1. My one-year-old cousin Emmanuel is awesome. He's adorable, smart, and really active and fun to be around. And very well-behaved. He's my first cousin once removed - the son of my cousin Shelly. I saw him on Saturday with the rest of my mom's family and it was wonderful.
2. My four-year-old cousin Amalya is also awesome. She's Emmanuel's big sister. She's also very well-behaved. She also runs around singing Hanukkah and Purim songs all the time. (Turns out my cousin's husband is very involved in the Israeli Reform movement, so this is what Amalya gets to hear)
3. Conservadox services with Sephardi nusach. Unlike Masorti services in the US, which tend to be very "Ashkenormative," Masorti people in Israel often blend in Sephardi influences - particularly in communities that have a lot of Latin American immigrants. I went to Friday night services in Herzliyya, maybe 500 meters from my grandparents, and the tunes were almost all Sephardi. This (very) Ashkenazi boy was content.
4. Palestinian ladies who sell homemade baklava outside supermarkets. Nom. The ladies who sell in my grandparents' town come from a village on the Israeli side of the West Bank border that is known for their food and their incredibly huge clans.
5. Not as awesome: Secular-Haredi bitch-slaps on airplanes. This one is a bit difficult to explain. Let us say that a lady was a little upset that Haredi people use overhead bins, too.
6. Coffee. Israelis know how to drink coffee. I miss the coffee already.
7. Arabic is finally taking its place as the country's second official language. The Supreme Court ruling a few years ago noted that many services that legally must be available in Arabic (for the 20% Arab and 10% Jews-who-speak-Arabic-and-Hebrew populations) are not - particularly road signs and social services. Since my last visit, there are more road signs in Arabic, and Arabic speakers who go to the ER now don't have such a mess to deal with if they need interpretation. There's still a ways to go, but things are changing. The need is a bit mitigated by the fact that most of the Arabic-speaking population is pretty fluent in Hebrew.
8. My grandmother gave me thirteen haggadot that she collected over the years. Among them: a newspaper haggadah from the early '80s in Israel, and my dad's haggadah from his conscription days.
9. My aunt's braised lamb shoulder recipe. Yum.
10. I always miss how the radio in Israel broadcasts the news every hour, on the hour.
11. My grandmother's propensity for inappropriate jokes at the Shabbat dinner table.
A man of fifty goes to the doctor. The doctor says, "You're as fit as a man of thirty! Tell me, how old was your father when he died?"
The man responds, "Died? He's alive - he's seventy-five!"
The doctor raises his eyebrows. "And your grandfather?"
The man responds, "He's still here! He's one hundred and three! And he's getting married next week!"
"Why is he getting married?"
"Did I say he wants to?"
(I love my grandmother.)