Share Your Israel Story

Throughout our Aliyah process we have all had embarrassing and humiliating moments that we prefer to forget and keep secret for life. Well, here is your chance to share those experiences with the world!


Please use this page to share with other Olim your amusing stories about Israeli culture!


And Remember: Whether it was when that old lady half your size pushed you out of the grocery line, when you were told by a taxi diver that your destination isn’t in his direction or you saw grown men wearing tighty-whities to the beach as swimsuits, we have all been surprised by Israeli society – no matter how long we have been here and no matter how much we love it here!





  1. Mazel Tov on a well organized blog! I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    We are new olim and also have a blog – mostly to share with family and friends our experiences (and to convince them to make aliyah). Please feel free to visit it (and comment) at

    Kol Tuv!

    • We were on a tyul with our class and several hundred other people. Our group leader decided to change his route to show the class a cliff. Little did we know but many people behind us left the tyul to follow us and many people joined us on that cliff. Our class and all these new people had to rejoin the proper tyul. I was really amused by how many people followed us .. LOL.

    • Contest entry:
      When we made Aliyah, we joined the Cellcom network. A few months later, while walking in Azrielli Mall we saw that Cellcom was offering a new package that included all types of bells and whistles. We signed to move our package to the new one. They gave us a date for a few weeks time when the new package would click on. At that stage I was still on a Blackberry cellphone. On the day our new package switched on, I noticed that I couldn’t send BBM’s anymore. I also couldn’t connect to the internet on my phone. Figuring there must be an easy enough solution, I called Cellphone directly. On the other side of the phone was an electronic answering service. Since my hebrew was really very limited, I randomly started pushing numbers on the phone in the hope of getting hold of a real person that I could talk to. Eventually my call was disconnected. At that stage I noticed that I could not send or receive SMS’es, or make phone calls. Stranger and stranger! Eventually we managed to get hold of someone at Cellcom by phoning from my husband’s phone. This gentleman then told me that by randomly pushing numbers on the service I had reported my phone as being stolen, and had requested a full block on the phone!! They were just doing their job….. Luckily, the nice man did reconnect me, and now we laugh a whole lot about the story!

    • While traveling on an Egged bus from Tsfat to Jerusalem I was struck by a sign that read Iron Police. Wow I thought. I didn’t know there was a special police force in Israel known as the Iron Police. I felt a mixture of awe and trepidation. When I reached Jerusalem I met my Israeli friend at a cafe and asked him about my discovery. He barely surpressed a smile. Laughing he told me, there is no Iron police force in Israel. That was a regular police station in the north of Israel in the area of Iron!

      • I meant to write Contest Entry at the top of my story.

    • Contest Entry: After about 9 months of Aliyah, I woke up one morning with the worst ear pain of my life. I immediately went to the doctor who told me that my ear was completely clear and that I had to see a specialist because you couldn’t find the problem. On my way to the specialist, the pain got so bad that I could hardly speak to anyone. The specialist was an older, Israeli man with a heavy Israeli accent (this took place in English). The following ensued:
      Older, Israeli Doctor: “Okay – I see your problem. When you go to sleep at night, you are grinding your teeth. You cracked your jaw and that is why your ear hurts because they are all connected. You grind your teeth at night. This, young lady, this is your problem.

      Me: (With my New York accent): “What!!! I never, ever grind my teeth at night! I know for a fact I’ve never, ever done that!”

      Israeli Doctor: “Young lady, the next time you go to sleep at night, ask the person next to you if you grind your teeth.”

      Me: “I don’t sleep next to anyone”.

      Israeli Doctor: “This is also your problem”.

      There is nothing I love more than the honest, blunt and realistic attitude of Israelis! They say it like it is!

    • Contest Entry:

      I had recently gone on Birthright and extended my trip for 5 weeks. When my time was coming to a close, I realized I wanted a necklace to bring home with me. As I’m walking through the Artist’s Colony, I came upon one particular shop. I met a young man there whom I engaged in normal conversation with. He helped me practice reading Hebrew as I looked for a necklace. 20 minutes later I found one I really liked. He says, “For you? …80 Shekels”. (As all the Israeli men say to make their female customers feel special.) I asked if they accepted cards, because I did not have enough physical money with me to make the purchase. He says, “We do not, but close your eyes”. I close my eyes and can feel him putting the necklace around my neck. When I open them, he is still very close to me and says, “Don’t pay me any money.” Proceeding this comment, he leans in and does not hesitate to make-out with me right there in the store. I said I had to leave and tried to pay him for the necklace, but it seems the kiss was payment enough.

  2. I recently discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading it and seeing others going through the same as we are. Keep up the good work!

    I’d like to share with you and your readers my blog where I share stories, photos and videos from our recent Aliyah with family and friends. Enjoy!


  3. CONTEST ENTRY: After a bit of time in Israel my reading level was much higher than my speaking level. I was responding to ads for apartments in Hebrew. Instead of saying “I am interested in your apartment,” I left a bunch of messages that translate to “I’m masturbating in your apartment.”

  4. Driving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I am impressed by the sign that reflects sexual egalitarianism: Yehud Or Yehuda

  5. CONTEST ENTRY: For months after I arrived in Israel, I puzzled over why the most popular name for dogs seemed to be “Bo”.

  6. I made Aliyah in 2007 during the summer. One month later I joined the army, and didn’t really understand Hebrew too well. After about two weeks of basic training as a combat soldier, it became my turn to give a formal “stand to attention!” For the entire company (120 soldiers) all of which were just waiting for the new immigrant to make a mistake. Our commander, a small Yemenite dude with a temper, whose name was Hatuka didn’t help relax me but instead would just yell louder when I told him i didn’t understand. With that in mind I made sure the three rows were perfect, all the soldiers were in order, and assumed my position at the front right corner and prepared myself to shout the words I only memorized, but didn’t really understand. I waited for the commander to exit the building we were waiting in front of, but he was a no show. Like any good soldier (or so I thought) I went to the front door of the building and proceeded to scream what I thought was his name: “Hamefaked Madbucha!! Hamefaked Madbucha!!??” What I yelled, roughly translated means: “Commander Turkish Salad!!.” Needless to say when he left the building he was met with 120 soldiers of his company rolling on the ground with laughter, and restricted me to base for that Shabbat. Until this day whenever I run into one of those 120 guys they remind of that day.

  7. I studied at Haifa University, during my first year in the mechina, most of the classes took place at the ‘Multi Purpose Building’.

    However, for a long time I was puzzled about the building’s name. The reason, in Hebrew the building was called: ‘HaRav Tachliti’, and my confusion was: Why do they call it after a rabbi (‘HaRav’) named ‘Tachliti’ in Hebrew and Multi-Purpose in English without honoring any Rabbi.

    As my Hebrew progressed, I realized that in this case ‘HaRav’ meant ‘multi’, not “The Rabbi” and ‘tachliti’ meant purpose….

  8. There was a place that sold Falafel they post an ad on a corner of the street that went like this: ” Light Drinks soft meals! “

  9. There was a place that sold Falafel they post a sign on a corner street that went like this: ” Light Drinks soft meals! “… now after some time here I got to know what they meant… (Light meal with soft drink…)

  10. Contest entry

    When I was in basic training I was constantly confusing zeah (sweat) for zerah (semen). This was especially problematic when asking for permission to change clothes because your shirt is full of zerah

  11. Contest entry

    Shortly after making aliyah I went to a job interview at an art gallery. Because my Hebrew was not fluent the curator asked me to prepare a guided tour in Hebrew which she asked I give her the following week. Having researched the artist, I came up with what I thought was a super creative tour – but then there was my Hebrew. Israeli friends taught me the word for ‘the artist’, ‘Ha-oman’, which I kept confusing with ‘Ha-onen’, ‘the masturbator’. When I showed up for the second part of the job interview and began the tour, visitors to the gallery, and even the security guard were thrilled to find a free tour. My audience doubled and so did my heart-rate. I was so nervous. I could not remember which word was which, and my audience’s red hot faces faces mirrored my feelings. Needless to say, I did not get the job!

    Fifteen years later, I still live in Israel. I left the art world to become a Sex Therapist, and today I help people with the art of masturbation, and their feelings of embarrassment.


    Every person who learns Hebrew, eventually gets confident enough to use it in their everyday life. That is until one moment completely embarrassed you and makes you really start paying attention in Ulpan. For me, that moment occurred in a typical Israeli grocery store. There I was looking for milk and reading all the different labels thinking I was such an expert. I grabbed what I thought was milk and went home. That night I got a huge craving for cereal, I took out the milk, poured it in, only to be surprised by a white chunky, creamy texture. I turned to my roommate and screamed “ewwww this milk is expired! How can they sell this?” My roommate, a fluent Hebrew speaker, looks at the carton, turns to me and bursts out laughing, “you’re an idiot! This isn’t milk it’s Leben, it’s pretty much yogurt!” That night I ate granola for dinner and starter paying much better attention in Ulpan!

