on Saturday. The country becomes a little more secular.
My next destination was a wedding of my niece.
A Jewish boy comes to mama and says, “Mama, I want to get married and would like to introduce you to my wife to be. But I ‘d like to run a little experiment ndash; I “ll come home for dinner with three girls, and you “ll need to guess which one is mine rdquo;. OK. Mama prepared a nice dinner, her son came home with three beautiful girls, and everything went fine. After dinner the girls left and the boy asks,
“Mama, tell me now, which one was mine? rdquo;
“The one who was sitting on the right rdquo;
“Mama, I “m amazed! How did you figure it out? rdquo;
“I hate her rdquo;.
Since there is no civil wedding ceremony, the act of marriage is happening during the wedding party. It was a special wedding place in a village with a huge tent and an area for the reception. To get to this place, we had to drive about a mile on a not-paved road, which reminded me of a Jeep safari that I took three years ago on Alaska- we were driving jeeps on a naturally bad forest road. This road was not as bad though.
There were about 250 guests at the party. I won “t bore you with details, but will mention a couple of things that seemed not ordinary to me.
1. After the rabbi pronounced them man and wife, all guests went to give a kiss and a hug to the newly wed. She “s been kissed by at least a hundred of people. Western wives are not that approachable.
2. All guests brought money envelopes and were dropping them inside an metal box with a slot that was placed right by the entrance. A video camera was shooting all arriving guests right there, which is pretty convenient ndash; after the wedding it “s easy to rewind the tape and double-check if every guest dropped the envelope. I was told that on weddings of people from some Eastern republic of the former USSR, there are two metal boxes to separate donations from the bride and groom “s guests.
3. To reserve this wedding place, the bride and groom just left a small deposit, but the final bill for the party was expected to be paid in three days after the party. This gives newlyweds enough time to cash in all guest checks.
4. One of the tables at the party was taken by the fans of a Russian soccer club Spartak, Moscow ndash; the groom was their fan too ndash; and this was adding a special spirit to the entire party.
5. Speaking of spirit hellip; On the dance floor, a special machine started to shoot soap bubbles, but I was surprised to see that people started catching these bubbles with their mouths. Someone explained me that these bubbles were made not from a soap, but from an alcohol. Now we are talking!
It was a nice wedding and a beautiful couple. I wish them long and happy life together, and let the sense of humor will help them in overcoming little problems that every married couple may face from time to time.
A Jewish boy comes home to mama ndash; they lived in a tiny apartment – and says, “Mama, I have great news for you. I “m getting married. rdquo;
“Mazal Tov, I “m so happy for you! rdquo;
“But there is a little problem ndash; she “s not Jewish rdquo;
“This is not a problem rdquo;
“Mama, I “m so happy that you don “t mind! But we have no place to live rdquo;
“No problem. Just move in – both of you can live in our apartment rdquo;
” But we “d like to purchase a new bed and some other furniture rdquo;
“You don “t need to spend your money, my heart and soul! You and your wife can sleep in my wide bed rdquo;
“But mama, where are you going to sleep then? rdquo;
“I won ‘t need a bed ndash; I “ll be dead by then rdquo;.
It “s time to go home. I hope finding the airport won “t be an issue. The road signs here are easy to understand ndash; they are in Hebrew, English, and Arabic . Sometimes I even get a feeling that they reveal too much information, like this one.
They are not stupid though, have you noticed that the “Nuclear Reactor rdquo; is not translated to Arabic? See!
I miss home. Will leave a little earlier to spend half an hour in the Duty Free stores at Ben Gurion Airport. They have one of the largest Duty Free areas in the world. Bringing souvenirs home is a must.
Finally, a couple of advises for the foreign travelers who are coming to the Ben Gurion airport in a rental car alone.
1. When you approach the entrance with the sign Rental Car return, you ‘ll see a line of cars there. If you want, you can wait in line for about 10 minutes just to make sure that the line is not moving. Then leave the car, and you ‘ll realize that all these people are not even planning to return cars. They are just standing there waiting for arrival of their relatives or friends – they save money on parking this way.
2. If you rented a car from local Europcar or Alamo, get ready for a research. Don ‘t even try to find the signs for Europcar there – they don ‘t exist. There are signs for all other rental companies but not for this el-cheapo agency. After spending another 10 minutes driving around asking people, I figured out that no one knows where can I return the car rented from Europcar. The guy from Avis simply said, “Many people asking me the same question, I don ‘t know where they are but I know that they are not here. ”
I asked him to do me a favor and call them up from his cell phone as mine iPhone did not work in Israel. He did, and someone from Europcar said that they will send a person to pick up my car. In 15 minutes it happened. The person was pretty rude by the Western standards.
The bottom line – never rent a car from Europcar or Alamo in Israel.
3. After losing 25 minutes, I was glad to save one. They didn ‘t ask me to take off my shoes at the checkpoint. If Israeli don ‘t think that shoes are no threat, the rest of the world should follow.
4. The final puzzle that I did not solve was the warning that I got at the check-in counter, “Don ‘t buy any liquids that weigh over 100ml, not even the alcohol in duty free. I was not planning to, but it ‘s interesting, who are they selling the liquor for then?
All the best, Israel. Back to the USA!