I moved to Israel in October. Many people ask me “Why?” Among a thousand reasons, none of them are good enough to end the conversation right then and there. Every thing has a response, an opinion, further advice to follow, etc. and I get tired of it quick. Often my answer is food related to take the seriousness out of my life changing decision. And so here follows the 6 seasonal fruits that make my move across the world, worth it.
Strawberries in November:
The first place I paid rent to in Israel was a farming community and for months I rode a bike 45 minutes to Hebrew classes and 45 minutes back. After a few tries, I found the best route was through the surrounding fields and into the nearby city rather than out and onto the paved road. Every morning and afternoon I passed strawberry fields and I sang “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles. Biting into a fresh picked strawberry blasted any and all frustration from my mind. Always I waved and smiled at the Thailand pickers. Interesting right? In Israel most agricultural labor is done by over 20,000 migrant Thai workers. Those big Thai smiles played a major part in making my day.
Oranges and Clementines in January through March:
Next was citrus season. I lived a lot of my childhood in Arizona picking oranges and grapefruits off neighbors’ trees. I attempt to drink a glass of orange juice a day to keep the doctor away. One day my neighboring orchards filled with orange specs. That bike ride back home was always uphill and my resting point seemed to land me in a Clementine orchard. I picked only the best and gorged myself on sweet, sweet Vitamin C. Half the Israelis I meet called me crazy for making the move. The other half applauded and helped me get my feet down. Many of the latter were repaid in heaping bags of famous Jaffa Oranges, Israel’s first major export as an independent nation. During the British occupation of Palestine, Jaffa Oranges were the region’s only viable economy outside of tourism. Now, less than 70 years later, Israel is a leader in manufacturing and inventing high technology products, nicknamed Silicon Wadi and referred to as Start Up Nation.
Cherries in April:
In the process of deciding to move abroad, I participated in a 5-month program, living and teaching in the Holy land to research day to day life here. Coming from western America, home to many exquisite National, State and Wilderness Parks, I was in need of recreational outdoor activities. For one of the many school holidays, friends and I went hiking the high desert region, known as the Golan Heights. We stumbled into cherry season. For nearly 20 kilometers we hiked through cherry orchards until we couldn’t bear to eat another. No matter how deep in color and explosive the juice, we left behind the perfect cherries. This year, cherries marked a one-year anniversary for me since that trip. My dad was visiting and we traveled there to eat his favorite fruit. We spit seeds on destroyed Russian tanks and abandoned military bases all leftover from the defeated Syrian army. Some are there from the 6-Day War in 1967 and others from the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) trains many soldiers using those derelict tanks to simulate ground force missions.
Lychees in June:
For nearly one year I have lived in an apartment wondering what mysterious orchard grew outside my back window. Patiently, I waited hoping they would produce something delicious. Behold! Lychees, a fruit I’ve only eaten once in life, manifested fuzzy and beautiful. For me these lychees became a symbol for new life experiences in Israel. Most of my time here I work a new job speaking a new language. Every person I meet represent a mix of culture, religion, and individuality I never thought could exist together. After riding busses home and walking under a very hot Mediterranean sun, a few sweet Lychees waiting by my doorstep effectively end the day’s difficulties. I sit down with a handful and realize the obstacles of the day are now triumphs.
Pomegranates in July:
I have visited Israel many times and lived here nearly a year. Yet somehow, I was home in the United States every time Pomegranate season was in full swing. Street vendors sell it juiced, in smoothies, broken apart into individual seeds, or cut just right to eat in mouthfuls. The Holy fruit saves all from the summer heat. In Judaism, there are seven holy agricultural products: wheat, barley, olives, grapes, dates, figs, and pomegranates. The pomegranate is said to have exactly 613 seeds corresponding to 613 mitzvot, commandments in the Torah. It is also believed by many Jewish scholars that the Pomegranate was the true forbidden fruit that led to Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden.
Dates in August:
Fresh Medjool Dates are picked in August. However, dried dates, the way most are eaten, are abundantly available year-round. These are my most comforting fruit while living in the Middle East. During my few visits to Israel before, buying a bag of dates was a necessary experience. The date is truly a local product of this region mainly cultivated in the desert near Jericho and the Dead Sea. The date palm grows very well there and orchards provide shade from a heat that can kill. Previously mentioned, the date is also a holy fruit, widely believed to be the original Tree of Life. Every piece of the date palm has a known use. It has been cultivated for 6000 years, originally in Iraq/Persia. It makes sense the Middle East grows the absolutely best dates you will ever eat.
Medjool Dates used to be a requisite to any visit I paid Israel. Now that I live here, they are a part of my regular life. You could even say I moved here for them. I say it often.