Every Oleh/Olah has those things they miss from their lives in North America. It is just a fact of life: when you are an immigrant you compare things to what it was like in your previous lifestyle. Personally, it took me three years to get used to having work on Sundays. I still occasionally call my brother on his office number forgetting that he is off with friends at a BBQ, picnic or just hanging around his house watching a show with his kids.
But when I purchased my first car in Israel, I was pleasantly surprised at how ordinary it was – how normal it was to go car shopping like in the US. Heck, I was wavering between a Honda and Toyota, both with dealerships in Jerusalem providing great customer service! The cars were familiar brands and had all the normal features and add-ons. As I slid into the driver’s seat and flicked about the knobs, I looked over the steering wheel that had volume controls for the radio, the horn (an essential item for driving like an Israeli), when I suddenly felt like the wheel was missing something – cruise control! I asked the salesman if there was an option for cruise control features, to which he laughed. Now, at first I thought he didn’t understand me so I asked again in Hebrew – to which he laughed harder. I thought he was laughing at me (a common fear of second-language speakers) but he quickly explained that he was laughing at my question.
“There is an option to pay for cruise control,” he explained – the awesome feature that allows you to set your speed and take your foot off the pedal and drive that really straight, boring path up or down the NJ turnpike. “But why would you need such a feature in Israel? We have a very small country and there is lots of traffic – that’s why we invented Waze!”
Walking home (I didn’t buy the car on the spot) I started to digest this new found insight. First I processed the fact that indeed, the Israeli geographic map that I was now living in did not need all of the items that I had been accustomed to. I could manage with fewer bells and whistles and accomplish the same.
My second realization was a bit more profound – that Israelis don’t live on cruise control. There is really something about the Mediterranean lifestyle, the Jewish atmosphere, or the background of political conflict that gives an edge to almost every single day and really demands that you have your foot ready to press the brake out of caution – or slam the gas down to enjoy the wonderful moments.