  13. Upon arriving in Israel we rented a ground floor apartment (on Rech. Ben LaBrat) in Rechavia. We had a fenced-in yard which was perfect for our dog “Penny” who made aliyah with us. When Penny was in the yard she would bark loudly whenever anyone walked by. We yelled at her “PENNY” whenever she accosted the poor people who walked in front of our garden apartment. Directly across the street from us (our street was quite narrow) was a small makolet/grocery. One day I went over to purchase some milk. The owner of the makolet asked me if I was the lady who owned the dog that was directly across the street from his store. He then asked me if I could change our dog’s name. I gave him a puzzled look.The store owner told me his name was “Pinny” and he said, every time when we yelled at our dog “Penny” he would come out of store thinking someone was calling him. We never changed our dog’s name, but we tried to use her name sparingly.

  14. Contest Entry
    One of the first products we needed was laundry detergent. I didn’t want to carry a big heavy bottle of detergent, so I chose a small bottle with a picture of clothes on a clothesline, thinking it must be concentrate. The clothes didn’t seem clean and bright like in America. I thought it was because the water left a film. The bottle danced off the vibrating machine one day and broke to pieces. My husband helped me clean up the mess. He read the broken piece of bottle and said, “Did you know you’ve been washing the clothes in fabric softener?”

    • Did that too! The clothes weren’t as white as I wanted; but at least they were soft!

    Our family made aliya in August of 1995 from New York. A few days later we went to the local board to register our son, Daniel, for school. The
    registrar looked at us incredulously and said that he was already
    registered and that “there’s no need to come in every week.” We didn’t
    know what she was talking about and figured it was our poor Hebrew.
    Nevertheless, we were glad he was already registered and assumed we had a really motivated aliya counselor who had taken care of this task. A couple
    days later we went to get a library card only to be informed that it was
    ordered and is already in the mail. When we went to the local video rental
    store a week later, we were told that we’re in the computer already and
    with 15 credits remaining.

    The mystery was finally solved when a few weeks later we went to buy a
    used car and the dealer remarks how funny it is that someone by the same
    name came in the other day and bought a car from him! It turns out that a
    Danny Novick (and his entire family) made aliya from Chicago to Raanana
    the very same day that we made aliya to Raanana. We are not related to
    them and had never even met them let alone known about their having made
    aliya. Some of the names in his family and in our family are matches and
    even some birthdays overlap – hence the confusion in dealing with
    government offices. When we finally met him in shul, he had quite a number
    of stories to tell us, which at the time were inexplicable to him and only
    made sense after learning that there were “other” Novicks on the loose.


    In the summer of 1994, I made aliyah from Melbourne, Australia. My Israeli boyfriend/fiance (now husband), with whom I had lived in Melbourne for three years, had come back to Israel a couple of weeks before me to start organizing things for us, but we didn’t have an apartment yet, so initially we were staying at his parents’ home. I hardly knew my soon-to-be-in-laws and my Hebrew was a lot more halting then, while his parents spoke (and still speak) no English, so conversation between us was, as you can imagine, quite stilted and basic, with a lot of hand gestures and my husband and his siblings translating both ways.

    After our first night, as we all gathered for breakfast, my mother-in-law politely asked me in Hebrew, “Eich haya halaila?” — “How was your night?”

    I had just come from a Melbourne winter and was feeling quite woozy from the heat and from jetlag. Wanting to give more than a one-word response, I tried to say that it was hot and we had perspired all night. But with my shaky Hebrew verb conjugation, what actually came out was: “Haya cham veziyanu kol halaila.”

    There was a moment of silence, during which both my mother-in-law and my boyfriend turned red. Then my father-in-law suddenly bellowed with laughter, and everyone else started to laugh too. My boyfriend had to explain that what I should have said was “Haya cham vehezanu …,” and not the word I used, which, of course, means something entirely different. When I understood what I had said — to my future parents-in-law, of all people! — it was my turn to go red.

    Still, the incident has become something of a family joke. Even now, almost twenty years later, every so often someone will nudge me and wink and say, “So, how was your night?” And everyone will start laughing again.

  17. When I was with my then Israeli girlfriend, we were getting dressed after some… business and out of the clear blue she asked “What? You don’t like poo?”. I was in shock then asked “You got poo in my bed!?”. She then replied “No. In my panties”. It turned out that she had Winnie the Pooh embroidered on her panties.


    Right after the 5 month ulpan I went to the army for shlav bet (“old” people’s 6 month army service), when I finished I moved to Kfar Saba for the cheaper rent and some relatives I had there, but decided to buy an used car to be able to go to the city whenever I wanted.

    The first week driving on highway 4 in the afternoon somebody calls me on my cell. I picked up and the unmarked white car on the line next to me was a highway police patrol (in uniform but unmarked vehicle), turn on the car police lights and stop me. My Hebrew was poorer than it is now.

    When he told me that he was going to give me a 600 NIS ticket I decided to play the poor oleh chadash role to soften his heart. I begged, I told him I had no money, that it was my mother calling me from abroad and it was hard to call from there, I said I came from a third world country who hated Jews, that I just finished the army, that I wanted to go to combat but was told I was too old, that I dreamed to work in security and being in the Israel National Police was my zionist dream, blablabla.

    As he was handing me the ticket with my license and registration, he said in that motherf****ng tone of voice that only native Israelis can have (probably developed in the army in some commander’s course):

    “Achi, I am not the Sochnut haYehudit (Jewish Agency), go and cry there, Here is your ticket for talking on your cellphone, get a “divurit” or something”.

    Never again I was nice to a traffic cop. They don’t deserve sympathy.

  19. Contest Entry: Last year I needed to take my 16yo to the Dr. I was trying hard to speak in hebrew whenever possible. I called to make an appointment with an ENT. We arrived on the day of the appointment. The secretary asked who we had an appointment with and I said the ENT. She said that can’t be possible because he doesn’t work on this day. She asked for my name and said yes you do have an appointment but it is with a Proctolog, I said “what is that” and she said a Proctologist. My 16yo son, goes, “what kind of doctor is that” and I said ” a butt doctor!” mortified, i canceled the appointment, but could not stop laughing everytime i looked at my son thinking i made an appointment for a butt doctor.

  20. Contest Entry: My first year in Israel I tried as much as possible to speak in hebrew. My 16yo came home one day complaining of an ear infection. I called to make an appointment with an ENT. On the day of the appointment I went to check in at the desk. I said I had an appointment at the ENT, she said that couldn’t be possible because he doesn’t work on this day. She asked for my son’s name and said that yes he does have an appointment, but it is with a Proctolog. I said, ” What is that?” and she said a Proctologist. My 16yo goes, ” What kind of doctor is that?” I started cracking up telling him a butt doctor. Obviously we didn’t keep the appointment, but for the next 24 hours every time I looked at my son I burst into hysterics!

  21. In the 1st month of Nachal basic training, the base commander walked pass me and I hadn’t saluted.

    “Soldier! What did you forget?”

    “I’m OK..thank you.” I replied not noticing his rank on his wrist (like a watch) as it was back in 1975. Then continuing on..

    “Soldier! Do you speak Hebrew?”

    “A little.” I replied.
    “Then why didn’t you ‘Salute’?” (Salute in Hebrew is: Mazt-DE-ah)

    Having been on a kibbutz for over a year, I picked up a little Hebrew so…

    I raised my hand as to point to the sky saying: “I’m for it” (I thought he asked: “Why didn’t you ‘vote’….Mazt-BE-ah, in Hebrew.)

    For punishment I was given an hr of guard duty every night for a week….but it ended after the 3 days it took me to figure out what I was punished for!

    This is a true story!

  22. Contest entry
    I made aliyah with my much loved and much worn pair of Russell and Bromley ( posh English shoe shop ) navy blue shoes. Alas the day came that they needed to be re-soled. I grudgingly parted with them for the 2 days that the little shoe repair man told me that it would take until they would be ready,
    At last i went to pick them up.
    My beautiful navy blue shoes were BLACK !! What have you done i spluttered, tears rolling down my face. Where are my navy shoes ??
    You should be pleased he said , ” black goes with everything “

  23. CONTEST ENTRY: Shortly after we made aliya, my family were visiting us from England. We had planned a day at the Safari but unfortunately half the kids had come down with a stomach bug. Not wanting to waste a precious day, I boldly marched into the pharmacist’s and asked for something for diarrhea (proud of myself that I could translate all the words into Hebrew).

    Back outside in the car, about to give the kids the pills my brother decided to check the instructions. Fortunately there was an English section because what I had bought was medicine to cure constipation!

    When I marched back into the shop to protest, the pharmacist said (in perfect English) Why didn’t you ask me in English???

