Jewish Journal

The Best/Worst of Israel/LA Gashmius

by Orit Arfa

September 28, 2009 | 5:19 pm

Tel Aviv skyline

Immigrants to Israel inevitably find themselves comparing life in Israel to life in their hometown, like I did when I made aliyah in 1999. Back on a visit to Israel a year since making yeridah (downward migration), I still find myself comparing: What’s better? What’s worse?

Here’s the best/worst list I’ve complied of purely materialistic pleasures and conveniences available in Los Angeles and Israel. Forget the obvious spiritual pros and cons (i.e., living the Zionist dream vs. the American dream), I’m talking pure gashmius (materialism).

Israel’s come a long way since its camel riding days. (Lists are in no particular order. Feel free to add your own in the comment section.)

Israel’s Ten Best Gashmius


Tel Aviv Nightlife:

Bars and clubs never seem to close; no last calls for alcohol; no mean bouncers guarding the VIP section; people go to have fun and not to see or be seen; everyone is Jewish (which eases Jewish mating for those who care); drinking in public allowed—and sometimes encouraged. I discovered this one place off Rothschild where you buy a bottle of champagne, a few glasses and just drink on the curb. Aahh!

Dairy products:

Maybe because it’s the land of milk and honey, but dairy products are so full of flavor—and flavors. I love the varieties of yogurt available in Israeli supermarkets: tiramisu, strawberry cheesecake, coconut, and litchi, to name a few. YUM.

Coffee/café culture:

Israeli cafes in general serve espresso-based coffee drinks and pastries so much more flavorful than its American counterparts with an atmosphere that is always lively. It’s no wonder Starbucks failed in Tel Aviv.

The beaches:

Israeli beaches and sand are so warm and friendly. Tel Aviv, while crowded, is built for lounging, flirting, and good old-fashion fun, and the swimming is great!

Hair salons:

Finally hairstylists who know what to do with my Jewfro! It costs less than $20 to get my wild hair straightened by a blow dryer; in the US they charge $75 and my hair still comes out frizzy. (Hairstylist Yossi Levi at the Hadar Mall is my new man—he fixed up a botched LA hairdo.)


Strange how I used to wait to go to LA to do my shopping; now I wait to come to Israel. While Israel has its share of local and international clothing chains, I find so many European style boutiques with cute, affordable, and unique fashions.

World travel:

Israel is so much closer to exotic places: Europe, Asia, the Far East.

Telephone operators:

Surprising, I know. Since I know Hebrew, I lately find talking to an Israeli cable or internet operator is so much more pleasant and efficient than talking to an American one. Service is less automated and much more real. No one calls me “ma’am.”

Healthy fast food:

I love how Greek and Arabic salads are considered fast foods in Israel—even at McDonalds.


You rarely have to get into a car in Israel’s major cities to get where you need to go, and people are always walking.

Israel’s Five Worst Gashmius



As a driver in Israel, finding parking in the big cities has been the bane of my Israeli life. Roads aren’t built on grids. Street signs are small. Too many one way lanes. And most of all, I CAN’T STAND THE INCESSANT HONKING!

Summer weather:

Okay, it’s not so bad, but summers in Tel Aviv, at least, are very hot and and way too humid for an LA girl like me.

Television programming:

I’ve tried both HOT cable and YES satellite in Israel, and neither offers the wealth and breadth of programming we get from the center of it all, Hollywood.

Mediocre architecture/housing:

Tel Aviv is recognized for its Bauhaus architecture, but I find it unattractive. If Jerusalem weren’t built of golden stone, I imagine it looking like a hilly Tel Aviv. Unless they are new or refurbished, homes and apartments here generally have a run-down feel. 

Lack of aesthetically pleasing retail outlets:

Shops and stores, while modernizing at a rapid pace (especially in malls), often look like holes in the walls with cheap signs, random displays, and cramped quarters.

LA’s Ten Best Gashmius



Los Angeles is characterized by spaciousness: apartment complexes, homes, restaurants, stores, parking lots, parks, and roads.

Whole Foods and Trader Joes:

Israel has adorable little health food shops, but none offer the breadth and spaciousness of these organic LA favorites.

The movies:

Israel is getting a little fancier with multiplexes like Cinema City in Herziliyah, but no movie experience yet rivals the American one with its courtesy, spaciousness, and sound/screening quality.


American cable and satellite stations offer a much greater selection of television shows and movies, and in LA we get all the great shows first. (Only in Israel they are often commercial-free.)

Private homes:

I love the plethora of beautiful private homes with diverse architecture in the Los Angeles area.

Everything is open on Shabbat/holidays:

It’s nice to know that the city doesn’t shut down on holidays and Shabbat if I feel like sinning (I’m sure some Jews beg to differ.)

Beautiful retail:

Los Angeles shops and malls are just so pretty, like museums of capitalism.

Korean spas/Thai massages:

I love how I can jump in my car at 8 pm and drive to a Korean spa in Koreatown for a dip in a hot tub of tea, or how I can walk into a Thai massage parlor for a midday rub. (The foreign Thai workers should think of opening up massage parlors here—the kosher kind.)


The manicure shops on Robertson Boulevard are the best. In Israel it’s generally harder to find high quality manicurists and skin care services (facials, waxing, etc).


I much prefer Sundays off over Friday, since Fridays in Israel are inevitably spent preparing for Shabbat.

LA’s Five Worst Gashmius



There are some great places to hang in LA, but I have yet to have real good fun at a Los Angeles bar or nightclub. Nightclubs sometimes feel like prisons with all their checking IDs, bouncing, and Hollywood snobbery.

Driving distances:

Israel’s roads may be crowded and disorganized, but given its size and traffic, it often takes longer to get around in Los Angeles.


Tel Aviv and Jerusalem can get smoggy, but at least the sky still looks blue.

You live in your car:

Except for Third Street Promenade and a few places near Hollywood, it’s hard to find great, stimulating places to stroll in Los Angeles (aside from malls) where shops, cafes, and things-to-do abound.

Public transportation:

If I wanted the option of public transportation, the LA system is still a pain in the butt. I tried the Metro. Don’t care for it.

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