Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Top 63 (Plus 1) New Reasons I Love Israel - Barbara Sofer

See this inspiring piece by old friend and past TBE scholar in residence Barbara Sofer, from the Jerusalem Post Magazine

1. After Lag Ba’omer campfires each year, there’s a special news report on air pollution per city.

2. We’re the People of the Book: No wonder an Israeli team led by Lilach Tzipori developed the Kindle.

3. Milk and honey: Israeli archeologists have found proof of a sophisticated bee/honey business with imported bees going on here 3,000 years ago. The US considered importing bees in the 19th century a major achievement.

4. Milk and honey: In 2010, Tnuva invested NIS 3.5 million and sent 400 representatives to supermarkets to promote its milk products for Shavuot. Tara spent NIS 3m.

5. Milk and honey: Israeli dairy experts are teaching the Chinese how to produce environmentally friendly milk.

6. Jerusalem pediatrician Yoram Ben-Yehudah advises the Chinese about child abuse.

7. Israel is helping to establish a green commerce park in China. How big is Israel, exactly?

8. The first Chinese mall will open soon in Holon. Run by observant Jews, it will be closed on Shabbat.

9. The lifeguards at the beautiful, sandy Ashdod Beach warn early-morning swimmers to come closer to shore – in Russian.

10. Israelis invented toothpaste to help kangaroos overcome fatal tooth decay. Go figure.

11. The Israeli search engine reached 11 million answers this year. Not bad for a country where questions are answered with questions.

12. The last name of the man behind the development of Israel’s new natural gas fields, which may answer our energy needs, is Tshuva – Hebrew for “answer.”

13. McDonald’s in Israel have begun offering McFalafel.

14. The CEO of McDonald’s insists he’s not anti-religious; 30 percent of the Golden Arches branches are kosher.

15. The notions store where I bought a strip of Velcro was running a sale on ropes for hassidic gartels.

16. The taxi driver in Modi’in quizzed me to see if I knew seven names for Jerusalem. His name is Ariel, one of the seven. All I wanted was a ride to the mall.

17. Man seen on treadmill every morning at the Jerusalem Inbal Hotel is reading psalms; woman seen on stationary bike in Inbal Hotel every morning is praying Shaharit, the morning prayers

18. Supermarket mogul Rami Levy personally delivered groceries to the Fogel family sitting shiva after the mass murder in Itamar in March.

19. Late at night before Purim, at a local shop, I bumped into Kadima MK Dalia Itzik, former speaker of the Knesset, buying paper goods for her Purim feast.

20. Nine Israeli teens won a film contest about the future of the world – I’m not kidding – at the United Nations.

21. A woman I’d never met before told me the amazing story of her family’s Holocaust experience in the swimming pool locker room.

22. The chief rabbi served in the 7th Brigade of the Tank Corps.

23. Dry wine: New tour of Israel offers seven full days in Negev wineries.

24. A Jerusalem snack shop renamed itself “Blast of a Kiosk” after surviving a terror attack in 1994. When it was attacked again this year, the owner vowed to keep selling sandwiches.

25. The Jerusalem grill restaurant Zion the Small renamed itself Zion the Big because the owner was “tired of being small.”

26. The four-year-olds in my granddaughter’s nursery school played their triangles, castanets and drums to cheer on the charity-raising runners in the first Jerusalem marathon. The runners paused to give them high fives.

27. Announcement for Jerusalem marathon: “The marathon will be run on Friday. We recommend that you shop in Mahaneh Yehuda [the open-air market] on Wednesday and Thursday.”

28. Overheard at the reception desk at a five-star hotel. Elegantly dressed tourist: Can you please recommend the very best felafel in town?

29. A coin with the name of Syrian-Greek King Ahasuerus found in an Old City dig is revealed on Hanukka.

30. New Bamba snack in the shape of pyramids revealed right before Pessah, when we celebrate the Exodus from Egypt.

31. At the ceremony for the new chief of General Staff of the IDF, one of the world’s most advanced armies: “Benny will be taking over from Gabi,” says Ehud. No mention of rank.

32. When Leonard Cohen sings “Who by Fire,” the audience sings along. They also know the original lyrics in Hebrew.

33. Start-Up Nation, the book about Israeli innovation, is a best-seller in Mongolia.

34. Good news or bad news? Local researchers at Hadassah find mutations on Jewish genes showing that women whose families were in Spain prior to 1492 have higher prevalence of breast cancer.