    It turns out that in Hebrew you ask for something NEGED – against – the problem, not FOR!

    Actually I think it makes more sense 🙂


    My name is Zane, however any time I am in Israel I need to go by my Hebrew name ‘Ephraim.’ This is due to the sheer amount of confused looks I get by Israelis when I introduce myself as Zane seemingly spelled the same as Zayn, the hebrew word for penis. Why would your parents name you Penis? They ask with an embarassed chuckle.

    I have gotten openly laughed at and ridiculed by fast food cashiers and more problematically, high-level diplomats at the Foreign Ministry while I am trying to ask a question on Israeli foreign policy. Truly embarassing.

    Ironically, Guy Pines does not get laughed at by anyone.

  25. CONTEST ENTRY: One of the first places we visited on my first trip to Israel was the Dead Sea. Of course, I forgot to pack my sunscreen. After waiting in a long line to purchase some, the owner of the little shop tried to charge me what would have been close to around $40 Canadian. My tour guide saw me arguing with the man and got involved. He spoke to the man in Hebrew and, although I am not sure what he said, I do know that I got the sunscreen for about $10.

  26. Was invited to hang at frineds sister’s kibbutz every shabbat then we would go touring from Sunday thru Thursday..When i was assured they had a room for me little did I know it would be a converted WATER tower turned into basically,somewhere to sleep and guess what it had “running water” How ironic would that have been had it NOT had water since it was a water tower.. I beleive it had solar panels that would heat up , lets say up to a few hundred gallons of water hot and cold..And enough to get thru a shower and a few netelat yadayiims!! I believe the kibbutz , also ironically was called BEEROT YITZCHAK more water references…

  27. I had a new boyfriend, Tony, a Bulgarian Israeli. I wanted to know if he had a vacation on Pesach. So I asked, in English, “Do you have off on Pesach?”
    His answer: “Sure, I eat “OFF” (chicken) on Pesach.”

    Another one, less funny. I’m on a bus to Tel Aviv. The driver asks me, When did you get here?” I say, “6 months ago.” Driver” “When are you leaving?” This of course was a comment about Americans who make aliyah. But I’m still here, 22 years later.

  28. Not long after I made aliyah I went to the makolet to buy grapes. Knowing I am prone to linguistic mistakes, I kept on repeating in my head – anavim, not avanim (rocks). Needless to say, when I got in front of the seller, I did ask for a kilo of avanim. It took me a while to understand why he was waiting, looking at me with an amused look on his face. Still, I did better than a friend who, needing a carrot (gezer) for her soup, went to her neighbor and asked to borrow a gever (man)!

  29. My funny Aliyah Story:
    I was at the supermarket, Hetzi Hinam, buying my weekly groceries, it was my 4th week in Israel. I was strolling along the cereal isle, scrutinizing the Israeli cereal, deciding on a new cereal to try, when I heard a commotion behind me, I turned around to have a look at the family. A mother, in her mid 30s, pushing a giant trolley with one kid, about 4, running in circles around her, grabbing everything in reach off the shelves. The other kid, about 2, crying in the seat on the trolley. I felt a bit bad for her, suddenly, she took a deep breath, caught her running daughter, pointed her finger at her kids and shouted “DIE!” “DIE!” “DIE!” I just stood there in absolute shock. Coming from South Africa, where politeness is a day to day manner, I walked up to her and said, in an unsuccessfully authoritative way that telling your own kids to die was unheard of and uncalled for. She just looked at me, saying nothing and I walked away. Two days later, telling my Israeli father about the incident, I found out that ‘die’ in Hebrew means stop and I understood the poor woman’s exasperation at her two unruly kids.

  30. This happened last night. We decided to go to the movies at the Jerusalem Theater last night. We went to the box office at 6 pm for a 7:30 movie, just to be sure we would get in. We were there in plenty of time, got good seats, & made ouselves comfortable. I even took off my shoes. The movie started on time & we looked at each other & realized that we just saw the movie on an El Al flight 3 weeks ago. We got up & left the screening room. When we came out there were 3 ushers/workers in the hall. They asked what was the problem, & we told them. One of the ushers took out his IPad & magically arranged for us to get our money back,pronto! Only in Israel, for sure never in the US!

  31. Contest entry:

    A funny story that happened to me is this, my father is an optometrist and during the first few weeks of Aliyah he was working and in came a woman patient. He then proceeded o ask her to please remove her pants but he meant glasses as its a similar word. משקפיים are glasses but he said מכנסיים ! Bless us Olim

  32. Contest entry;

    Sharing some life lessons learned while at Ben-Gurion airport on a recent Friday morning, on my way back to the US from a client engagement:

    1. Never show up at the airport more than 5 hours early, even if you have nowhere else to go in the middle of the night. Better to just stay parked at the beach, or find an Aroma Cafe that is open 24/7.

    2. Never show up to your flight without sleeping the night before, or the night before that. Security staff do not like people who can’t look them in the eyes because they are just too damn tired. Also, make sure to stay awake in the terminal. Do not fall asleep on your luggage cart. If you do fall asleep, don’t snore.

    3. Don’t correct the security staff when going through the initial pre-screening process; if they hear that you work in any sort of technological capacity, they will probably call you a “programmer”. At that point, you are a “programmer” until further notice, or at least until your flight enters international airspace.

    4. Never try to explain to the security staff in pre-screening (see #3 above) how business process consulting works by pointing out the inefficiencies in their pre-screening processes as an example, even politely. Bad idea; they will take your mokdan (pre-screened security clearance letter) away and you’ll never see it again. Ever.

    5. Don’t show up with 3 checked bags plus your carry-on, especially if it’s been only a six-week stay. Don’t even bother trying to explain why you have all that luggage, or why you are going home earlier than planned. (“What, you don’t like our country?”)

    6. Don’t tell the security staff that one of those suitcases was brought over to you by someone else back home in the USA (since you didn’t have the proper wardrobe) and that your significant other sent these additional clothes with friends who happened to be travelling to Israel the very next week. They will a) think you are an idiot for not knowing how to dress yourself, and b) call you a “bad” programmer.

    7. Don’t bother trying to explain why your client, an international organization known for using their own members as volunteer staff, would bring in a team of consultants (excuse me, PROGRAMMERS) especially since it’s a well known fact that everyone living in Israel knows with total certainty what is the best course of action for everyone else (except themselves).

    8. Definitely don’t tell them to hurry up because you won’t have enough time in the duty-free shop to buy items like peanut-butter M&Ms that you can’t find anywhere else in Israel except for in the Ben-Gurion duty-free shop (which, btw, you’ll be bringing back to Israel for your family when you return next month on vacation)

    9. Breathe. Deeply. Practice סובלנות (loosely translated as “Patience, Grasshopper”)

    10. Anxiously await the next opportunity to come “back home” to Israel and work with a great project team.

  33. This one time I was with my family in NY, we took a cab from Brooklyn to manhattan, when we got on the cab we noticed the driver had an attitude, we went on and on talking next to his back in Hebrew like we always do, ratting on him. When he dropped us after an hour ride, we pay him and he says “Toda!” in Hebrew! The Israeli driver messed with us!

    Desert Storm, February 1991: we flew a C-9A Nightingale medevac mission from Germany to Tel Aviv. A US Army Patriot battery had blown a SCUD out of the sky and the debris fell on the battery. We flew in and picked up the casualties.

    When we left Germany, we didn’t know the tactical situation at Ben Gurion Airport, so we were in full aircrew chemical warfare gear, including suits and masks when we got out of the plane at Ben Gurion. It was about 11:00 PM local time. What makes this funny is an El Al representative met us in a golf cart wearing shorts and a polo shirt. WE were definitely overdressed for this party. He told us that the casualties wouldn’t be there for an hour and invited us to go shopping in the terminal. So there we were: a US aircrew in full chemical warfare gear (minus masks) combat shopping for souvenirs while the missile warning sirens were going off and we waiting for our patients to take back to Germany. El Al also provided Kosher box lunches for us. That was my first time in Israel.

  35. Contest Entry
    Our tour group was so excited when we first got to Israel. Our first stop was a falafel stand. We were so confused and flustered while ordering. We were blown away by how expensive it was. (I don’t member the cost) A month later, we were about ready to fly back home when we went to this same falafel stand again. We felt very comfortable ordering and knew exactly what we wanted and how to say it. The look of surprise on our faces was priceless when the the exact same falafel was so much cheaper! We later asked one of our Israeli Counselors why this was. His reply was that the first time we went there stand owner knew we were obviously tourists by our expressions, knew we couldn’t read how much it costed, also knew we weren’t good at the dollar to sheckle conversion so he decided to raise the price. When we came back we were more comfortable and a lot less touristy like so he gave us the actual price on the board. wow.

