Three things I used to say were needed before I could make my move to permanently live in Israel, and two of those things were food items. The first was the need for cranberry juice. Now I know a lot of you people aren’t New Englanders, and so the idea to need cranberry juice seems a bit foreign, but the tart sweet combination is a very unique flavor and never really found its way into Israeli cuisine. Then one day in around 2002, I walk into the supermarket in Mevaseret (the one that used to have the kosher KFC, of blessed memory), and saw that PriGat, the major juice company in Israel, had teamed up with ocean spray to bring this delicious beverage to the Holy Land.
The second item, also being a beverage, was real apple cider. Now they sell something in Israel called apple cider, but don’t believe them. For some reason, Israeli's call apple juice apple cider...there is no difference over there. The only problem is that when I complain to people that there is no cider, only juice, they ask me..."so then what IS the difference" and I could never explain it other than the taste. Thank God for Wikipedia...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_cider and as you can see, even they don’t have a great handle on it, but everyone knows once you taste cider, there is a world of difference.
The third and final thing that I have needed before an Aliyah trip was grass. Now I know...Israel has tons of grass, and there are public parks all throughout the major cities with large grassy areas for soccer and kickball and all other great games, but I had never been able to find the great kind of grass; that soft Bermuda. To me, that grass is the only way to walk around between sprinklers on a summer day, and definitely the only way to cool off your toes in the backyard. So for the three years I lived in Israel, I could be seen (this is not a joke; ask my friends) taking off my shoes at various reputable parks, and 'testing' the land for "between-toe-ability." Sadly, all the grass I found was thick, and somewhat sharp...a lot like the crab grass one would expect in deserts in the Middle East.
Enter Baptist Village circa 2005. I was spending the summer there doing a research internship for an Israeli Hospital, and my YU coach, Norman Ringel (whom I will speak about many times throughout these blogs), was in town for the Maccabi games. We spent a few days together giving clinics to coaches and players in the IAB, or Israel's version of Little League, but also had a chance to catch some of the baseball games and scout some Israeli talent. As we get to the field, coach keeps talking about how this field and Gezer, (both fields the IBL will be playing on), are legitimate baseball fields, professionally made. I would always respond "but the grass; it’s not the same." And anyone who goes to a ballgame before it starts and smells the freshly cut Bermuda knows exactly what I am talking about. Anyway, we get to the field, and I am shocked to see the real deal baseball field right before my eyes. This is why we need real grass. The walks and the summers are all part of it. But the smell of the grass, the game played in the summer...And right before my eyes, there was an Israeli baseball team, playing on Bermuda grass, being rooted on by Americans.
All I needed was a tall cold glass of apple cider, but, as they say... 'two outta three ain’t bad.'
Next week, I'll be writing about my practicing with the YU baseball team, which lets me work out with them during the season.