Under-reacting Like an Israeli

 

By Danielle Blustein, Masa Israel Media Fellows

 

Everyone thinks they know the "typical Israeli." They wake up to a huge Israeli style breakfast, omlettelady complete, leave their beautiful house made of Jerusalem stone and head off to work where they will either cure cancer, make a computer so smart that the world starts worrying about The Terminator having an Israeli accent and a nice tan, or simply yell at people on the phone all day because hey, "they're Israeli!"    

I'm just starting to think that this stereotype was made by wishful thinking American gap year students.

When I wake up in my Israeli gap year program, it's not the savory smell of eggs cooking that reach my bed. Breakfast is a 17% fat filled cheese and 500% artery clogging milk combo, and while yes, being delicious, I often wonder if I should bother putting it in my mouth or save a few steps and simply slap it on my hips and thighs and just leave it there. 

My Jerusalem stone built house is actually a 1950's communist style building. Square. Grey. Crumbly. My shower fits about half of me and be wary of closing the door too hard! Ceiling pieces fall lovingly on heads like a very angry snow drifting down from a really painful sky. 

But that's my Jerusalem suburb, Kiryat HaYovel, "Jubilee-town," the town that's nice once every fifty years.

My job does not include fixing global issues nor changing Israel's world standing. I teach English at a Chabad School where the only question they have for me about english is if I know Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez and is One Direction my favorite band ever?!?

But really, living like an Israeli means under-reacting.

A few weeks ago many schools planned a trip to Eilat, my school among them. However, flash floods were predicted and every school but mine, backed out. We still woke up early in the morning to go hiking, our Rabbi strapping on his hiking gun. We hiked in the rain, in the snow, and the hail, all the while our Rabbi's five year old son beating us up the mountain. Because rain or rockets, the Israelis don't stop. 

During Pillar of Defense every other school was being put on lockdown, locked-in, locked-up, locked anywhere and everywhere so that they would be "as safe as possible."

My school, called everyone into a room and in a few words told us to "grow up, we're in Jerusalem, not Sderot." And that was the end of it. We continued to take busses to go to our volunteering and only once did we delay our weekly trip twenty minutes to scramble to the bomb shelter. But when my Mom asked me if I felt safe, without hesitation I said yes.  

Because that's the real Israeli stereotype, the Sabra. Thick skinned on the outside but sweet on the inside. Not letting the multiple daily threats that come at Israel affect them at all. Their Sabra coat of armor is the best Pillar of Defense. They may yell at you on the phone for an hour before even asking your name, but they have to. It's how they protect themselves. But stay in the land for a year, and you'll delve into the sweet, sensitive side of Israel. The view from the mountain, albiet is cold, but is so breathtaking you can't help yourself but thank God. Your students use Miley Cyrus for every example, but they also need to know what your being for purim and if you can friend them on Facebook. Kiryat HaYovel is dirty, but that's because it's not touristy. It's Israeli. So now your hebrew is Impeccable. And although you speak with a heavy, for some reason Spanish, accent, you can learn the real secret of the Israeli local, and find your own Sabra Skin to join the Israeli locals with.

 

Danielle Blustein is a Masa participant studying at Midreshet Yeud, and is a fellow in Masa's inaugural Media Fellows program.

 

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