  36. When I first made aliyah and was learning Hebrew, it was summer and every week I would go with my Israeli boyfriend to his family’s house for dinner. Instead of saying ‘Cham li,’ I would say ‘Ani Chamah’ meaning; “I’m horny” and they never corrected me for months! so for at least the first 2 months i walked around his family telling them how horny I was! Embarrassing!!

  37. Contest Entry
    When we first moved here my son was at his first day of Gan, and he only spoke English and even though the Gannet knew that and spoke to him in English the assistant did not, and told him at one point “Die” Enough in Hebrew) only my son only understanding English thought she wanted him to Die (in English) and started crying so hard the Gannet called me and I had to walk to the Gan and bring him home and he said to me why did the helper want me to die I am a good boy, I don’t want to die!! So my husband who is Israeli explained to him that the assistant wanted him to be quiet and stop bothering her. He went back to Gan the next day but we had to reassure him and so did the Gannet .

  38. I have a few stories but I will start with the funniest / scariest one . I currently serve as a lone soldier in the combat engineering corps , one of our primary things we work with is explosives . We were in the field for our first time detonating high explosives , we were putting the explosives together the explosives and what I did not realise is the everyone else pulled their detonators and started running and I didnt understand them when they said “detonated , run ” then it clicked to me that they were running away and shouting my name and other hebrew words I did not understand ( bearing in mind the explosives have a 45 second fuse , i got up and started sprinting , now the place we were working was the side of a mountain and very rocky so when I got to the safety area I jumped to the ground , cut myself badly and fell right at the feet of my officer who proceeded to shout at me whilst trying so hard to hold back his laughter . Number two funny story was that one day I had a doctors appointment in rishon letziyon and because my base is so far away I got let out the day before , my officer took me aside and told me when to be back on base – his words were to come back yom shlishi and the appointment was on monday so I left on the sunday , where I screwed up was I forgot yom shilshi ( third day ) was tuesday and not wednesday like it is in my home country – so I returned one day late and got severely penalised for going AWOL and I have been laughed at ever since as the only soldier to ever go AWOL by mistake 🙂 fun times hehe

  39. CONTEST ENTRY: my first week after making Aliyah I went to the mall with a friend of mine. I was wearing bright red lipstick (not my usual daily color choice) and the security guard at the mall looked at me and said “neshek”. I looked back at him and he said it Again. He said it three times then my friend looked at me and said, “Chanah, he wants to know if you have a gun..” “OHH! No!” I said. I turned to my friend, “I thought he wanted a kiss!” Oops…

  40. Contest entry:
    A week after making Aliyah, I went to the mall with a friend of mine. On this particular day I was wearing bright red lipstick, (not my typical daily color choice). The security guard looked at me and said, “neshek?” I looked back at him a back taken aback. He said it again, and once more with me just looking back at him. My friend turned to me and said, “he wants to know if you have a gun..” “OH,” I replied…”no!” We entered the mall and I trend to my friend, “I thought he wanted a kiss…(neshika)” Oops 🙂

  41. You want it, you got it! March 1974 I was with my group in Jerusalem after a seminar and we had a major Purim snow storm. the only way out of Jerusalem was by train. We get to the station and find a long line to an already filled train, pushing and shoving and being shoved we are getting on to the train. I get stuck between two doors and can’t move right or left. the little old lady behind me has no interest in waiting so she starts beating me with her umbrella.
    After getting on the train we begin moving, 6 people in each bathroom 10s of people between the cars and multiple people sitting and standing on one another on the seats, no discounts for anyone. The train arrives in Ramla and we are told that one of the cars is off track and every one has to get into the remaining cars. when i got to the army I had no problem understanding the concept that nothing is impossible.

    • It reminds me of how the children of Israel all miraculously fit into the tabernacle in the desert! I also think of it as I watch two Egged buses careening toward each other at full speed & somehow manage to fit past each other without knocking off any side mirrors on either bus – or on any parked cars!

  42. CONTEST ENTRY : Once on an extremely Israeli hot summers day, I texted my friend to say how HOT and sweaty I was. Instead of writing HOT which is חם (hum) I wrote חמה because I’m a girl, which apparently after everybody laughed at me means I’m horny! So embarrassed :/

  43. Well, we were walking through Jerusalem and there were cats…lots of cats….we had a guard with us….the cats were all over him…they followed him, they sat on him, they stole his food, they wouldn’t even let him go! We called Ziv the Cat Magnet….if a person could get that type of attention from people it would have to be illegal.

  44. CONTEST ENTRY…It was in 1996 and I knew just how naive I was when I bought honey in the shuk for 3 NIS and then a lady who lived near me told me to buy honey which was on sale in the grocery store for 15 NIS.
    Thinking that I was really smart,
    I told her that I had bought a bottle 4 times that size in the shuk for only 3 NIS and that she should go to the shuk to buy honey.
    Then she popped my balloon when she told me the truth about my honey, it was not honey. Only water with sugar and a few drops of honey to make it the right color.

  45. CONTEST ENTRY: I was on my way to one of my first interviews in Israel and a random old man started patting my butt at the bus stop. When I asked what he was doing in English, all I could understand was “cat” in my bad Hebrew. Turned out the nice man was trying to help me brush off the enormous amount of cat hair that could be found on the back of my slacks! Thanks to the man, I did brush it mostly off and land the job. I am very glad I read up on the cultural differences between Israelis and Americans before coming to Israel, otherwise the nice Israeli man would have had a black eye instead of a “Todah!”

  46. Israelis are famous as sabras – like the fruit, they are prickly on the outside, but sweet on the inside. So it really wasn’t a surprise that they were so considerate of the disabled: curb cuts to accommodate wheelchairs, (as well as grocery carts), audio alerts at busy intersections so blind pedestrians can judge when it is safe (?) to cross & Braille on almost every elevator button. My favorite example was how they wanted American drivers visiting the capital of Jerusalem to know where enter the main highway to the North. I was convinced of this for about one year, before I realized that the sign I thought said “begin North” was actually “Begin North” as in the highway named for the former prime minister – Menachem Begin!

    Shortly after making aliyah, with little conversation and less vocabulary mastered, I embarked to a jewelry store to inquire about buying a gift for my wife’s upcoming birthday. I approached the counter. A young saleslady asked me in flawless Ivrit, “May I help you”?. I replied, “I want to buy my wife jewelry (tachshitim) for a gift” However, I did not say tachshitim. I said “tachtonim”. Needless to say, I received a few chuckles from the patrons and staff.

  48. I hadn’t been on the kibbutz more than a few weeks. I’d arrived late because in my typical fashion, I simply showed up at the kibbutz volunteer office in Tel Aviv unannounced and asked to be placed on a kibbutz ulpan (ool-pahn) –the office slotted me into a level two class that had begun a week prior at an ulpan on a kibbutz in the Negev desert.
    After a couple of weeks I was starting to get it. I understood some words. I was starting to comprehend what people meant even if I didn’t understand exactly what they said.
    One afternoon after class, the kibbutz work manager approached me and asked me to report very early the next morning to the small machine shop on the kibbutz. On the advice of a friend, I’d volunteered to scrub pots and pans when I first arrived in an effort to ingratiate myself with kibbutz members. A break from the pots for a day was a welcome diversion.
    So the next morning I found my way in the dark of the pre-dawn desert to the machine shop. There waiting was a large, muscle-bound man with a full head of graying hair and a bushy mustache to match. Think Mr. Clean with gray hair and mustache in work clothes. He welcomed me, poured me a cup of coffee, and began explaining the work for the day.
    I didn’t understand a word he said. Perhaps the earlier than normal hour had my brain foggy. It felt a bit strange. I’d been doing so well, starting to understand people when they spoke to me, yet here I was, like a deaf man in complete darkness, suddenly and utterly clueless. I kept nodding as if I understood, though. I didn’t want to mess this up and I didn’t want to incur the wrath of this large Israeli. He exited the shack and I followed. He jumped onto a small tractor with a short wooden trailer attached. I hopped into the trailer and off we went. I was doing well so far.
    After a few minutes, we drove through the gates of what appeared to be a zoo. Yes, the kibbutz had a small zoo as part of its education program and for the benefit of the member families. I envisioned cleaning manure from cages and pens for the next four hours, reasoning that I’d won this honor because I was the only idiot who volunteered for pots and pans, the other crummiest job on the kibbutz. We drove to the far side of the zoo and backed up to a pen – a pig pen – and in the pig pen was a big pig.
    I’d never been sure whether or not keeping a live pig was a problem, but then again, I’d never had occasion to consider it.
    The large Israeli grabbed a big piece of plywood from the trailer and leaned it against the back to form a ramp and with an unexpected series of whistles, pucker-sounds, yips, and mouth raspberries, herded the pig up the ramp and into the trailer with me. A pig whisperer! Off we went.
    This trip was longer. We drove out into the desert behind the kibbutz. It was still dark outside. I didn’t even know if we were still on the kibbutz. After what seemed like 30 minutes, the pig quietly grunting and resting comfortably the whole way, we stopped at what first looked like old ruins. A closer look revealed a scrap wood and baling-wire makeshift pen. In the middle of the flat, windy, dark desert. Nothing else to be seen. Out came the plywood, the pig whispering, and the pig, wobbling down the ramp. And the pig took off running. Fast. Faster than you’d expect a big pig to run. Had the pig been here before? We spent the next half hour chasing the pig, whispering and all, trying to corral him – or her – into some imaginary corner in the expanse of the desert where no corners existed. Finally, we managed to grab onto the pig’s neck and push, pull, and cajole it into the makeshift pen.
    The large Israeli spoke to me again. I was in trouble. I didn’t understand a word and I knew this was important. I interrupted him finally with the one thing I definitely knew how to say in Hebrew: “I don’t understand.” He looked confused and spoke again. I still didn’t understand. Then he clearly didn’t understand why I didn’t understand. He stared at me, then seemed to figure it out. He asked me in Hebrew if I spoke English. I nodded. Seems he thought I was Portuguese so he was speaking to me in Portuguese. He then explained, in English, that I was to stay with the pig until he returned. Was this the kibbutz version of a snipe hunt? He continued.
    It seemed the kibbutz was to be inspected that day by the state Ministry of Education to determine whether or not the ministry would approve budget funding for the elementary school; the zoo was officially part of the education program on the kibbutz. The person coming to inspect was “dah-ti” – religious – and so the pig had to be hidden or the minister would surely deny the funding.
    Here I was in the Negev desert in Israel, on an idealistic and roots-searching journey to discover my land, my people, and myself. I was following in the footsteps of the pioneers of Israel, in the wake of the builders and shapers of the Jewish homeland. I’d traveled halfway around the world to a strange, exciting, and dangerous land – to hide a pig from the government.

