Dateline Jerusalem — Mazal (or mazel) means luck, in Hebrew and in Yiddish, respectively.
Whether it be winning the lottery or any gift or prize, some people have mazal the rest of us often wish we had.
For my 15th birthday my grandmother, may she rest in peace, bought me 15 lottery tickets. I won $2 total!
The only time I can remember winning something of significance was when I appeared on a television quiz show. I won some money, a recliner chair and a lot of junky gifts. But I do not consider that mazal because I had to come up with the correct answers. I figure I did not win anything, I earned it.
The niece of a friend, however, actually won the lottery, and she gets a hefty annuity. Now that is mazal.
This week, a woman from Romania had the mazal to became the three millionth visitor to Israel this year.
As a result of that distinction, she disembarked from her flight and was led down a red carpet to be greeted by Israel’s Minister of Tourism. He handed her balloons, flowers and a certificate to commemorate the occasion.
As tourist No. 3,000,000 she won an upgraded hotel suite, a helicopter flight overlooking all of Israel, dinner with an internationally renowned Israeli chef, and a bonus visit to the Dead Sea.
Just the beginning.
Where else but in Israel would a tourist receive a private tour by the leader of the country? Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was waiting for this lucky tourist at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem.
He escorted her and her boyfriend on a personalized private tour of the museum. He described how its foundations could be traced back to the Second Temple Period in the first century BCE. How many presidents, prime ministers, kings or queens take time out of their busy day to give a private tour to an ordinary tourist? Only in Israel.
Why It Is Special
Yet this was a special occasion. Three million tourists visiting the tiny country of Israel in less than a year is pretty remarkable considering this is a country surrounded by enemies and plagued with threats of violence and destruction.
Tourists from all over the world love to visit Israel. The majority are from the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, and Russia, but now that more airlines have flights to Israel, visitors are coming from everywhere.
In a country the size of New Jersey, Israel boasts pristine white beaches along the clear, turquoise blue Mediterranean.
Coral reefs feature a myriad of unique fish that can be viewed from an underwater restaurant in Eilat.
In the north are undersea caves that only can be accessed from the sea or by taking the steepest cable car in the world down to them.
It has been said that if it were any steeper. it would be like taking an elevator. Since it only takes 5½ hours to drive from the top of Israel to the bottom, it is easy to go skiing at the ski resorts while visiting green pastures, bustling cities and deserts in the same day.
Israel has the distinction of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the largest freshwater lake in the country, and the lowest freshwater lake on earth, 650 feet below sea level.
High and Low
Israel’s Dead Sea is 1388 feet below sea level, making it the lowest land elevation on earth. It also is the deepest salt water lake on earth.
Best of all is Israel’s rich biblical history and wonderful weather. There is so much to see and do in Israel, a minimum 10 days to 2 weeks is barely enough time to catch the major attractions.
What makes Israel tourist friendly is it is one of the few countries in the world with more than one official language. Although Hebrew, Arabic and English are the official languages, information in Russian is everywhere.
I have been living in Israel 10 years, and I do not speak Hebrew. I speak English wherever I go. But I must look Russian because it seems that every Russian in my town comes up to me and starts speaking to me in Russian.
However, I was in a taxi last week and although I spoke to the driver in English, he started answering me in German. Not Yiddish but German. Good thing I was German Club president in high school.
I might not have the mazal to win any lotteries or have a private tour by the prime minister, but I definitely have mazal to be living in Israel.