20 Things I Love About Israel

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1. Being able to speak to G-d on a local call. There is simply no place in the world, with the palpable sanctity of the Kotel, Home of G-d.

2. The fact that Israel, like G-d, gives the Right of Return to all Jews regardless of background, denomination, race, ethnicity, or economic strata.

3. The ability to traverse the entire country in one day, while passing through deserts, metropolises, mountains, coastal plains and orange groves. You can start your day skiing down Mt. Chermon, then hike through a forested wadi to the Banias Waterfall, and finish it off scuba diving in Eilat!

4. The fact that on Shabbos, you can feel Shabbos in the air. The streets are for people, families, and Shabbos, not cars and buses.

5. The ability to have a taxi driver who quotes Gemaras and the parsha, the way an American taxi driver would talk about last night’s Yankee game!

6. Let’s not forget the other taxi driver we love so much. The one who is your father, psychologist, rabbi, fashion consultant, political pundit, financial advisor, and sommelier. Or at least he thinks he is.

7. Every 4 Amot you walk you in Israel, you get a mitzvah

8. Falafel, shawarma, laffa, hummus, Kosher KFC, sufganiyot, baguettes, French crepes, Massov’s, and Fro Yo!

9. There are so many mitzvos we can only keep in Israel, including shmita, terumot, and maasrot. The gemara (Sotah 14A) tells us that this was the reason Moshe wanted to enter the Land of Israel. It was not to enjoy the physical pleasures of the land, but to be able to keep the mitzvot ha’tluyot ba’aretz, the mitzvot contingent on the Land.

10. It is the only place in the world that any tourist can spend an afternoon volunteering for an organization that gives out thousands of tons of food each year to economically challenged Jewish families.

11. You can pray with Adam, Chavah, Avram, Sara, Yitzchak, Rivka, Yaakov, Leah, Rachel, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Rambam, the Beis Yosef, Baba Sali, Rav Shach. You can even learn in the same spot where the Arizal learned, and use his personal mikva.

12. If you go to the Dead Sea, you can see the lowest point on earth. How often do you see anything that holds a world record?

13. It is the only country in the world where you can find a phonebook that has 85 pages just for Gemachs, free loan societies (with an average of 35 gemachs per page!). These gemachs offer everything from chairs and tables for simchas, to tools, medicines, bridal gowns, rooms available for guests, crutches, pack-and-plays, space heaters, mother’s milk, bentchers, Dead Sea mud, Shabbos food….

14. The calendar follows the Jewish holidays. People are always off for the Yomim Tovim, Shabbos, and fast days. Chanukah shopping is really Chanukah shopping.

15. The fruit is fresh, crisp, unprocessed, flavor-filled, luscious, and divine. Every box of Israeli fruit should have a stamp on it, proclaiming “Made in G-d’s Land, by G-d, for You!”

16. For six months a year, you never have to worry that your plans will be ruined by rain. For the other six months, you can see people who are actually happy to see it raining.

17. You can sit on a bus and meet Jews from tens of countries, from every continent.

18. Every public building has a mezuzah.

19. On a public bus, the sometimes written and sometimes unwritten rule is that the first two rows are reserved for the elderly.

20. G-d always says it better than me, so let me quote Him: (Deut. 11:12) A land that Hashem, your G-d, looks after; the eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the year’s beginning until the year’s end.

Leiby Burnham, LMSW, is a rabbi, psychotherapist, and writer. He lives in Detroit with his wife, an ICU nurse, who is on strict orders to “leave her patients at work” and their two daughters, Orah and Shifra. Rabbi Burnham works for the Jean and Theodore Weiss Partners in Torah program of Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, where he does community outreach, and runs a Jewish educational programs at University of Michigan, Wayne State, and Oakland University. He taught learning-disabled high school students for eight years in NYC, while receiving Rabbinical training at Shor Yoshuv Institute, and obtaining his Masters in Social Work from Yeshiva University.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.