  49. Contest entry:
    A couple of years ago, while studying at Bar Ilan U, I made friends with one of my neighbors in the dorm, an awesome Ethiopian girl named Mukat, who happens to be blind. On Yom Yerushalayim, Mukat told me that she’s always wanted to travel to Har Hertzel for the ceremony that memorializes the Ethiopian Jews who tragically died on their way to Israel. It sounded like a real experience, so I offered to go with her.
    After some traffic, we finally made it to Har Hertzl but we were too late – there simply wasn’t room left in the tent where the ceremony was taking place. However, when people saw us, they let us cut them in line. Then special security men escorted us to the front of the tent and military officials gave us their seats. The whole time I was whispering in Mukat’s ear in my broken Hebrew, trying to update her on what was happening. The whole situation was hysterical, until we paid attention to the actual ceremony. The speakers told tragic stories of their aliyah, how young siblings died from thirst as they were smuggled through the desert. The audience was filled with Ethiopian olim crying. As an olah chadasha from America, this experience very much taught me a lesson.
    However, the mood changed at the end of the ceremony…the audience was told to stand in place to wait for the Prime Minister to exit. A procession of secret service passed by our row – and then Netanyahu himself appeared! He started giving out handshakes to the military personnel on my left – I said in Mukat’s ear – “ha-Prime Minister ba! Ha-Prime Minister ba!” I forgot the word for Prime Minister in Hebrew. Mukat didn’t understand what I was saying. We experienced a moment of chaos. When Netanyahu motioned to shake my hand, my reflexes were frozen. Instead, he patted me on the arm. Then he tried to shake Mukat’s hand – but she was also in shock, so he managed to take her fingers for a shake.
    Quite the memorable day…in Israel anything is possible.

  50. Contest Entry
    I was leaning over a waist-high stone wall looking down at an historical archaeological site in Jerusalem when I knocked my Israel on $20 a Day guidebook off the wall and into the pit. Shocked and worried that I was defacing history, I looked around self consciously with hopes of figuring out what to do. The only person I saw was an Orthodox Jew hurrying down the walkway with his eyes averted to the ground. I ran over to him, flailing my arms to get his attention. My Hebrew vocabulary of six words and a phrase or two unhelpful, I pointed first at myself and then over toward the guidebook down in the pit. He ran away from me to the street, pulled a ladder away from a telephone pole, and started dragging it to me. A loud screeching noise that only comes from dragging a metal ladder on asphalt filled the air. Truck doors opened and telephone workers started climbing out and running toward me, all the while yelling at the religious man and gesturing what I suspect loosely translated to a significantly strong version of ‘give back my ladder now’. But by then the bearded man with the yarmulke, baggy black clothes and pais had reached the wall. He hurled the ladder up and over until it unceremoniously hit ground. The religious man inched over the wall, located the ladder with his feet, and stepped down into the archaeological dig. He walked straight ahead stepping firmly on unearthed ancient structures and retrieved Israel on $20 a Day. Soon back up the ladder he went, the whole time being yelled and gestured at by angry telephone workers. The Orthodox Jew handed me my book, dragged the screeching ladder back to the telephone pole, and yelled something just as loud at the workers. He returned to the stone wall and held up his hands refusing my thank you handshake. With a slight nod and no smile he turned and walked quickly away. Facing away from the archaeological dig and toward the religious man scurrying away, my shouts of ‘todah rabah’ competed with the loud sounds of still yelling telephone repairmen.


    In 2012, I went to Israel on a mission trip with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. This trip was AMAZING! We were able to do so much within a 10 day time span. While we were there, there were two incidents where I just couldn’t help but laugh. The first one, was while were driving in a tour from Karmiel to Jerusalem. Our driver took the route going through the Gaza Strip. It was a very hot day, and our tour bus had been driving for a little while. When we were in the middle of the Gaza Strip, with nothing around us, except a gas station, our bus broke down. At first, everyone was pretty stressed out, since it was about 100 degrees, and we were tourist in Arabic territory. Luckily for us, another tour bus that was associated with our mission trip was not too far behind us, so we got a ride with them. The second event to happen was also in that same day. We finally made it to Jerusalem, and our tour bus had to park in a tiny alley, that was packed with cars. We were getting on the tour bus to go to an event with the Mayor. As our tour bus driver began to drive the bus, we quickly realized that we were stuck in the alley, because of one specific parked car. Since we needed to get out of the alley, and so did the buses behind us, our Israeli bus driver and tour guide, as well the many passerby’s who saw our predicament thought it would be a good idea to physically pick up the parked car and lift it onto the curb, so that we may move our bus through. There were probably 12 men, both passerby’s and individuals on our trip, literally picked up the car and moved it out of the way. Then everyone cheered, since we were in such disbelief that this had just happened! It was hilarious! These events definitely made my trip to Israel one of the most memorable experiences in my life! I can’t wait to go back!

  52. Contest Entry
    When our Birthright group went to Tel Aviv and walked through the the square surrounded by shops, the distinctive name tags gave us away. All the owners proceeded to come out of their shops and yell ‘Taglit Special’; which turned out to be the same deal they were already giving. From then on out most of the group would ask every store they went to if there was a ‘Taglit Special.’ The song ‘Thrift Shop’ also recently came out and was declared the groups theme song for the entire trip. Some people would also indicate to shop owners that they wanted to pop tags, but only had 20 shekels in their pocket.

  53. Contest Entry

    I made Aliyah nearly 5 years ago, and in that time, have had amusing; sad; hysterical; crazy; overwhelming; bad and amazing experiences. On a scale, there are much more fun; happy and positive stories.

    One Thursday afternoon, I took a bus from Netanya to Jerusalem. Being Erev Shabbat, there were hordes of people, locals and visitors, trying their hand at bargaining at the Shuk.

    I needed a supply of spices, and headed for the largest spice outlet. After selecting my 15 packets, with wonderful aromas surrounding me, I asked the Ba’al Habayit, most nonchalantly for חינם. He asked me to repeat what I said, and again asked for חינם.

    His face changed from a parva white, to a sudden sun burn red, and a shout that emanated that probably hit the Kotel and bounced back into the Shuk. He told me to leave his store. People stared, and I wanted the old stone floor, to open and swallow me up. What did I say that provoked such?

    I dashed out, called my friend, and related what just transpired. She laughed until I heard her choking, and after 10 minutes returned my call.

    Next time you want to ask for a DISCOUNT, rather use the correct word, הנחה, she said!

    I strode back to the store with a huge smile on my face, and immediately screeched the word הנחה. A sudden facial change broke on the owners face, gave me a chilled cold drink, and befriended me until today …..

    I just love these people …..

