If you spot me wearing headphones on a bus ride to a tiyul or seminar, chances are I’m listening to a podcast. Israel Story is a show that seeks to tell the everyday stories of Israel. This idea is what kept coming to mind when reflecting on this year. I realized that the everyday elements are as impactful and important as the “headlines.”
The little things, aspects that only come from fully living in a community for an extended period of time, are what make our past nine months unique. I get a bit of a thrill navigating the bus system home without using moovit, or knowing when there will be traffic on the Ayalon, or picking out my favorite brands at the grocery store. Our Rav-Kavs and gym memberships and Malabiya punch cards are membership cards to Israeli society. I flash them with nonchalant pride, implicitly showing everyone, I live here. I will miss these small details of everyday routine just as much as the bigger events. They turn this year from a collection of experiences into a lifestyle.
During the big holidays it is the small details of how Israel changes during these weeks that stand out. Eating in a sukkah at a restaurant, savoring the most intricate sufganiot for sale on every corner on Hanukkah, Israeli flags appearing everywhere on Yom HaAtzmaut, being out of place if you’re not in costume on Purim, the entire country seems engaged in celebration, and we get to take part.
Our volunteering provided further opportunities to integrate into Israeli society. Those of us who worked with Magen David Adom had the opportunity to enter an everyday Israeli workplace. We befriended members of the station, learned the lingo, and found our favorite food spots near all the hospitals. In committing to the work, we saw everything, both the good and the bad. Nothing was sugar-coated; one minute we would be driving down the Ayalon blasting Mesibah b’Haifa or getting bourekas from our favorite spot at Wolfson, the next we would be performing CPR or transporting someone with a stroke. Volunteering with Magen David Adom gave us a unique look into a marginalized part of Israeli society: elderly, sick, immigrants. A lot of the job was spent transporting old Russian people, so we spent our days going into tons of Bat Yam apartments, seeing, smelling, and hearing about how that part of our Bat Yam community lives.
Those of us volunteering in Bat Yam engaged with the youth of our city, those on Marva experienced army life, those at Keturah braved the desert as kibutzniks, and those at Yemin Orde learned about and taught teenage immigrants. The small everyday aspects of these experiences will stick with us and truly make us feel a part of society. That moment when you run into volunteers from the MDA station around Bat Yam, or looking out the bus window and realizing that we have been in that apartment or park at 3am transporting someone. It could mean bumping into the kids you tutor while on the bus, or seeing your mefakedet in Tel Aviv or recognizing army terms during ceremonies or speeches. These tiny forgettable daily moments play a big part in creating a sense of belonging in our various communities.
When I went home over break and visited friends from high school, I was constantly complimented on how cool my Instagram looks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pro at using those filters. And being told a Snapchat story is “lit” is one of the best compliments you can give someone of our generation. Yet while we all carefully curate our social media to boast beautiful hikes and crazy clubs and unique monuments, it is the small, everyday aspects of the year, those that don’t show up in a Facebook album or on a Snapchat story, that turn us from tourists to residents, and that turn Israel forever into a second home.