This is a frivolous post.  Every country has little things that are different than what you are accustomed to—these things aren’t better or worse than what’s familiar—just different.

No Pens in Hotels:  Every US hotel, even the cheapest Day’s Inn has free pens.  They must go through millions of them and each pen might cost 3 cents.  In Israel, you get a black pencil:  the lead is black, the outside is black, and the wood is black.  No pens.

Wetnap after meal:  In many restaurants you get one of those refreshing packets containing a moistened “towlette”.  In the US, you get one if the food is particularly messy.  In Israel, messiness isn’t part of it.

Salad for breakfast:  Since many restaurants in Israel are kosher, they have to choose whether they serve “meat” or “dairy.”  Breakfast pretty much has to be “dairy” (can you imagine coffee without cream or cereal without milk or fruit without yogurt?).  So, in addition to wonderful bread and pastries, lots of fruit, and a variety of previously Eastern European fish, you can have salad with breakfast.  “Israeli salad” consists of finely chopped cucumber and tomato. You’ll also find cabbage, finely sliced carrots (tsimmes), and other salads.  It’s quite nice, actually, and very good for you.

Hebrew Transliterations of English words:  If you grew up in the US you’ve undoubtedly seen English phonetic transliterations of Hebrew for people whose Hebrew is rusty (“baruch atoh adonai,” etc.).  In Israel, as in so many other places, English words are added to the language with phonetics.  But, the nearest equivalent Hebrew sounds for the English words are not always a very close match.  So, “Crown Plaza” turns into something like “krone platsa”;  the Italian restaurant “Bocaccio” turns into “bokatsyo”.  Of course, the English transliterations of Hebrew aren’t much better. It’s just sort of humorous sounding out some really long word and realizing it’s meant to be the English sounds.

Virgin Toilet Paper:  Take this with a grain of salt….   Apparently, in Israel as in other places recycled paper pulp is being used to make toilet paper.  The ultra-orthodox (or a few of a few) insist on buying virgin toilet paper made from paper pulp from trees to make sure that no prayer books have been used to make the toilet paper.  Now, this seems very unlikely as any book or other liturgical object would never be thrown away by a devout or not-so-devout Jew.  Synagogues collect this material and when there is enough, they give the material a proper religious burial—so it’s just not going to find its way into the recycling.  Besides, Israelis hardly recycle anything….