  54. Contest Entry
    I applied to a program after college graduation in 1998. The program was to work in an Israeli day camp as a counselor and work with kids on English skills. Funny…because 95% of the kids already spoke English. I was in a small town Kirat Milachi. I had asked to stay in a vegetarian home and that would have family members that speak English. I remember getting of the bus and the oldest boy, Roy was the only one who spoke English. It was the night of his High School graduation. He took me back to their apartment where the rest of his family(mom,dad,and two brothers) were waiting to meet me. I wanted to take a shower before heading off to Roy’s Graduation, there was only one bathroom. So I closed the door to the bedroom and then to the bathroom. I took my shower and stepped out of the bathroom with just my towel on. I looked up and Roy’s entire family was standing there smiling from ear to ear as they greeted me. Not exactly the way I wanted to meet them. But ok then! After Roy’s graduation Roy left for two weeks on a trip. Leaving me in a house where no one spoke English and I didn’t speak a lick of Hebrew. Oh and I am pretty sure I ate a ton of lamb.


    I understand you . . . .

    You were born with a strength no one can deny,
    I’ve only seen you laugh, never seen you cry.
    Is this laugh fictional, or could it be for real,
    No one understands, because they don’t know how you feel.

    I understand you, as I know your history,
    Living with external conflicts, and internal misery.
    As you matured, you learnt to fight,
    For the future, this would be your plight.
    Mental and physical traumas have toughened you more,
    I understand you, as I’ve evaluated the core.

    You were enlisted into the Army at an early age,
    Trying to exist, on a mere, minimal wage!
    You’re grown up now, and your laugh has dwindled,
    Yet the flame within you still remains kindled.
    I understand why you speak with slight bitterness,
    Yet with your talents, you continue to impress.

    They call you a Sabra, which is likened to a tenacious prickly pear,
    Tough with thorns on the outside, but a heart – huge; delicate and rare.
    That laugh I loved, slowly dissipates into a smile,
    As you talk about a friend vindicated, after standing trial.

    While taking a stroll down memory lane,
    The first tear sprang forth, yet you were not in pain.
    Such a deep love you have for this historic land,
    Where your hand-reared orchards, stand so grand.
    I understand, and am honoured to be part of this ‘family’,
    I’m proud to be talking about YOU . . . . . my fellow, ISRAELI.


  56. Contest entry

    Before i made aliyah i came to Israel to check the place out.
    I have no family here and didnt know anyone.
    At the Airport, when i left the plane, an attendant came up to me and asked “why did you came to Israel and who do you know here?”..
    I told them “i dont know anyone here.”
    So they asked again, “why did i come here then?”.
    I said ” because i’m Jewish”
    They answered, “that isnt a good enough reason”.

    I laughed so loud when they sad that, they must of thought i was nuts and took me away to a room for more questioning.,…in the end after 15 more minutes, they let me go on my merry way,

  57. Contest Entry
    When i was 10 or 11 (so 1997), I went on a tour of holy sites with my mother and uncle. It was organized by my grandparents’ synagogue in Bat Yam.
    At David’s Tomb, I was playing with my Gameboy a few feet away from my uncle and mom. A few guards approached me to investigate, possibly thinking I had some sort of a weapon or detonator, though they didn’t explicitly say. They confiscated it and realized it was just a Gameboy. They then began playing with it. After a few minutes, I started yelling at them that I wanted it back, and they kept insisting they will return it when they finished their turn. I started watching them play and saw when they got a Game Over after a few more minutes. One of them started a new game, at which point I grabbed it and said no. My mom and uncle then noticed the commotion since we all started yelling at each other, and they immediately grabbed me and apologized to the guards. Much to my chagrin, they offered to let them continue playing with it and told me to be considerate, but they declined and joked about my betzim to stand up to them.

  58. Contest Entry:

    I’m 5 feet tall and don’t weigh enough to donate blood. Got an image?
    Now picture me walking 1.6 kilometers in the blistering sun holding grocery bags filled with 2 bottles of milk, one bottle of oil, 2 boxes of Pillsbury brownie mix, a case of a lightbulbs and an enormous package of paper towels.
    Oh, I also have my laptop so throw in another 6 pounds.
    I’m in the midst of telling myself I’m stupid and that this tiyul was not worth the 30 NIS I saved by trekking to the farther supermarket, when a car pulls up along the sidewalk I’m hobbling down.
    The window rolls open and a girl calls out, “Slicha, at rotzah ezrah?”
    By the time I complete the translation to English, she’s already opening the door, climbing into the backseat and beckoning me into the car.
    I feel rude, because I recognize neither her nor the driver.
    Then I realize they’re both total strangers.
    After my two or three protests are met with insistence that I let them drive me home, I dump my purchases into the car and sink gratefully into the front seat.
    I know what you’re thinking. Where are these creeps going to stash my body after emptying my wallet?
    But I’ll just tell you what the driver told me when I expressed my surprise at his kindness.
    “This is Israel!”
    And he’s right. It is Israel.
    It’s where kids ask you to help them cross the street because they know you’ll get them safely to the other side.
    It’s where 7 people jump to help a mother haul her stroller onto the bus.
    It’s where you can call a couple you’ve never met, ask them to host you for shabbat and know that your request has them nothing short of delighted.
    This is Israel, where, when I get out of this stranger’s car, fully in tact, with my 42 pounds of groceries and ask desperately how I can repay him for his generosity, he responds, “Do something nice for somebody,” and drives out of my life.

  59. Contest Entry – Saving a robbed Seminary- Only in Israel.
    So here I was, one week and my first time in the land of Israel. I went to my first levaya..and what next? I help some people in a dark van around midnight rob our Seminary. I see some young man carrying out a computer with a mouse dangling and being dragged on the outside ground concrete floor. So what did I do? Offer to help him to carry it to his vehicle. I walk closer to the seminary and all the fax machines, computers, electronic equipment are all piled up getting ready for new equipment? No, the seminary in Israel was being robbed and I was helping them! Oh no, I immediately went back inside and no one was around, not any other seminary ladies. I called the Rosh Yeshiva of another Yeshiva for assistance and guidance. The Rosh Yeshiva z”tl finally arrived and called the police.

    Yes, this was my first week being away in a foreign land, not knowing the language. I attended my first levaya ever and almost helped rob our seminary.

    Thank God for me coming home so late at night from the Kotel, I actually saved the Yeshiva money and the top computer with all the data files from being robbed. Only one computer was stolen.

    Boy, if I can only tell my Mother what I achieved my first week being away in Israel.

  60. I hope I win..there is more to tell. Next step was my first visit to a police station in Israel to identify the van and the robbers.

  61. contest entry
    what can i say, as soon as i set foot on this land everything was crazy, funny, bizarre and outrageous. i came here by mistake actually. well i was in greece and decided that i had time to explore the language of the hebrew man and work on the kibbutz at the same time. one thing i could not find and that was my dedicated diet coke which was my drink of all drinks and this country did not have it. omg i was flabbergasted, destroyed, overcome and sad. what type of country had i just landed in that did not have a diet coke, no malls, shouting people, buses with no windows and that i could put my feet up on the seat and blow my europa cigaratte smoke out of the broken window. where the hell was I? i had chosen europa over nobless and over royal cos it was a “light” smoke but it was gashtly anyway. my move to the kibbutz in the north was crazy and i moved into the ulpan and started meeting people from all over the world. ulpan class was a riot we had a teacher that kicked us out if we arrived late, or if we spoke or laughed or breathed omg where was i in some sort of jail?. meeting the kibbutzniks was another story altogether. lol. calling them by their first names was like me landing on mars or being queen elisabeth it was so bizarre and weird. little people, big people, fuzzy eyebrow people entered into my life speaking this crazy shouting language which i could not understand but with their little english and my little hebrew we somehow communicated. one of our trips in the ulpan was to the sinai with this old nearly broken down bus, people with rifles guarding us, sleeping in tents in the middle of winter that my teeth spoke to each other. where was i and what was i doing. but the spirit was good and the company was great and getting away from learning in class and working was even better. it is now 36 years later and i am still on the same kibbutz hahha. and now i need the money to win this contest. hope you liked my little story 🙂

  62. CONTEST ENTRY: This should be a story with no surprise to anyone who has encountered another Jew – it’s a story of Jewish Geography at its best.

    I discovered a whole new branch of my family when I made aliyah. I had moved in with some friends while I looked for an apartment of my own, and when I found one, I hired an Anglo taxi driver to transport me and my bags. We got to talking, and he knew my rabbi from back home – they were from the same city.

    “Oh, yeah?” I said, “I also have cousins from there. Do you know the R_______ family?” We had never actually spoken to them, we only knew they existed because of the family tree. A long shot, but how could I resist?

    “Know them? Of course I know them!” He replied. “They’re my next passengers!”

    I laughed at the coincidence, and thought no more of it. Evidently, the driver didn’t do the same, because a few days later I received an unsolicited call from Mr. R______, inviting me to meet his daughters and stay in touch. It all snowballed from there. I discovered cousins scattered across the country, from Dimona to Jerusalem to Ramat Beit Shemesh to Givat Shmuel, and made connections with family members we had thought lost for decades. Over the past two years I’ve had occasion to take part in celebrations in many places I’d never have seen otherwise, and strengthened the bonds of family in between.

