Israelis are hard-pressed to imagine anything sweet and satisfying coming out of last week’s news that they will be experiencing their third election in a single year.
But after the dissolution of the Knesset in the wee hours of Thursday morning and the announcement of March 2's Knesset election, Israel's bitter mood could change after the revelation that Ben & Jerry’s is contemplating releasing a new ice cream flavor just for the occasion.
On Sunday, the Israeli manufacturers of Ben & Jerry’s posted a photograph of a ice cream pint obscured by shadow. The text read: “We thought that in honor of the elections we would create a new flavor called 'Third Time Ice Cream,' but we can’t decide what to put in it. Any ideas?”
Inevitably, several of the responses reflected the frustration of Israeli voters regarding what they view as a pointless and wasteful exercise – the result of the failure of their elected leaders to form a governing coalition the first two times around – and as a result sounded very unappetizing.
One of the hundreds of commenters suggested finding a flavor that tastes like “disappointment and desperation.” Others communicated more concrete expressions of their disgust, suggesting ingredients like dirt, stones, and even more aesthetically displeasing substances.
But many creatively managed to synthesize the national mood into more delicious-sounding ideas. These included a flavor that contains dark chocolate for a bitter taste, plenty of nuts to reflect the craziness of voting three times in less than 12 months, and a strong shot of alcohol to help everyone cope. Some suggested champagne-flavored ice cream with cigar-shaped chocolate pieces, to represent the motifs that feature in the criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Fans of the party Kahol Lavan (“Blue and White” in Hebrew) had a partisan idea: vanilla with blueberry swirl.
Associating a third election with ice cream has been a running joke among Israelis, based on a popular slang expression: When something happens twice in a row, or one bumps into an acquaintance twice in a short period of time, one often promises, “Third time, ice cream.” In Hebrew: “pa’am shlishit glida.”
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The origin of the saying is unclear. There are theories that it stems from the German expression "Das nachstes Malgibst du mir einen aus," meaning “Next time it’s your turn to buy me a drink” – with the German beer becoming Israeli ice cream and “next time” turning into a “third time.” Others say it is simply a twist on the expression “third time lucky” or “third time’s the charm.”
But most Israelis enjoy the unproven explanation that it is in some way an inversion of the phrase “I scream.” Many insist that at one point, an Israeli must have misheard an English-speaking person declare, “If you do this a third time, I’ll scream!” and turned it into a malapropism reminiscent of the popular American rhyme, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”
Given that the concept of enduring months of election campaigning once again makes many Israelis feel like screaming, this seems like the most fitting explanation for a political moment in which they could all do with a comforting pint of Ben & Jerry’s.