The Land of Milk, Honey and Marlboro Reds

My Love Affair With Israeli Smoking Was One Cigarette Long

Blowing Smoke: A woman smokes a cigarette in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
Getty Images
Blowing Smoke: A woman smokes a cigarette in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

By Avital Norman Nathman

Published July 17, 2014, issue of July 11, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

I smoked my first cigarette in Israel, the land of milk, honey and Marlboro Reds. I was 10 years old and stretching my almost-tween freedom. There was something so effortlessly cool about it all, the way people smoked on the beach in between dips into the crystal-clear, blue water. Or how soldiers at the bus stop would share a cigarette between them like some sort of secret club initiation. Or the hypnotizing curl of smoke that would unwind around my Israeli uncle as he slowly sipped his coffee between puffs.

These scenes were very far removed from my suburban New England upbringing, where cigarette smoking was admonished and cigarettes never seen. Back in Connecticut, anti-smoking campaigns ruled the late ’80s, and pictures of black, decayed lungs were enough to keep me far away from Joe Camel. But in Israel? It seemed like everyone was smoking, and the stubborn kid in me needed to see what the hype was about, necrotic lungs be damned!

It was a week or so into our family trip when I watched my uncle flick his cigarette onto the walkway before he let himself into the apartment. I checked to make sure nobody was looking, and then sprinted toward it. I carefully cradled it in the palm of my hand, not wanting to burn myself, but clearly aware that if I let it snuff out, I’d be out of luck. I entered the stairwell, and after reassuring myself that nobody was heading in my direction, I placed the still smoldering cigarette to my lips.

It tasted amazing.

I inhaled again, this time taking in as much as I could. My lips brushed against the dry, cottonlike filter as biting smoke filled my lungs, leaving a sharp, stinging sensation in its wake.

It tasted disgusting.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.