    And all because of the taxi driver!

  63. CONTEST ENTRY: The most amazing sight I have ever seen in Israel, is not one of the historical places. It was a 20 year old soldier who I met at Hadassah Hospital. Months earlier he was severely injured by a combination of terrorist bullets and bombs. His injuries were so severe, that he was declared DOA at Hadassah. But the doctors refused to give up, and somehow put his entire midsection back together. Incredible.

  64. CONTEST ENTRY: And here’s a heart warmer that tells a lot about us: A few years ago I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Mea Shearim. On my way back to my hotel, I saw one of the men I served walking ahead of me. At the same time, I notived a beggar sitting on the sidewalk a little farther down the road. Then, the man I served stopped, took a single shekel out of his pocket, and handed it to him.

    I made Aliyah in 1980. While studying in Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem, I went downtown one day to do some shopping. It was so hot out, so I decided to get a drink. Trying to practice my Hebrew, I went to the kiosk and ordered “mitz ananim.” Everyone there cracked up and I couldn’t understand why, until the guy behind the counter explained that I ordered “cloud juice” instead of grape juice, mitz anavim. It was the first of many times I learned to laugh at myself!

    I spent the summer of 1971 in Israel with a group from B’nai Brith Youth. We traveled throughout the country touring and performing. One day when we had a day to go off on our own, a friend and I decided to hitch hike to a near by town – everyone did it and it was safe, even for 2 17 year old young women. Imagine our surprise when we were picked up by a tank coming down the road! We got on, the Israeli soldiers gave us a tour and made it to our destination!!

    While visiting Israel with my mother, we signed up for a day-tour from our hotel. Once on the bus we began to exchange information… “What is your name? Where are you from?” etc. After giving my name and telling this woman where I was from (Buffalo Grove, Illinois) she says to me “Do you have a daughter named Stacey?” OMG! It turned out that she used to be my daughter’s youth group director at a local shul. Only smack in the middle of Israel would it be possible to run into a stranger who ended up somehow being connected to me! It certainly is a small Jewish world 🙂


    I had driven past Beit HaOleh several times. Finally, last week, we decided to stop in and get some information.

    The woman at the desk told us that we needed to meet with Sonia. Unfortunately, Sonia was not in. We asked this woman for a brochure with information about the activities offered for the children. She told us that we needed to meet with Sonia. Sonia would be in on Sunday.

    Sunday morning, Ester called Beit HaOleh. Sure enough, Sonia was in and took the call. Ester asked Sonia if she could fax or e-mail the information. Sonia told her that she needed to meet with her in person. No information shall be transmitted via fax or e-mail.

    So today, a visit to Beit HaOleh preempted a visit to Misrad Hapnim and the bank. After all, we needed to meet with Sonia.

    I expected to find Sonia situated behind a two-way mirror or similar contraption in order to conceal her true identity. But instead, Sonia was at the desk in her office. We didn’t even have to go through any security clearance to enter her office.

    Sonia told us the information. We were allowed to take notes, but no printed material would be distributed under any circumstances. This was Sonia’s information, and it was going to stay that way.

    It would seem to be more efficient to have a brochure available for people. What if Sonia can’t make it into work one day? What if Sonia goes on vacation? Sonia cannot go on vacation.

    We opted to sign up one of our girls for ballet. The first class was today. So, a bit later in the afternoon, we returned to Beit HaOleh. She had a great time and is really looking forward to her next class. Thank goodness for Sonia.

  69. CONTEST ENTRY: The Umbrella That Proved It Was All Worth It

    Having to schlep from Givat Shmuel all the way to the American Embassy to renew my soon to be expired passport sounded unpleasant in every sense of the term, but I sucked it up and was on my way. I had to take three buses in the pouring rain, and deal with angry Israeli bus drivers who had no patience for my many questions asking for directions. Another factor that contributed to the frustration of this day was that the American Embassy was only opened from 8-11am. You would think an American institution would make its hours a bit more flexible, but nope, they’ve unfortunately embraced the Israeli bureaucratic system. Now, with the transportation itself taking over two hours that meant I had to wake up pretty early if I wanted to make this work, and I’m very much so not a morning person. As I always say, “good morning is an oxymoron.” Once I finally made it to the embassy the time was 10:35. I thought, “Yes! 25 minutes to spare. That’s plenty of time!” I approached the guard, told him why I was there, went through security, and was inside. There were many charadim in line in front of me, so that was a bit nerve wracking considering that it was 10:47 at this point. Finally, my number was called and I told the teller that I needed to renew my passport. He asked for a passport picture, which I gladly handed him along with the rest of my paperwork. He said it’s not the right size and to go across the street to take a new one. With 8 minutes to spare I ran out of the building, across the street, took the ugliest picture I’ve ever seen of myself, and ran back. Security stopped me this time, claiming that the office was closing. I assured them that they weren’t and that I had a few minutes before the dreaded 11am struck. They let me through, and I got back to the window I was previously at. The man seemed annoyed that I made it back on time and that he couldn’t go home yet. “Come on man,” I thought, “you work for three hours a day, four days a week. What’s another ten minutes?!” Finally, my info was processed, all was paid for, and the passport was to be shipped and received within 8 business day (still haven’t gotten it, but that’s besides the point).
    My next destination was the office where one purchases a gas mask, which was on the other side of TLV. My overly paranoid mother had been nagging me to buy this life preserver for over two months, and I had had enough of her semi-justified badgering. I looked up the address on Moovit, and found that getting to this office involved another two buses and lots of walking. After waiting for 20 minutes in the rain, the correct line came and I hopped on. A few minutes passed before I realized I was going in the wrong direction. I got off, trying to maintain a positive attitude, and found the right bus stop. Luckily, the wait there was only 5 minutes. I got on, transferred, and found my way to the gas mask building. When I got to their office, where an old man holding a motorcycle helmet blocked the door. He asked me what I wanted. I told him I needed to buy a gas mask. He said that this wasn’t the place and there’s no where to buy one. I told him to please let me in and to stop giving me false information. He finally got out of my way, and I walked in. The secretary greeted me with a warm smile and asked what she could help me with. I told her, and she said they do sell them. Upon handing me the box, her smile turned into a confused pitiful expression. She asked where I was from, if I live here now, and if I knew what the product I was asking for symbolized. I responded with a proud, “Los Angeles, yes, I do live here, and I do understand.” She asked me why I would move here. She said, “all the Israelis want to escape this place, and you come here? Why would you move to a place where you need a gas mask?” I was taken aback by her questions, mainly because of how blunt they were, but also because her job was to sell this item. I just said, “I believe very strongly in the Jewish people building up this country, and that it is where we’re meant to be. I feel at home here. I guess the grass is greener on the other side.” She looked at me with an expression that read, “Oh, you poor stupid American. You don’t know what you have gotten yourself into. Go back.” I couldn’t bare her lack of understanding and the discomfort stirring in my gut. I handed her the 400 shekel, took my gas mask, thanked her, and walked out. In the elevator I started crying because her remarks hit a sensitive spot in me. Even though I have heard from just about about everyone how hard financially it is to live in Israel, how ill mannered the people here are, and plenty of other disadvantages that come along with the move, none of them ever affected me the way this woman’s comments had. The issue was no longer regarding money, the smell of body odor on bus rides, or having to hear constant honking while on the road. Rather, she made the issue one of life or death, and it was the first time I felt the negativity take a toll on me. It’s not that I had never thought of war, terror attacks, or the likelihood of being killed by our surrounding enemies. I had just never experienced such a blunt questioning as to why I want to be here. I understand the danger, I read the news, I know people affected by terrorism. These thoughts did not go away, thus paranoia and regret began to set in.
    Once I got outside and was finally on my way to my Saba’s apartment off of Dizengoff, it started pouring down so hard that it felt like an ocean had dumped itself on me. As I was walking, semi-crying, and trying to find directions off of Google Maps while my phone was getting soaked, a smiling young woman stopped me and asked if I wanted to walk under her umbrella with her to where I needed to go. After a day that really made me begin questioning why I moved here, this angel with an umbrella reminded me that although Israelis might be difficult to deal with, at the end of your awful day, they do care. Based on my experience in Los Angeles and New York, people do not stop to help out a soaking wet and miserable stranger, rather they do everything in their power to avoid contact with struggling individuals. This woman’s small, yet great, act of kindness gave me sudden reassurance and reminded me of what had slipped my mind throughout the earlier parts of my day.
    I find that mercy and sympathy are of greater value than manners. Israelis have proven time and again that they posses such characteristics, even if they lack the latter. Further, among the many reasons why I came to Israel, one was because I felt like there were people here working to build up a country that ultimately benefits the entire Jewish people. I found no justification in sitting back and reaping the benefits of someone else’s blood, sweat, and tears. So, to the woman who asked why I left my comfortable life in America, there’s your answer, and trust me, only in Israel will you find people who will offer you their umbrella during a storm.

