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Benny’s Israel Top 10 List

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By Benny Winkelmann

I want to preface this article by saying I love all of these things and putting them in any order in an Israel Top 10 List was difficult.

Benny taking in the sights in Israel.

I’m sure I left off someone’s favorite thing and I may even read this and realize I left off one of my own, but our Reflector Editor Skip requested an Israel Top 10 List and I wanted to meet the challenge he raised. Many are my personal experiences, but can’t really write from anywhere else.

  1. The Traveling Culture- The proximity to so many places due to being located at the center of 3 continents means a lot of traveling. People here share the bug and I love comparing tips and discussing places and experiences. Best part is this comes with a get up and go attitude that leads to great weekday or weekend activities domestic or internationally.
  2. The Weather – Not just that it’s beautiful nine months of the year, but on a deeper level there are prayers and holidays that correlate to the weather.Living in the states, we learn about holidays being in the spring or fall and praying for rain in the winter in the shemona esrei, but you don’t see it day-to-day.Living here over half a year I have seen a direct connection.
  1. The Size– We play Jewish geography in the states, but it is nothing like the (nuts you crack open ie pistachios, what they call Jewish Geography cause you crack open the connection) here. The size of the country means not only do you meet so many people through others or that your degrees of separation are 2 people maximum, but that you can keep in touch and actually see everyone.
  1. Pardes Hanna – While I love to go to TLV and see my friends and party in the city or go to Jerusalem for the (holy vibes) or Haifa for the surfing, PH has stolen my heart. This small town I’ve begun to call “The Gateway to the North” is a combination of several Israeli subcultures and is a best kept secret that people are just beginning to find (kind of like Richmond, but smaller). It has charm, it has good people, close to the beach, close to the mountains: Pardes Hanna is for Lovers.
  1. Teaching in Israeli School– I have been a swim coach and taught lessons at the “J” (in Richmond) for years through later high school and early college, and even did a stint teaching Hebrew school in Cincinnati, but here has been different. Especially teaching Junior High here, I feel the power of being a “molder of young minds.” It is incredibly rewarding to share all the knowledge I’ve built up over the years and the Israeli participation definitely resembles my own version as a kid, stand up and blurt out any answer (or thought you feel is relevant) as soon as it pops in your head.
  1. The Food and Coffee– Not at the top, but high on the list is one of my favorite things in this world. While I am not able to get my Ukrops fried chicken fix or much of anything in the way of what we know as comfort food, I have found plenty of replacements to fill my belly. The tradition of going to get Hummus as a meal on Fridays is unparalleled and easy street food beats even the fastest chick fil a line from a culture standpoint, especially cause you can chat with everyone else eating and enjoying. Not to mention, the produce here is far and away tastier so eating your colors (veggies) is an enjoyable activity. The Turkish coffee has instantly become my favorite and I take every opportunity to go out to a cool spot and enjoy (like making coffee on a hike on a small camping stove).
  1. Being (someone giving their time from abroad in Israel) – It seems everywhere I go and they ask me what I do. When I tell them I’m a teacher/ambassador here in Israel for the Jewish Agency immediately were friends. I even get food and entry places for free (like the tennis I wrote about in an earlier article and the coolest party spot in the city where I don’t pay cover as “Benny the American”). 
  1. Hebrew – Speaking a different language all day, every day definitely took some learning and getting used to, but it has been amazing. I still have a lot of words missing, but my newfound ability to fully communicate in another language is amazing and even more special that the language is ours! Necessity being the mother of invention, living outside of the city in authentic “deep Israel” I have learned so much quicker and gotten the opportunity to do the parts of actual day to day in Hebrew because that’s the only option. I’m still afraid of the post office and pharmacy though; too many words and too much pressure.
  1. Being an immigrant– As an Ashkenazi Jew growing up in the states, I come from a family of runners. We don’t run for sport, we run if chased, and chased we have been. While my mother’s parents had the privilege of being born in the states, their parents walked through Russia with one set taking 10 years and going all the way to China to catch a boat to the US. My father’s family escaped eastern European antisemitism to France only to end up living through the Holocaust and still reside in Europe. To be the first to arrive to live at home, yet still share in the immigrant challenges and experiences of my ancestors has been an absolute gift I won’t soon forget.
  1. Walking the Streets – Yes, I have done it many times. On visits here, in my hometown, in places I’ve lived for years and built a whole world, but nothing is quite like walking down the street in the Holy Land and feeling a sense of ownership. From the Golan to the Negev, TLV, Jerusalem, and of course my Rothchild Settlement from 1929: Pardes Hanna, I am constantly stopping to take a pause, look up and smile with a full feeling of contentedness like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

(To reach out to Benny, our Shaliach (emissary) to Israel from Richmond, you can email him at  p2g.he.southeast2@gmail.com.

 

 

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