As the website will tell you, “At long last—Magnum, the international ice cream sensation made with thick Belgian chocolate, has arrived in the U.S.” And I have to believe that there’s at least a few of us who, upon hearing that these ice cream heaven on a stick creations would be available stateside, immediately thought of only one thing: Israel.
I first encountered Magnum ice cream as a 20 year old on my first trip to Israel. My travel companion and best friend had been there at least once before and therefore knew everything that I needed to experience. Bamba, Elite pop rock chocolate and Magnum ice cream bars were at the top of the list (funny how krembo, fresh squeezed juices and my other now-favorite Israeli treats never even came up). Keep in mind that this was almost a decade ago and you couldn’t just walk into the Rainbow store at The West End to pick up your favorite Israeli snacks. No, these were the good old days when friends asked you to bring back only two things in your crowded suitcase: Osem ‘soup nuts’ and Must gum.
“They have them and you have to try one,” Jamie insisted as she found a freezer case filled with the chocolate-dipped bars at the service station our tourbus had stopped at. So I did. And it. was. divine.
Back then the exchange rate was almost 5 NIS to the dollar. And a whole world of possibility lay ahead for Jamie and me – we would head back to classes immediately after returning home to complete our final year of college. In that moment, there was nothing on my mind but the warmth of the August heat, fantasies of meeting and falling in love with an Israeli boy and my last moments of truly carefree bliss before it was time to go home and begin that sometimes painful process of really becoming a grown-up.
I returned to Israel on a Birthright Trip six years later. Wiser and perhaps a bit faded for the wear. Cranky and sleep-deprived, I didn’t really care that our group was stopping for a snack break and just wanted the cacophony of 40+ shouting voices to stop filling the bus with noise. But then I sleepily stepped into the convenience store for a Coke, saw the deep freezer stocked to the brim with Magnum bars and I knew that somehow I could conjure up some bliss the moment my tongue met the chocolate shell. A Magnum bar, it seemed, still held the power to make everything pretty darn ok. Even if only until it was time to get back on the bus for the next leg of the jam-packed 10 day journey.
It’s been two years since my Birthright Trip and eight years since my first encounter with Magnum ice cream. I’m no longer fantasizing about falling in love with just any Israeli boy because I’m marrying my favorite one this fall. And the days of carefree bliss are long gone – freedom isn’t often found in the middle of a 40+ hour workweek or in the dishes that have to be done and the bills that have to be paid. But when I saw the ad campaign announcing Magnum’s US launch, I could almost get back there. And I excitedly confirmed on Facebook that the thought of Magnum bars does indeed cause daydreams to travel to Tel Aviv, even if the brand is owned by the British/Dutch Unilever company and the bars are sold all over the world. Because for at least a few of us, Magnum bars can only mean summer, freedom and – most importantly – Israel.
Your turn: Do Magnum bars conjure up any travel memories for you? What treats scream “Israel” in your head the moment you see/taste them?