    This is a conversation I had at a local supermarket –

    Cashier: why are you buying these eggs? They’re double the price and you only get half the amount.
    Me: because they’re organic.
    Cashier: what does that mean? No, go get normal eggs and stop being a friar.
    Me: mmm okay..?
    Cashier: yofi, slowly slowly you’ll learn.

    I did not buy eggs that day.

  71. CONTEST ENTRY: “only in Israel does a whole search party try to find you to give back your wallet you thought you lost as well as return you bank hapoalim debit card to the bank so that they can give it back to you”. We just made Aliyah August 2013 and only a few weeks in I was learning the ropes on shopping Friday morning for Shabbat. It’s very chaotic and i still wasn’t used to all the grabbing and pushing and trying to figure out what the guys were saying on how much to pay. I was going from store to store and when I got home and putting things away I didn’t see my wallet but I figured it had to be in a bag somewhere, my husband came home from work (yes he works Fridays) and wanted to check the wallet for something. He couldn’t find it. Panicked began to set in as it was right before Shabbat and I couldn’t remember all the places I’ve been. Just as my husband was walking out the door to try to retrace my steps the police was walking up the stairs to our apt to return the wallet. Apparently I had left it at the bakery and she tried to figure out how to contact me when she realized she couldn’t she called the police who really did a search and found us. The very same week I had left my brand new bank Hapoalim debit card at a counter and a fellow customer took it to a branch of Hapoalim to hold it for me.
    Only in Israel.

  72. “CONTEST ENTRY:” Aliyah short stories “Only in Israel”

    Moped Madness
    When my Israeli friend offered me a ride with him on his small moped I thought “this should be fun. I get on the back…mind you no helmet. God forbid anyone would wear one. We start weaving in and out of cars and going on sidewalls. I was praying to God for my life. When I finally made it to my destination, I promised myself I will NEVER ride on a moped. I also promised myself never to drive unless I have a death wish. You think New York or LA is bad…. Oh no. Try driving Tel Aviv. Get ready to be super aggressive and completely freaked out.
    The art of the argument at the shook
    You are not a true Israeli until you bargain when going to the shook. It doesn’t matter if it is a food, clothing or a taxi ride. When they tell you ten sheckles, you better start insisting for 5. Get ready to yell and even wave your hands around. He will yell back and insist you are getting the best price! But do not let them convince you. You have to break them down and keep insisting on a better price. When you finally do get the price you argued for the past 5 minutes for…. You know now that you are truly now living as an Israeli.

    What line?
    In Israel, Israeli’s do not understand a concept waiting on line. Yes, you will be pushed. Oh and yes get ready to push back. I know once I pushed my way unto a bus. The bus driver was in a hurry to drive off as people are still boarding. What does he do? He closes the door on my hand. I screamed “Sh..t”! I never saw Israeli’s so quiet in my life. I get an apology (which is a miracle) from the driver. Moral of story, push your way to the front of the “line” and quick!
    Meet people anywhere
    One of my favorite parts about Israel and Israeli’s are that even if they come off as aggressive or rude, they are the most open and honest people you will meet. You can find friends waiting for a bus, or hanging out on a beach. The best part is when you meet people; they are excited to talk to you. Israelis will invite you to their house or to go out with them. The best thing is you know there are no hidden agendas. It is nice not to question the motives of a stranger in Israel.

    The best food on earth
    There is nothing like a good “pre-shake”. It is a yummy frozen drink with REAL fruit. Yes… REAL. You can’t find a more delicious cheese toast anywhere else. And the Israeli salad with tomatoes and cucumbers become the staple of your diet. The best part is when I would go get something and eat as I am walking. Every second someone says; “Labriout” which means to your health. Oh and let’s not forget to say be’te-avon before you eat (enjoy your meal).

    My favorite words in hebrew
    I love that when you ask someone how they feel they say, baruch Ha Shem (good thanks to God).
    Y’alla (hurry hurry)
    ma allasot (what can you do?)

  73. It was a few nights ago on New Year’s Eve. My plans to stay in Petah Tikva had fallen through at the last minute, so I was waiting to catch a taxi back to Netanya, the city that I currently live in. I was waiting on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv as I had just left the club I had been in. A taxi pulled up to me as I was waiting on the sidewalk and the guy in the passenger seat asked me where I was going. I told him I was going to the bus station and he told me to hop in. The guy made small talk with me–asking me where I was from, how old I was, etc. He then proceeded to tell me that I was “like a flower; [I] shouldn’t be alone” and asked if he could marry me. I just kept saying, “Lo, lo, lo!” The driver of the taxi kept saying how a “beautiful girl like [me]” shouldn’t be outside so late (2:00AM), so he dropped me off right next to the sherut instead of dropping me off at the corner. I appreciated the compliments and the hospitality!

  74. On my last trip to israel I was staying with a close friend whose parents had an apartment in Efrat. We were invited to children of beduoins who lived in tel-aviv that knew his brother from university. When I told my parents where I was going they told me not to go “you’ll get knifed”. Lo and behold, upon our arrival we were presented with a gift, an ornamental knife! My parents were right. We concluded the night drinking tea in an apartment only furnished with a couch, sitting on the floor.

  75. Contest entry: Last month I went to Israel with my parents to visit my brother who is doing a gap year. As we drove from the airport in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it started to snow. Then it started to snow harder until all the cars, trucks and buses were stuck on Route 1. We luckily were about 2 km from our cousins’ house outside Jerusalem. We weren’t allowed to abandon the car on the highway, so my dad stayed and my mom and I walked to the highway exit where my cousin and his dad met us with their 4 wheel drive. At 2 a.m., Israeli police decided to evacuate the highway and my dad tried walking to the cousins house. He got lost and thanks to a very nice law professor from Hebrew U who decided to answer the door at 3 a.m., my dad didn’t freeze to death. We were stranded at the cousins house for 3 days! Jerusalem does not know how to deal with snow…

  76. When I was on Livnot U’Lihibanot, we hiked alongside a fence on the Golan with a minefield warning posted on it.
    We had in our group a very nervous young man who kept commenting on how scary it was.
    I told him to “stick his fingers in his ears” and he stared at me quizzically as I picked up a rock and tossed it over the fence, where it clacked away.
    “Try again?” I said as I tossed another, and stuck my fingers in my ears and ducked a bit.
    He ducked as well and shouted at me to stop.
    I picked up a third rock and said “Three for three?”
    But he had run away, not wanting to play Minefield Roulette….

  77. I was having very hard time financially when I first found I had cancer. When the secretary at my health fund found out that I had malignant cancer, she gave me several thousand shekels that she had in a fund she had set up in the name of her daughter who was killed in a terrorist attack which she felt would help me and my family in an immediate way. And the money helped keep us going until my Bituach Leumi disability came through

  78. Contest Entry: I have only ever skipped class once in my life. I love class in the get up every morning at seven and trek through the snow way. But my once and only class skipping occurred in Israel, in Jerusalem to be exact, on Yom Yerushalim, or Jerusalem day. As the bus dropped me off close to the city center with some of my study abroad friends, we followed the crowds into some square filled with dancing women. Religious girls, whose skirts twirled as they pulled us into their circle while the Israeli equivalent of Justin Bieber sang on the stage. For hundreds of feet all I could see was women, women of all ages, sizes, religiosity dancing in the street, dressed in blue and white. Then we began to walk to the Kotel, The Western Wall. Flags were passed around, I was somehow wearing one like a cape, and the singing turned to Hatikvah, Yerusalim Shel Zahav, songs about Jewish yearning to be a free people in our city. I forgot I was skipping class as I danced and sang and laughed with those people who I met on the street. I always tell people, when they are thinking about studying abroad in Israel like I did, that Tel Aviv is just a city. A beautiful Israeli city, but still, a city, like any other beach front city in the world. There is only one Jerusalem, and every day that you can walk to the Kotel, wear blue and white, sing Hatkivah at the top of your lungs, and pick out the who owned the city based on the stones in David’s tower, that is a day to celebrate Israel.

    Only in israel, you get credit card before you got your “Teudat Zeut” (I.D)

    When I arrived,like all the “New Oleh” I went to the Ministry of Interior to get my new I.D and at the Ministry of Interior didn’t received the translation of my birth certificate because “they didn’t know the translator” (of course no, because I bring the translation from Argentina).
    Then I went to the bank to open my new account, of course they asked me for the teudat zeut, and I told him my story, and he say : no matter! tomorrow your credit card we”l be ready.
    So no matters who you are, the important thing is that you should be able to spend money 🙂

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