I got the quaint, but there is nothing South Florida about Martha's Vineyard. The island (as islanders like to refer to their home) doesn't allow national chains on its premises, so there is no McDonald's and there are no shopping malls. Instead, if you need household appliances, you go to Martha's Hardware Store or Alley's General Store (the "general" is quite literal: It sells everything from videos to BBQ grills), and if you've got the munchies, you might try Mad Martha's Ice Cream. Looking for souvenirs? Go to Martha's Sweats, in one of its two locations.
And while the beach is a strong attraction for tourists, the islanders seem more enthralled with the woods. Miles of hiking and biking trails through wooded areas adorn the island, and it's not uncommon for houses to be located one or even two miles off the main road, accessible only through narrow dirt roads. In short, Martha's Vineyard is real country living, and for the four days we were there, Ruthie and I took full advantage of it. We hiked and biked (my first time on a bike since I was 12), and slow-grilled our food over a charcoal BBQ.
It's this country-living aspect of the Vineyard that reminded me of Israel, or at least, the Israel that existed when I was growing up. At the risk of dating myself, I remember Israel before it became a haven for American commercial chains. I remember Israel when McDavid's was the only fast-food option and when my relatives had to use their neighbor's phone because they, like many Israelis, didn't have their own.
Similarly, during my adolescent summers in Israel, making phone calls was an activity that required advance planning. While at Hebrew University one year, my sister and I would purchase our asimonim (phone tokens, for those who don't remember these) and each Sunday evening, we'd patiently wait in long lines at one of the school's pay-phone areas to make our calls for the week. Today, university students in Israel have phones in their dorm rooms, and most have cellular phones too.
In our various summer apartments, the shower was a designated corner of the bathroom, discernible only because of the removable showerhead on the wall. Who had ever heard of shower curtains back then? When I visited a younger cousin who was spending some time in Israel a few years ago, the shower in her seminary apartment had a sliding glass door attached to it. She didn't understand my surprise and quite frankly, my disappointment.
What my younger friends are missing is the "roughing it" part of spending time in Israel. Despite the fact that we "roughed it," or more accurately, partly because we roughed it, we enjoyed those times tremendously. I can't imagine more memorable, fun-filled summers, and besides, the stories are fodder for reminiscences today.
Modernity can be wonderful, too, of course. Just take a look at the progress in the field of medicine. But if forced to choose between modern conveniences and the ways of the past, my choice wouldn't be so easy. There is something wondrous and uplifting about working with our hands and in an environment untouched by corporate culture.
Thankfully for me, I don't have to choose.