35. An Israeli electronic “dog’s nose” can outsniff those airport dogs that want your tuna sandwich in Newark. They can also find explosives.

36. Genuine Israeli dogs have been trained to leap from helicopters and apprehend terrorists.

37. In ancient Tzipori, a bungalow owner finds the possible tombstone of talmudic-era Rabbi Yehoshua Ben-Levy. Bed, Breakfast and Holy Shrine.

38. Here’s a headline: Circumcision clinics for Zulu men rely on Israeli expertise.

39. Three Israeli engineers are promising competitors in the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize to land a tiny spacecraft on the moon. They’re doing it in their spare time, after work, with the help of volunteers.

40. The new head of the Shin Bet is a religious Jew whose family is from Afghanistan.

41. The former head of the Mossad was born in Siberia. He kept a photo of a Jewish man being shot by a Nazi on his wall. That was his grandfather.

42. Israel is considered a world power in stamp publishing and collecting, even at a time when much mail is electronic. Go figure.

43. Ramat Hagolan Winery, founded in 1983, won the “Wine World Cup” was declared the best wine producer in the world at the Italian “Vinitaly” competition in Verona.

44. Notice from the Religious Affairs Ministry: Please burn your hametz (leavened leftovers) in environmentally friendly bags, not plastic.

45. Volunteers of the My Israel movement collect Israeli hametz and send it, with the Foreign Ministry’s help, to tsunami-hit areas in Japan.

46. Advertisement on Bezeq phone while waiting for an operator in the week before Pessah: Want to send flowers, go to a restaurant, repaint the house? 144 will help you. Promotion for phone-Internet-cable line offers coupons for Pessah supermarket shopping spree.

47. Eight thousand Israelis marched in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Jerusalem, more than for the first Komen march in Washington. Jews and Arabs, young and old, religious and less religious marched together.

48. Radio interview with a woman on shelled Gaza kibbutz ends with “Hag sameah,” happy holiday to all of Israel.

49. Cousins who were in both 9/11 and a Jerusalem terror attack arrived for Pessah and loved the the “Hag sameah” sign at Ben-Gurion Airport and printed on Coke bottles.

50. The Oscar for best short documentary goes to Strangers No More, about a Tel Aviv school with pupils from 48 countries.

51. The Oscar for best actress goes to Jerusalem-born Natalie Portman, who helped Alan Dershowitz with his book The Case for Israel and condemned the anti-Semitism of ex-Dior designer John Galliano.

52. The Immigrant Absorption Ministry and a charity called Aviv HaTorah try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest Seder, inviting 1,200 Ethiopian immigrants.

53. The Israel Opera puts on an extravaganza at Masada about an Ethiopian princess (Aida). Tel Aviv opera divas came to Jerusalem and sang on the Bridge of Strings to encourage pious Jerusalemites to spend more time at the opera.

54. Growing cellphone use is seen as the key to “Arab Spring.” Hey, we invented the cellphone.

55. In Treatment, a sometimes word-for-word translation of the Israeli program B’Tipul, completed four successful sessions, I mean seasons in the US.

56. Happiness. According to a columnist at the Asian Times who plotted birth rates and suicide rates, Israel was the world’s happiest country. According to a recent Gallup poll in which citizens are asked if they are happy, we ranked seventh, ahead of New Zealand, the US and all the Arab countries.

57. From reader Barry Nester: I was working out in the staff gym at Hadassah Hospital. Two doctors paused in their grunting and began a discussion/argument about logic in the early Talmudic period and the origins of Christianity.

58. 100 years of kibbutzim: Despite our argumentative nature, no one does communal living like us.

59. Computer guilt. Israeli scientists are producing programs that limit the amount of regret a computer program might experience.

60. No bubble burst. For more than 2 cents plain Israeli company SodaStream is selling seltzer on the stock exchange!

61. What comes first? Israeli chickens (1.9 billion eggs last year – that’s no chicken feed) are moving to roomy hi-tech coops developed by an Israeli company called Agrotop. Coop of the future includes fowl cushioning, wind turbines and photovoltaic. Guano becomes biofuels, used to supply electricity to the coop’s feeding and egg collection system.

62. Newest Israeli start-up incubator is called “lul,” Hebrew for chicken coop

63. Israel’s Naked Archaeologist international TV star is an Orthodox Jew, a father of five who is most famous for discovering what might be crucifixion nails.

And one more to grow on: 64. Eight small teeth found in an Israeli cave raise the possibility that modern humans originated in Israel and not Africa, suggests a paper recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Talk about getting a head start!

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