Sort of on the spur of the moment, Jim and I whipped up a trip to Israel this month, since we hadn't been there in more than 30 years, separately, before we were married. We were blessed to have many friends, family members, and tour guides who were generous with their time, their wisdom, and their hospitality. They wined us, dined us, and showed us around: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hevron, Haifa, Matula, Tel Dan, Golan Heights, Akko, Rosh HaNikra, Caesaria, Bethlehem, Yavneh, Holon, Gush Etzion, Tzuba, Herzeliyah, and more.
Along the way I learned some of the following things:
1. Israel is a very new place built upon an extremely ancient place.
2. The ADA is American. 6,000 years ago no one cared about access for middle-aged people, those with disabilities, or anyone wearing adorable footwear. This is a place where travelers should wear deck shoes.
3. Pedestrian right-of-way is an American construct. In some places, a pedestrian is just a more challenging target.
4. No matter how well you learn a new language, you will give yourself away by using numbers in your mother tongue.
5. Jet lag is real and not to be trifled with.
6. Cats are the squirrels of Israel.
7. Honking is one of the love languages of Jerusalem.
8. In Israel there are about ten recognized demographic groups between ages 0-45, but only one after that.
9. Breakfast in Israeli museums are an excuse to show off and showcase Israeli agriculture. The only foods served are the ones in-season, and apparently bananas and avocados have a season (I had no idea!)
10. More museums per capita than anywhere else on earth, including those dedicated to: cats and dogs, pirates, illegal immigration, banking, and taxation.
11. It stands to reason that former air force pilots become airline pilots. Here, former tank commanders become bus drivers.
12. You might learn to ask for directions to the bathroom, but it's a very different thing to understand the answer.
13. If you have been using a second language to communicate privately while in public, be ready to switch things up when you move to a place where that language is the one spoken.
14. Ice is available but people rarely use it here.
15. You do not see people carrying food and beverages on the street.
16. It's not the heat, it's the excessive heat. Wear cotton.
17. And deodorant.
18. Glatt and Mehadrin are the same level of kashrut.
19. Israelis smoke. Californians don't. If you are a Californian, just shut up and look the other way.
20. Tilapia is known as St. Peter's Fish, or Musht.
21. People are out on the streets, enjoying life, 24 hours a day. The cafes are all packed, and there are no more reservations, even in the middle of the week, and in the middle of the night.
22. In general, there's a lower standard of living materially, and a higher standard of life personally and socially.