Interview With Benji Lovitt

Benji Lovitt and a Plate of HumusBenji Lovitt and a plate of Chhhumus

Here is an interview I had with Benji Lovitt recently. Benji is a cool guy that runs a funny blog about Israel called whatwarzone.com – I frequent his blog quite regularly. He is also a stand up comedian. So, check it out:

1. You are originally from Dallas right?! What is the main difference between living in Texas and living in Israel?

The main difference between living in Texas and Israel? That's kind of like asking the difference between eating regular Lays....and a down comforter. Just completely different. I haven't lived in Texas in ten years now and don't really compare the two in my head. I think more in terms of Israel vs America and they're pretty different. My experience in Tel-Aviv does remind me of my life in Manhattan which was pretty different from the slower, more laid-back lifestyle in suburban Texas. Tel-Aviv is different from Jerusalem which is different from a kibbutz in the north, just as Texas is different from New York with is different from LA. Have I even answered the question? See, this is what happens when emailing at 7 in the morning.



2. Your blog’s name is “WhatWarZone.com”. People always ask me “isn’t it dangerous there”? What is your answer to those people, or in other words were you not totally surprised with how safe Israel is?

You may want to sit down because what I'm about to say will shock you. I'm not wearing pants. Ok, I'm kidding. Here we go: Israel is safer than America. No, seriously. No, SERIOUSLY. The people who are most nervous to visit are not ironically people who've never stepped foot here and have the most misconceptions about Israel, that buses are blowing up everywhere and that we live in a desert. When that person finally visits, they leave saying "what was I so WORRIED about?" Day-to-day life in Tel-Aviv, for example, can be compared to something like New York City. Bars, restaurants, coffee shops, BEACH....(have one of those, Manhattan?) There is almost zero street crime. Have you SEEN the news in America? School shootings, mall shootings, women leaving their babies in 100 degree cars to die... Nothing is more dangerous than driving on a city highway with radio on and cell phone in hand yet for some reason we downplay that risk. This isn't an emotional argument, it's simply fact. Sadly, most people just can't wrap their heads around this until they hopefully take a leap of faith and visit. And then they get it.

3. What is the best thing about Israeli women?

You mean aside from the fact that they're Israeli women? They're beautiful for starters. (For the ladies playing at home, the men are hot too.)

I'd also say that Israelis are just more down-to-earth, knowledgeable about the world, are warmer upon first introduction... not to generalize or anything.

4. What is your favorite Israeli food? Where do you usually eat that?

Gotta go with chumus, Bob. (Is every game show host named Bob or does it just seem like it?) Hummus is nasty and American. Chumus is the real deal. And I was totally obsessed with chumus before the Zohan. If I ever transfer the 17 year-old VHS tapes of me applying chumus to my face like war paint, you'll be the first to know.

5. Why should tourists come to Israel? Isn’t it better to go to some boring island in the Caribbean?

It just depends what your values are, I suppose. If being Jewish means anything at all to you, I don't know how you could not have an incredible time here, if not a life-altering experience. I'm not saying "EVERY JEW SHOULD LIVE IN ISRAEL", but there's no better place to be/experience/enjoy Jewish life than here, period. Where are you going to enjoy Rosh Hashana more, in Random Town, USA where you have to take off a day of work to go to synagogue where there's a decent chance you're going only because that's the only way to BE Jewish on Rosh Hashana, even when you're not so spiritual nor understand what you're even saying? Or in Israel when you feel it in the air like Christmas in America and the banker wishes you "shana tova"? Even if you're not Jewish, there's a good chance that this place is the birthplace of your religion. There's something for everyone: spirituality, outdoor life, nightlife, diversity... Plus, if you come visit, I'll let you take me out for dinner at no extra charge. No joke, I will.



6. Are you a Tel Aviv person or do you like Jerusalem better?

A lot of people say that you're either a Tel Aviv person or you're a Jerusalem person. After living in both, if I had to choose, I'd say I'm the former. But it doesn't mean they're not both nice places. It's true what people also say - you just can't compare. They're TOTALLY different and score big points in totally different categories. Jerusalem is beautiful and you can really feel the Shabbat and chagim here, much more than in Tel Aviv. The other night I went to a Tweet-up (a happy hour for Twitter users....I know, I know, it sounds bizarre, let's just move on) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Are you kidding me? Thousands of years of history meets 21st century technology (and beer). It was just wild in the coolest and most interesting of ways. On the other hand, Tel-Aviv blows Jerusalem out of the water in the oh-so-important "fun" department with nightlife, cafes, and what's that thing called? Oh yes....the BEACH. It just depends what you're looking for. I, for example, am now looking for my charger... otherwise, this interview is over.

7. What’s more annoying: looking for parking in Tel-Aviv or getting hit in your head with a matkot ball?

I much prefer both of these than to getting head in someone else's head with a matkot ball. Or a matza ball. Or a parking spot.

8. And finally, is it worthwhile to make Aliyah?

Whoa, some deep questions here. Look, it's like the "why visit?" question above. I think times have changed and immigrants of 40 years ago would disagree vehemently but in some ways, "aliyah" is just the process. I made aliyah meaning I became a citizen, got a national identity card, started receiving benefits. It doesn't really affect whether or not I plan to or even know if I want to spend the rest of my life here. I can't know what the future will hold and why worry about it now? I don't believe every Jew MUST live here and if you don't WANT to, why should I tell you you HAVE to? Let's take a step back, shall we? If being Jewish means ANYTHING to you, I think you should spend at least a year here. Visiting and experiencing Israel is a must if you're Jewish and a short trip isn't enough to get this place. Learning some Hebrew, learning a bit of history, and experiencing the holidays here is what it's all about. It's hard to be Jewish without a connection to this place. After a year, we can revisit the aliyah question. Some people will find it darn hard to leave and others will go back home and start a lifetime connection to Israel which may or may not lead to aliyah later. But asking whether it's worthwhile to make aliyah for most people seems to be like asking if someone should get married on their first date.




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