Israel at 75: From the blogsExclusive Independence Day excerpt

When did you know you were Israeli? 

For those still struggling to roll their reshes, this excerpt from the new book ‘Israel 201’ offers 75 answers for 75 years of statehood

Illustrative photo of a plate of hummus (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a plate of hummus (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, we wrote the book Israel 201 to convey what makes Israel unlike any other place on Earth – a place that strives to be both Jewish and democratic, is somehow both incredibly special and utterly normal, and can’t help but be both magical and chaotic.

On this monumental birthday, we’re pleased to share an excerpt from Israel 201, entitled “I Knew I Was Israeli When…” It’s part of our chapter on aliyah; for this section, we spoke to olim – immigrants – from around the world to explore what it meant for them to “become Israeli.”

Their answers were as revealing, moving, and hilarious as you’d expect.

Here are 75 of our favorite answers to the question “When did you know you were Israeli?”

“I Knew I Was Israeli When…”

  1. I pulled over my car and urinated on the side of the road.
  2. I asked to go ahead of someone in line at the grocery store, since I only had a handful of items.
  3. My roommate told me I had spoken in Hebrew while dreaming.
  4. I ate a whole raw onion at a hummusiah (hummus restaurant).
  5. I booked a post-army Pesach trip to Thailand for my son.
  6. I no longer realized when it was Christmas, Labor Day, or Memorial Day back in the US.
  7. I was in the mood for peanut butter and jelly, had none at home, and instead used raw tahini and mashed date spread.
  8. I pronounced the English curse word as “sheet.”
  9. On Sunday morning when visiting the US, I was astonished that nobody went to work.
  10. I remarked to my Israeli husband that the radio announcer had made a grammatical mistake in Hebrew.
  11. I yelled at the security person at the airport.
  12. I went to the US consulate to renew my passport on July 4 without realizing it would be closed.
  13. I got excited when it rained.
  14. I switched from Taster’s Choice to Turkish coffee.
  15. I actually used the horn in my car.
  16. I argued with my boss without feeling anxious about it.
  17. I started saying “Eemaleh!” (Mommy!) instead of “OMG!”
  18. I found out that a stabbing attack had occurred where I had been the day before, just ten minutes from home.
  19. I visited New York City, and everyone seemed so polite.
  20. I texted people a question without first saying, “Hi, good morning.”
  21. I let my shopping cart hold my place in line at the supermarket while I did my shopping.
  22. I started saying “Ehhhh” instead of “Uhhhh.”
  23. Back in the US, I referred to 7-Eleven as “the makolet” (neighborhood grocery store).
  24. I called a condescending service provider “Mami” (my dear) in a snarky voice.
  25. I had a zero balance in my checking account but was just happy that I wasn’t in meenus.
  26. I did the “Rega!” (Hold on a minute!) hand gesture (see “More than Words: Nonverbal Communication” in chapter 3).
  27. I heard Israeli songs on the radio and became nostalgic for different times of my life in Israel.
  28. I drove in the States and honked at someone for not moving the moment the light turned green.
  29. I voted in an Israeli election for the first time. And then soon after, the second time.
  30. I became a hummus snob, refusing to eat anything packaged and sold in the grocery store.
  31. I passed a car by driving on the shoulder of the highway.
  32. I visited America and made people uncomfortable by how close I stood to them, without realizing it.
  33. Instead of speaking two languages fluently, I just became bad at both.
  34. I elbowed my way onto the bus ahead of others in Canada.
  35. I attended the swearing-in ceremony of my sabra son as he became an officer in the IDF.
  36. I yelled at a cashier in America, and everyone backed away from me.
  37. I jumped out of a moving car in the US to stand in a parking spot before someone else snatched it.
  38. I said “pop-kor-en” instead of “popcorn.”
  39. I was told in the US that I have a big mouth and an opinion on everything.
  40. I wished the Arab delivery driver the holiday greeting “Ramadan kareem.”
  41. At London’s Finsbury Park train station, I heard two people chatting in English and automatically turned around to see if I knew them.
  42. I realized my childhood friends from America could hardly understand simple English sentences: “Davka [actually] it’s not kedai [worthwhile] to buy it here – you can get a mivtzah [deal] in Rami Levy or the shuk.”
  43. I traveled to Thailand for vacation.
  44. Back in England, I went to shul and was struck by what a strong English accent the cantor had when he davens.
  45. I said something correctly in the grammatical construction hufal.
  46. I shoved my way through a crowd, pulling my dad behind me to get gas masks for him and my mom.
  47. I made peace with the fact that the weather report tells you that it’s either going to be hotter than usual or colder than usual and nothing more.
  48. Back in America, I parked on the sidewalk.
  49. I wrote the wedding card blessing on the outside of the envelope.
  50. I traveled to India and did “shvil hahummus” (“the hummus trail,” a popular backpacking route for Israelis just out of the army).
  51. I could quote famous lines from the movie Givat Halfon at the appropriate moment.
  52. I stopped doing the quick mental math to convert prices from dollars to shekels.
  53. I stopped showing up for social engagements on time; instead, I would arrive two hours after the originally proposed time and was still the first one there.
  54. I stopped moving aside when people walked toward me in the other direction.
  55. I dressed up for Purim as a character from an Arik Einstein song.
  56. I stopped saying “slichah” (excuse me) when bumping into people.
  57. When I entered an office and wasn’t offered coffee, I asked for it.
  58. Commuting more than an hour to work became unacceptable.
  59. I yelled at the support rep that his service was “al hapanim” (terrible).
  60. I stopped converting Celsius to Fahrenheit.
  61. When someone cut in front of me in the checkout line, I started screaming at him in Hebrew. This was in Idaho.
  62. I could no longer remember the last time I wore a tie.
  63. I heard a sonic boom overhead and it didn’t faze me.
  64. It stopped bothering me that my child said “Nope” when I asked if she had any homework.
  65. I hailed a taxi and sat in the front seat because it was easier to chat with the driver.
  66. I asked the teenage waiter if she’d please watch my baby while I went to the restroom.
  67. I cracked a joke in Hebrew, and people laughed.
  68. My friend in the States complained about paying four dollars for a gallon of gas, and I thought, “Wow, what a bargain!”
  69. I realized I preferred drinking water at room temperature, not served on ice.
  70. I stopped waiting until I went abroad to buy my deodorant for the year.
  71. I caught myself making fun of tourists for seeming “so American.”
  72. I entered Gaza with my IDF infantry platoon.
  73. In the US, someone asked me a question and instead of answering “No,” I just clicked my tongue.
  74. I dropped off my visiting American friend at Ben Gurion Airport and drove off, so happy that I got to stay.
  75. I felt complete.

For more insights into the magic, mystery, and chaos of life in the Holy Land, find “Israel 201” on Amazon or from Gefen Publishing in Israel.

To reach the authors, Joel Chasnoff and Benji Lovitt, directly, contact them at

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