A spark. A hunger. A drive. These are things you can’t force or, I could argue, even learn, and yet they are such incredible gifts. My time in Israel surprised me with these gifts. Never has a place left such a hunger in me. A hunger for knowledge, a spark for creativity and a drive to fill life to the fullest. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited to Israel by Vibe Israel to meet a variety of women and mothers from different walks of life. Visiting new places always impacts me, but there is something more here. I have much to share in the upcoming weeks, but before I do, I need make sense of why, why this place and its people impacted me so greatly.
First, I need to look at how Israel is set up as a country, and how assumptions shape the way the people live there. After a very long flight, a walk and good sleep, the team from Vibe Israel along with bloggers from different parts of the globe including Amy from Mom Spark (USA), Jennifer from Cherish365 (USA), Lynn from Blunt Moms (England), Margarita from West Coast Mumma (Canada), and myself (Australia) met in a cosy room at the Port & Blue Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is a hip modern city with a relaxed vibe. It surprised me. I spent a few hours roaming the streets, noting my observations.
I walked past people laughing over a meal with views over the ocean.
Two youths gleefully played a game of tag on the sand.
I smiled at the group of silver-crowned men playing a card game on a picnic bench.
Friends danced to music by the sea.
Busy streets. Buildings and terraces. Squares of restaurants.
Humans of all ages cycled around, getting from here to there.
Short responses, quick nods, a quiet confidence; there’s a no-nonsense way here that I like.
A father held his son under the tap to wash the sand off his feet.
A mama wrestled a pram from the car.
People strolled along the boardwalk and I wondered about their hopes and dreams.
Scents wafted through the cafe doors, like beckoning hands, luring me in with heady coffee and sweet bread.
My initial opinions on Israel were largely framed by the significant holy places and ancient history the region is famous for. Walking around modern Tel Aviv was the first step in reshaping my assumptions about this fascinating place. Later, I learned in a presentation by Vibe Israel’s director Adva David, more about the heart of Israel and its people. She explained using an acronym I-S-R-A-E-L to elaborate.
On the outset of the trip, I was briefed to dress informally, because it’s very casual in Israel. I found this to be true, even in fancy restaurants. It was a delight not having the pressure to dress up if I didn’t want to, and the freedom to wear comfortable clothes. This informality stems from the value Israelis hold for an open playing field, and it’s not only seen in dress, but in interactions also. This informality extends right up to the country’s leaders and there is an expectation that anyone can approach anyone. Furthermore, there is a “don’t take yourself too seriously” vibe here where failing is expected, and even celebrated.
Israel is a small country with limited resources, and there’s been much conflict in the past. The challenges are significant and real, and this has led to a strength in the people that is admirable. For example, there is limited water in Israel, so a whopping 85% is recycled. If there’s a challenge, they work it out; it’s part of the Israel way. Survivability leads to a striving, and people here are driven to innovate.
Survivability requires resourcefulness. The way this is encouraged arises from societal assumptions that everything should be questioned, and studied, and argued, and tested. People don’t just accept, they push (even if it seems abrupt), and look for the best ways to challenge systems. Perhaps that is where the “more opinions than people” saying comes from. They don’t shy away from challenges, or failure, or conflict, it’s accepted as an important part of the culture. This gives people a freedom to find creative ways to solve problems.
I have to admit here, I found this confronting because the concept is far removed from life here in Australia. It is compulsory in Israel to serve in the army for a period (although there are civil service options too). However, in true Israeli style, they see — look for — the value. Below are some of the benefits men and women experience from a grounding in the Army.
- Learn skills
- Develop personal discipline
- Understand leadership
- Gain insight into working with a variety of different people
- Establish life-long networks
- Link to academic societies and industries
Israel’s history is ancient and complex; visiting Jerusalem blew my mind with its multifaceted beauty, and I will go into that in another post. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, a flocking of people immigrated from around the world. Consequences of this diversity added to an openness and flexibility, enriching the culture.
L-Legacy of Entrepreneurship
Israel is called a start up nation, and for good reason. Outside of China and the USA, Israel has the most companies listed on the stock exchange; this article elaborates further. Many companies and products you may know and use originated from Israel, including the website company Wix, WhatsApp, and the USB stick which thankfully, replaced the floppy-disk I used at school.
There is a lot to take away here about the value of having a strong grounding while being fearless about pushing the boundaries with edifying intentions.
What I learned from Israel and the Women Who Live There
As I began to understand Israel in a new light, it helped me to see, truly understand, the drive of the women there. I titled this blog post on purpose to seperate Israel with its own identity. It’s the sort of place that shapes the people in it, as I experienced myself. I met a variety of women over the weeks travelling around the country, and their background, daily lives and paths are extremely diverse, so it surprised me to see the undercurrent flow of resilience, frankness and creativity. Or perhaps less surprising as I began to understand the reasons why. I will go into more details about some of these women’s stories, so you may, as I have, be inspired by them. However for the purposes of this blog post, I will provide a snap shot of some of the women I met and a key thing I gleaned from them.
Nurah – Owner at Norah’s Kitchen, Mother & Grandmother
Pursue what you love, look for opportunities and run with it.
Farida – Tapestry Artist & Adoring Aunt
Be a woman who makes strong (even if they are countercultural) choices for herself.
Neta Hermoni – Educator & Mother of Three
Invest in a life that draws people together.
Tal – Artist at Tal Tenne Czaczkes & Mother of Four
The beauty of seeing the world through the eyes of a child.
Tamar Hadar – CEO of PlayPlus & Mother of Three
Find the balance between being fun and being Mum with a capital M.
Efrat – CEO of PlayPlus & Mother of Four
Embrace the silly moments in parenting and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Ofra – Founder of MamaNet & Mother of Two
Invest in yourself as a person; like the ripples of a stone thrown in water, it will be a gift to your family.
Hila Korah – Journalist, TV Presenter, Medical Student & Mother of Two
Capture time for things that are important to you.
Liraz – Founder at Bliss & Mother of Two
Retain a strong sense of yourself amongst motherhood.
Ray – Model & Founder of She Space
Know your own beauty and embrace the confidence in that.
Liz – Tour Manager at Vibe Israel
Wear strength while retaining a soft heart.
Esther – CEO of Bosco & Mother of Three
Unashamedly love your children so very brightly. They are the future.
Tamar Saphir – Tour Manger at Vibe Israel
Don’t apologise for who you are. Do right without looking for approval.
Adva – Director at Vibe Israel
Be frank: say what you mean and mean what you say.
Caroline – Public Relations at Tower of David Museum
Be abandonly passionate and generous about your knowledge; the giving will impact those around you.
Dekel – Videographer at Media’le
Be motivated by passion, not money.
Caroline – MyHeritage & Mother of Four
Don’t underestimate the power of present, past and future story threads and how they shape and hold a family.
Jannah – Intern at Vibe Israel
Experience new places and have adventures.
Lady at the Wall in Jerusalem
There’s a deep beauty in fervency.
Two Gorgeous Ladies
Keeping rocking your style, and wear comfortable shoes.
Sharni Sadicario – Photographer
I have no photograph of Sharni because she was behind the camera taking these pictures, which tells a lot about her without the need for words. And this: Embrace your quirkiness.
Thank you Israel, for allowing me to be shaped by you. And thank you to the women who inspired me on.
I was invited to Israel by not-for-profit organisation, Vibe Israel to share my experiences of the country. All opinions and story ideas are my own.