Mad, beautiful, vibrant Israel - our eternal home

  • Sue
You have to have chutzpah to live in Israel. In fact, you even need it while visiting the Jewish state and travelling El Al. And you have to have a big mouth to get anywhere.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Jul 01, 2015


Luckily, when being questioned by El Al security at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, I first used it when asked: “Do you have any weapons?”

“Only my mouth, “I replied, which is my stock answer when travelling El Al.” Tough as the security peeps are, it never fails to raise a smile.

And on the plane going over, I had to apply this finely honed weapon of mine.

The cabin crew was not the most accommodating, especially one tall blonde whom I asked to help me take down my hand luggage from the rack – I’m not the tallest of people. “Not my job,” she retorted, but then did it grudgingly.

When it was time to put the case back, she confronted me with: “Now we will put it back together - one, two, three…” I didn’t move, but said, “Perhaps I had better tell you I had a very serious operation recently and cannot pick up anything.” Describing my operation graphically, she hastened to assist, her tough demeanour withering.

This very recent visit to my favourite place on earth was my seventh. But this time it was different. No special privileges, no transport or tours laid on. No VIP treatment.

All my previous trips had been to attend media conferences, fact-finding visits and briefings for the South African media teams who daily have to reply to criticism of Israel.

I went to attend the wedding of my niece, whose husband is Israeli, although both of them are from Melbourne. Having lived in Israel, Hayley did her homework and sourced one of several beautiful wedding venues - this one in Petach Tikvah. Everything is laid on at the venue - catering, band, photographers, a chuppah of natural roses, restrooms which provide anything the wedding guests might have forgotten, natural gardens and food and music from 19:00 to 02:30.

The kosher menu offered every conceivable item including steak that had been deveined to comply with kashrut, and indescribable desserts.

I was also not prepared for the totally casual atmosphere of a chiloni (secular) wedding, although I delighted in the ululating of the Sephardi women.

After midnight, sandwiches and coffee were served before the (older) guests boarded the buses back to their hotels. For the first time I discovered the doors opened the other way in Israel; I kept closing myself in the toilet and could never open my cupboard.

I made for the driver’s seat in every taxi, my expat SA friend and I took. After eight years, she still gets caught. We gave the taxi drivers back to front directions, one of whom muttered “meshugenahs” under his breath.

But there is one thing that never changes. Yerushalayim, the eternal City of Gold. I even recalled some of the same beggars, who shout insults at you if they are not satisfied with your contribution.

I loved shopping among the residents in the supermarkets where everyone talks to everyone. I practised my minimal Hebrew but was stumped when I received a torrent of words in reply.

Israel is like no other country. I hate that “they” hate us. We are the bravest nation on earth. And I have to confess that, every time I saw one of the young soldiers, who smile as if they have no care in the world, the tears ran down my cheeks.


1 Comment

  1. 1 Denis Solomons 06 Jul
    I would love a little flat in Jerusalem near the Kottel ; but would still like to live in South Africa .
    iwishes were horses beggars or is it pigs would fly !


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