(August 5, 2015 / JNS)
My friend from college made aliyah just a couple of months before me. She and her boyfriend came up with a secret code to mark the occurrence of something very typical of Israel: They say “TII,” which stands for “This Is Israel.” TII can be used positively or negatively. For example, when you miss your bus because a light is burned out and it looks like the #18 bus instead of the #78 bus… TII. Or when you meet a couple at a party who grew up seven miles from your childhood home, and you are just now meeting them for the first time at an event 7,000 miles away… TII.
My friend shared this inside joke with me, telling me to be on the lookout for TII moments. I’ve seen plenty already in my first two weeks in Israel. Here are some of the best TII moments thus far, which are sure to give you a taste of life in Israel, for better or worse:
When the construction workers you walk by shout “Shabbat shalom” to you on a Thursday evening…TII.
When you ask for napkins at a restaurant and get a roll of toilet paper… TII.
When you walk in 97-degree weather and you get excited when you feel a raindrop, but realize it’s just a leaky air conditioning pipe… TII.
When you sit in between fully clad nuns and Muslim women at the post office… TII.
When you are hit with a matkot ball while lying peacefully on the Tel Aviv beach… TII.
When you accidentally ask in Hebrew for water with flour instead of water with ice… TII.
When a store owner gives you a free bread roll and congratulates you on moving to Israel… TII.
When you wake up with a feral cat sleeping on your suitcase (and you don’t know how it got there because you are on the sixth floor)… TII.
When you go in large herds to deal with bureaucratic tasks… TII.
When the concierge at a hotel helps you with your Hebrew homework… TII.
When the bus you’re riding in goes through a tunnel that’s too small for the bus and the ceiling starts to smoke… TII.
When you wait your turn in line and realize that if you don’t push you might be in line for 40 days and 40 nights… TII.
When an eight-year-old girl is carrying her little brother around like she is a professional mom… TII.
When a woman at the supermarket takes the milk out of your cart and replaces it with a different brand and says, “You want this one. Trust me.”… TII.
When you know to snap your mouth shut the second your building manager gives you the Israeli “wait” hand sign… TII.
When you have hummus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner… TII.
When you pronounce it HOOMOOS not HUHMUHS… TII.
When you live in the country that invented the USB flash drive, smartphone technology, solar hot water systems, and the Iron Dome missile interception system, but you still can’t seem to find acceptable Internet in your apartment… TII.
When a musician on the street is asked to play a Jewish song, he says, “wait…” and puts on a head covering before proceeding… TII.
When you take selfies in the bomb shelter… TII.
When your bank randomly closes from 1-4 p.m. twice a week… TII.
When you wake up on Shabbat morning from the sound of a child giggling as her grinning father pushes her in a swing… TII.
Where the video of your immigration is watched thousands of times around the world… TII.
When an ibex drinks out of the pool outside of your hotel room… TII.
When the competition is not who can drive the fastest but how fast after the light turns green you can beep your horn… TII.
When the apartment managers tell you that if you leave the water heater on for more than an hour, the pipes will explode (yet it is eternally on in hotels)… TII.
When an elderly woman yells at you in Russian to take your feet off the bus seat… TII.
When there is no separation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom… TII.
When the bus driver shuts the doors and takes off immediately as the last paying customer’s jeans clear the door… TII.
When everyone yells “NAAAG” to the bus driver to open the doors and you just figure that all of the bus drivers are named “Nag”… TII.
When the light of sunset makes the Jerusalem stones glow… TII.
When a haredi man stabs LGBTQ supporters at a gay pride parade and everyone, religious and secular, comes together to condemn the attack… TII.
When your trash can is filled with Bamba wrappers… TII.
When you meet the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. at the airport… TII.
When you drink milk from a bag… TII.
When the line to get through security at the Kotel is longer than security at JFK… TII.
Although finding TII moments is a humorous way to both find lightness in difficult experiences in Israel and to appreciate unique moments that only happen here, they actually illustrate Israeli culture quite well. Israelis are often impatient, harsh, and frustrating; but they are also incredibly hospitable and honest, and they treat you like family. Those who live here understand that although things do not always run the way that makes the most sense, these hardships are trivial when compared to the values that Israel holds so dear, like fighting for peace, enjoying family, building friendship, and finding meaning.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the new “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. She was published in USA Today and Forbes after writing about her experiences in Israel last summer. Follow her aliyah column on JNS.org, Facebook, and Instagram.