From the outside looking in, Israel is all sandy beaches, sensational sunsets and floatable lakes disguised as seas. But, once you pop the birthright bubble (usually somewhere between falafel #7 and rooftop sunset #13, but not before iced coffee #26), you’ll have to face some hard truths. And so, to help guide you through the post-honeymoon adjustment period, we’ve created a list of things you’ll (have to) learn to love when living in Israel. Give them time…they grow on you (eventually).
You’ll learn to love…
While in other countries, promptness can be an important indicator of professionalism or courtesy, it is neither here. Israelis run on what we like to call ‘Israel time’. This could mean anything from arriving for a coffee date half an hour late to rescheduling dinner plans five minutes past the reservation. It’s not a sign of rudeness, it’s just a sign of living in the moment…and sometimes that moment turns into two moments then three then an hour then a day.
Whether ordering a sandwich or trying to get through security at the airport, in Israel, the ‘first come, first serve’ rules do not apply. Israelis love ‘balagan’ (Hebrew for ‘disorder’ or ‘chaos’), so waiting in line to order while tuning out the world via smartphone is simply not an option. Expect a hostile mission to the front counter – elbows will be swung, words will be exchanged, basic training may be used, but don't think of it as aggression; we prefer the word: assertiveness.
A good night starts with turning the dood on. I know he can give you the cold shoulder sometimes if you don’t wait long enough, but in Israel, patience is the key to a hot shower. To clarify, in the Holy Land, the ‘dood’ is not a cult classic character played by Jeff Bridges, but rather, Hebrew for ‘hot water boiler’. Whether solar powered (‘dood shemesh’) or electric, you’ll need to flip the on-switch ahead of time (longer during the winter months), in order to enjoy a steam shower.
You know those black licorice wheels you try extra hard to avoid at the Shuk? The ones that leave a lingering anise flavour on the back of your tongue for a good day? Well, add a hangover to that and you’ve got the aftermath of Arak. The anise-flavoured spirit is a fan favourite across the Middle East – often offered to impatient diners when Shabbat brunch waits are too long, beautiful women at clubs or as a post-dinner digestif. Though many bars pair it with lemonade, its clear colour is deceiving and can be mistaken for vodka or tequila when in a shot glass, so if you’re not a fan of the stuff, take a whiff beforehand…you don’t want to suffer an Arak attack.
External light switches
Unlike many countries, in Israeli homes, the bathroom light switch will often be on the outside of the door. Seems like a minute detail, right? Wrong. The simple electrical wiring opens up a gaping window of practical joke possibility to annoying older brothers and drunken university friends. Think twice about who’s in the room before hopping in that shower, no matter how long you’ve left the dood running.